Intimate Partner Violence and the Rural-Urban-Suburban Divide: Myth or Reality? A Critical Review of the Literature

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2015 Jul;16(3):359-73. doi: 10.1177/1524838014557289. Epub 2014 Dec 4.


The author of this article presents a review of the published empirical and theoretical literature to date on similarities and differences in intimate partner violence (IPV) in rural locales compared to urban and suburban locales. A review of 63 studies indicates that (1) the rates of IPV are generally similar across rural, urban, and suburban locales, although some groups of rural women (e.g., multiracial and separated/divorced) may be at increased risk for IPV compared to similar groups of urban women, and rates of intimate partner homicide may be higher in rural locales than urban and suburban locales; (2) IPV perpetrator and victim characteristics in rural locales are generally similar to IPV perpetrator and victim characteristics in other locales with the exception of some demographic characteristics that can generally be accounted for by broader rural-urban-suburban demographic differences; (3) IPV perpetrators in rural locales, compared with perpetrators in urban locales, may perpetrate more chronic and severe IPV, which could be due to the higher rates of substance abuse and unemployment documented among rural perpetrators; (4) IPV victims in rural locales may have worse psychosocial and physical health outcomes due to the lack of availability, accessibility, and quality of IPV services; and (5) attitudes about IPV vary to some extent across locales, with individuals in rural locales generally supporting less governmental involvement in IPV issues than in urban locales. Limitations of the literature are reviewed and suggestions for research are provided as well as implications for practice and policy efforts, which primarily center on improving availability, accessibility, and quality of IPV services in rural locales.

Keywords: dating violence; domestic violence; intimate partner homicide; intimate partner violence; review; rural; suburban; urban; violence against women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Battered Women* / psychology
  • Battered Women* / statistics & numerical data
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Intimate Partner Violence* / psychology
  • Intimate Partner Violence* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Psychology, Comparative
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Suburban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*