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UPDATED March 28, 2016

Safety in Rural Areas

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This page contains tips to help keep you as safe as possible when dealing with an abusive relationship in a small, rural area.

Following these suggestions (often known as a safety plan) can't guarantee your safety, but it could help make you safer.  However, it is important that you create a safety plan that is right for you.  Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, and some could even place you in greater danger.  You have to do what you think is best to keep yourself and your children safe.

back to topSafety tips for rural areas and small towns

If you live in a rural area or a small town, there are a few extra things to keep in mind when you're creating a safety plan.

  1. It may take police and sheriffs a long time to get to you.
    • If you call the police, get to a safe place to wait for them to arrive.  You may want to go to the home of a trusted friend or neighbor, or to a public place you think is safe.
    • If you decide to leave the abuser, think about leaving your area, at least for a little while.  Think about it even if you get a protective order.
  2. A lot of times, there aren't any buses, taxis, or other types of public transportation available near where you live, and the abuser may keep you from using the car.  If you do not have access to a car, and you need to get out of the home to stay safe, you may want to:
    • Make a plan with a trusted friend who can give you a ride whenever you need one.
    • See if your local sheriff's office or police department can help escort you out of the home to get to a safe place.
    • See if any local churches, synagogues or spiritual groups can connect you with someone (either a staff member or a parishioner) who would be willing to drive you. 
    • Talk with a domestic violence advocate at a local organization to see if their organization can provide you with transportation when needed.  If not, the advocate may be able to help you make a plan to get a ride when you need one.  For a list of domestic violence organizations in your area, see our State and Local Programs page.
  3. If you live in a town where hunting is popular, the abuser may be more likely to have guns and other weapons in the home (or have access to them) than an abuser who lives in a city.  Read about Federal Gun Laws and State Gun Laws.  There may be laws that would prohibit the abuser from having access to any firearms, including ones designed for hunting.
    • Know where guns, knives, and other weapons are.  If you can, lock them up or make them as hard to get to as possible.
    • Figure out "safe places" in your home – the places where there aren't weapons.  If it looks like the abuser is about to hurt you, try to get to a safe place.  Stay out of the kitchen, garage, workshop or other areas where there are weapons within arm’s reach
  4. If you live, work and/or spend time in isolated areas where neighbors and passersby cannot see or hear what is going on, this could increase the danger level.
    • Try to stay away from isolated areas whenever you can.  (We recognize that if you live or work in an isolated area, there may not be an easy way to change this.)
    • Travel in groups whenever possible.  If you can, have someone in charge of paying attention to safety and what's going on around you.
    • Consider leaving the area, at least for a little while.  Consider doing so even if you get a restraining order.
    • Carry a cell phone if you can, but don't count on it too much.  Cell phones may not get good service in some places, and batteries do run out.  Ask your local domestic violence organization if they give out cell phones and try to get one to have as a back-up phone.  Have emergency numbers like 911 on speed dial.  If you are of low economic means, you may qualify for a free phone with free monthly minutes from a phone company such as the Assurance Wireless Program, sponsored by Virgin Mobile (WomensLaw is not affiliated with this program).
  5. Safe places, like a friend's house or a shelter, may be far away.
    • If you have access to a car, try to always have a full tank of gas in case you need to get to a far-away place in a hurry.
    • If you live in an especially cold place, keep cold weather clothing (like a hat, scarf, and jacket) in an easy-to-reach place for you and your children, so that you can quickly have access to them if you need to flee.  If you can, keep them in your car.
    • Be aware of where neighbors live along the road in case you ever need to pull the car over and run to a neighbor for help.
  6. If your community is very small, people who live in your area may know where the domestic violence shelter is.  In other words, the shelter location may not be confidential.
    • Be aware that the abuser and other people may know where the shelter is and so you cannot let your guard down when entering and exiting the shelter.
    • Think about going to a shelter outside of the area where you live, even if it's only for a little while.
    • If you go to a local shelter, you may want to cover your car with protective car-cover.  This can help keep the abuser and other people from seeing your car from the street while it is parked in the parking lot.
  7. The abuser may be well-known and well-liked in the community and may be in a position of power, such as a police officer or court employee.
    • Try to speak with a neutral and trusted friend or family member and make a plan to leave with him/her if you feel unsafe calling the police.
    • Work with a domestic violence advocate at a local domestic violence organization who may be able to navigate the legal system with you.
    • Although gathering and keeping evidence of the abuse, including text messages, pictures, and emails, is important in any situation, it may be even more important in situations in which the abuser is in a position of power within the community.  Especially in small communities where the abuser may be well-known and/or highly regarded, others in the community may put more weight on the abuser’s word over yours; having tangible (concrete) proof of the abuse may help to prove your allegations.

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