The experiences of legal and victim support providers with sexually assaulted females in rural areas

Annan, Sandra Lee, Department of Nursing, University of Virginia
Parker, Barbara J., School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Merwin, Elizabeth (Beth), School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Steeves, Richard, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Kaplan, Claire, Women's Center, University of Virginia

Sexual assault research has focused almost exclusively on urban areas and overlooked issues specific to rural communities. Research examining the experiences of expert service providers is also nearly nonexistent. The purpose of this study was to add to the understanding of expert service provider's experiences in working with sexually assaulted women in rural communities. Post sexual assault interventions are often multidisciplinary with victims encountering providers in judicial, medical and advocate roles. Secondary victimization theory suggests that the nature of post-assault expert interventions may have an adverse impact on sexual assault victims.

This study was a qualitative examination using hermeneutic phenomenology as its strategy of inquiry. The focus was to explore the lived experiences of providers regarding their interactions with sexual assault survivors living in rural communities. Data were gathered from 29 expert providers and included prosecutors, law enforcement, social workers, victim-witness associates and crisis center advocates. Data in the form of field notes, material culture and transcribed interviews were treated as texts and subjected to hermeneutic analysis.

The providers spoke about their roles and responsibilities, frustrations with the system and the victim's post-assault experience. Although the original aim of the study was to examine the experiences of rural expert providers in working with sexually assaulted women, it quickly became apparent that for many providers, most of their experience was with children rather than adults. Data analysis led to the identification of five themes. These were: 1) Rural-specific confidentiality issues, 2) The availability and 4 need for resources in a rural setting, 3) The connection between victim blaming and low levels of reporting, 4) Negative provider views of the community, and 5) Smaller communities provided better victim care.

This research was supported by a Dissertation Award from the University of Virginia School of Nursing, Rural Health Care Research Center (NIH National Institute of Nursing Research #P20-NR009009).

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Rural Population, Law Enforcement -- Personal Narratives, Social Work -- Personal Narratives, Community Health Services -- Personal Narratives, Sex Offenses, Battered Women -- Personal Narratives, Rural Health, Women -- Personal Narratives

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-14 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:34:05.

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