Fear on the Farm: Rural Women Take Action against Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

Violence behind the closed doors of the home is endemic in Canadian society. Farm houses and the farm families in them are not immune to domestic violence. Farm women and their families are particularly at risk because they live at their place of business - the office is the kitchen and the factory floor is the barn - there is no escape from one to the other, as there is for most people. Farm houses are isolated. Neighbours are kilometres, not meters, away. Neighbours may neither see nor hear domestic violence. The issue of violence in rural homes, and the lack of safety and shelter for rural women, has not been adequately addressed in most rural communities. Nevertheless, rural women have been organizing to deal directly with the causes and consequences of domestic violence. Some of the approaches they are taking are focused on educating and mobilizing the local community, while others focus on the women enduring domestic violence.

The Canadian Farm Women's Network (CFWN), a Canada-wide advocacy group promoting information sharing and education among farm women, is concerned that the message that violence (in any form) is unacceptable is not getting out. Domestic violence is a community problem, and if unchecked, the entire community suffers along with the victims and their families. Consequently members of the rural community must be integrated into the solution.

THE FEAR ON THE FARM VIDEO

Acknowledging the realities of rural domestic violence, the CFWN worked with a production company, Birdsong Communication, to create a video, Fear on the Farm, and an accompanying workbook, both focusing on family violence in farming communities. The video was made in cooperation with farm women in several parts of Canada, and presents the reality of violence in the rural and farm home through the authentic voice of farm women and their families. The message of the video is that domestic violence is pervasive and hidden. The video does not dramatize the violence. Nor does it target aggressor or victims. It does, however, place responsibility for action on all sections of a community. Fear on the Farm is a resource tool that can be used by CFWN members across Canada as a way of focusing community attention on the issue of domestic violence in rural homes.

THE COMMUNITY KIT

In a similar project, the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women (established to create a national action plan to be jointly implemented by the federal government and an array of Canadian institutions to end violence against women in this country) developed the Community Kit as part of its national strategy The Community Kit is a tool for linking communitybased action on violence iri the community to government and national organizations which are working towards zero tolerance of violence The kit has two parts. Part One shows people how to organize a community action group, gather information on violence against women in the community, develop a profile of the services available to women and child survivors of abuse, and critically evaluate how safe the community is for women. Part Two focuses on how a community can use this information to develop a strategy for action.

Eleven pilot projects were carried out across Canada. Pilot communities included a small French community, an inner city community, a large metropolitan centre, communities with a large Aboriginal or ethnic component, a farming and rural community, and a remote northern community

Response within the pilot communities demonstrates the magnitude of the task of even beginning to address family violence. Some communities have found it hard to accept the reality of violence within. Others find it difficult to accept community responsibility for what are commonly regarded as personal and private matters. And the idea of a coordinated community effort is often met with mixed reviews. Nevertheless, service providers, police, teachers, and women who have suffered from family violence are telling their story and placing the issue front and centre on the community agenda and demanding a community response. …