Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America

Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America

Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America

Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America


Decade after decade, violence against women has gained more attention from scholars, policy makers, and the general public. Social scientists in particular have contributed significant empirical and theoretical understandings to this issue.

Strikingly, scant attention has focused on the victimization of women who want to leave their hostile partners. This groundbreaking work challenges the perception that rural communities are safe havens from the brutality of urban living. Identifying hidden crimes of economic blackmail and psychological mistreatment, and the complex relationship between patriarchy and abuse, Walter S. DeKeseredy and Martin D. Schwartz propose concrete and effective solutions, giving voice to women who have often suffered in silence.


Since the 1970s, social scientists have greatly enhanced an empirical and theoretical understanding of various types of woman abuse in ongoing heterosexual relationships, such as dating, cohabitation, and marriage. Still, although we know that breaking up with a patriarchal and/or abusive man is one of the most dangerous events in a woman’s life, relatively little attention has thus far been paid to the victimization of women who want to leave, are in the process of leaving, or who have left their marital or cohabiting partners. Further, the limited work done on this topic focuses primarily on homicide and nonlethal variants of male physical violence. Woman abuse, of course, is multidimensional in nature and a few U.S. studies show that many women are also at high risk of being sexually assaulted during and after separation or divorce. Nevertheless, almost all the research on this problem, regardless of whether it is qualitative or quantitative, was done in urban areas, such as Boston and San Francisco.

The main objective of this book, then, is to help fill a major research gap by presenting the results of a qualitative study of separation and divorce sexual assault in three rural Ohio communities. Guided by previous relevant research and an integrated theory constructed by Walter S. DeKeseredy, McKenzie Rogness, and Martin D. Schwartz, this project was funded by National Institute of Justice Grant 2002-WG-BX-0004 and involved interviewing forty-three rural Ohio women who experienced considerable pain and suffering as the result of separation and divorce sexual assault and other forms of abuse. The data gathered from these women are, to the best of our knowledge, the very first of their kind and seriously challenge the commonly held notion of rural communities as immune from high levels of woman abuse.

One of the key risk factors identified in our study and given much attention in this book is male peer support, which is defined by Walter . . .

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