American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 141–159 | Cite as

Context Matters: Violence Against Women and Reporting to Police in Rural, Suburban and Urban Areas

  • Callie Marie Rennison
  • Molly Dragiewicz
  • Walter S. DeKeseredy


Despite plentiful efforts to identify perpetrator, victim, and incident characteristics correlated with reporting violence against women to police, few studies have addressed the contexts that shape such reporting. Even fewer have examined variations in these contexts across geographic areas. Drawing upon National Crime Victimization Survey data from 1992 through 2009, this paper uses conjunctive analysis of case configurations to identify and investigate the dominant situational contexts of reporting of violence against women to police across rural, suburban, and urban areas. Our findings show that context matters and the importance of incident, perpetrator, and victim characteristics vary across geographic areas.


Violence against women Police reporting Rural Urban Suburban 


  1. Bachman, R. (1993). Predicting the reporting of rape victimizations: Have rape reforms made a difference? Criminal Justice and Behavior, 20, 254–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bachman, R. (1998). Incidence rates of violence against women: A comparison of the redesigned National Crime Victimization Survey and the 1985 National Family Violence Survey. Retrieved from
  3. Bachman, R. (2000). A comparison of annual incidence rates and contextual characteristics of intimate-partner violence against women from the national crime victimization survey (NCVS) and the national violence against women survey (NVAWS). Violence Against Women, 6, 839–867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Block, R. (1974). Why notify the police: The victim’s decision to notify the police of an assault. Criminology, 11, 555–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2003). Reporting crime to the police, 1992–2000 (NCJ 195710). Washington: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.Google Scholar
  6. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2007). Criminal victimization, 2006 (NCJ 219413). Washington: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.Google Scholar
  7. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011). Criminal victimization in the United States—Statistical tables, 2008 . Retrieved from
  8. Buzawa, E. S., Buzawa, C. G., & Stark, E. (2012). Responding to domestic violence: The integration of criminal justice and human services (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Caringella, S. (2009). Addressing rape reform in law and practice. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Carrington, K. (2007). Crime in rural and regional areas. In E. Barclay, J. F. Donnermeyer, J. Scott, & R. Hogg (Eds.), Crime in rural Australia (pp. 27–43). Sydney: Federation Press.Google Scholar
  11. DeKeseredy, W. S. (2000). Current controversies on defining nonlethal violence against women in intimate heterosexual relationships: Empirical implications. Violence Against Women, 6, 705–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DeKeseredy, W. S. (2011). Violence against women: Myths, facts, controversies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  13. DeKeseredy, W. S., & Schwartz, M. D. (2008). Separation/divorce sexual assault in rural Ohio: Survivors’ perceptions. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 36, 105–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DeKeseredy, W. S., & Schwartz, M. D. (2009). Dangerous exists: Escaping abusive relationships in rural America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  15. DeKeseredy, W. S., & Schwartz, M. D. (2011). Theoretical and definitional issues in violence against women. In C. M. Renzetti, J. L. Edleson, & R. Kennedy Bergen (Eds.), Sourcebook on violence against women (2nd ed., pp. 3–20). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dobash, R. E., Dobash, R. P., Cavanagh, K., & Lewis, R. (2004). Not an ordinary killer -just an ordinary guy. Violence Against Women, 10, 577–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Donnermeyer, J. F. (2012). Rural crime and criminology. In W. S. DeKeseredy & M. Dragiewicz (Eds.), Routledge handbook of critical criminology (pp. 290–302). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. DuMont, J., Miller, K.-L., & Myhr, T. L. (2003). The role of “real rape” and “real victim” stereotypes in the police reporting practices of sexually assaulted women. Violence Against Women, 9, 466–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Estrich, S. (1987). Real rape: How the legal system victimizes women who say no. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Felson, R. B., Ackerman, J. M., & Gallagher, C. (2005). Final report: Police intervention and the repeat of domestic assault. Washington: National Institute of Justice.Google Scholar
  21. Felson, R. B., Messner, S. F., Hoskin, A. H., & Deane, G. (2002). Reasons for reporting and not reporting domestic violence to the police. Criminology, 40, 617–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Felson, R. B., & Paré, P. P. (2005). Final report: The reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault by nonstrangers to the police. National Institute of Justice: Washington.Google Scholar
  23. Fisher, B. S., Daigle, L. E., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (2003). Reporting sexual victimization to the police and others: Results from a national-level study of college women. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 30, 6–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gartner, R., & Macmillan, R. (1995). The effect of victim-offender relationship on reporting crimes of violence against women. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 37, 393–430.Google Scholar
  25. Hart, T. C., & Miethe, T. D. (2008). Exploring bystander presence and intervention in nonfatal violence victimization: when does helping really help? Violence and Victims, 23, 637–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hart, T. C., & Rennison, C. M. (2003). Reporting crime to the police: 1992–2001. Washington: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.Google Scholar
  27. Heimer, K. (2008). Understanding violence against women using the NCVS: What we know and where we need to go. Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics.Google Scholar
  28. Hogg, R., & Carrington, K. (2006). Policing the rural crisis. Sydney: Federation Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hubble, D. L. (1995). The National Crime Victimization Survey redesign: New questionnaire and procedures development and phase-in methodology. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Statistical Association, Orlando, FL.Google Scholar
  30. Kaukinen, C. (2002a). The help-seeking decisions of violent crime victims: An examination of the direct and conditional effects of gender and the victim-offender relationship. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, 432–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kaukinen, C. (2002b). The help-seeking of women violent crime victims: Findings from the Canadian Violence Against Women Survey. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 22, 5–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Klein, A. R. (2009). Practical implications of current domestic violence research: For law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. National Institute of Justice.Google Scholar
  33. Koss, M. P., Abbey, A., Campbell, R., Cook, S., Norris, J., Testa, M., Ullman, S., West, C., & White, J. (2007). Revising the SES: A collaborative process to improve assessment of sexual aggression and victimization. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 357–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Koss, M. P., Gidycz, C., & Wisniewski, N. (1987). The scope of rape: Incidence and prevalence of sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample of higher education students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 162–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lewis, S. H. (2003). Unspoken crimes: Sexual assault in rural America. Enola: National Sexual Violence Resource Center.Google Scholar
  36. Lizotte, A. J. (1985). The uniqueness of rape: Reporting assaultive violence to the police. Crime & Delinquency, 31, 169–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Logan, T. (2005). Barriers to services for rural and urban survivors of rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20, 591–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miethe, T. D., Hart, T. C., & Regoeczi, W. C. (2008). The conjunctive analysis of case configurations: An exploratory method for discrete multivariate analyses of crime data. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 24, 227–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Miethe, T. D., & Regoeczi, W. C. (2004). Rethinking homicide: Exploring the structure and process underlying deadly situations. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mihalic, S. W., & Elliot, D. (1997). If violence is domestic, does it really count? Journal of Family Violence, 12, 293–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ragin, C. (1987). The comparative method. Berkeley: The University of California Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rand, M., & Rennison, C. M. (2005). Bigger is not necessarily better: An analysis of violence against women estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey and the National Violence Against Women Survey. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 21, 267–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rennison, C. M. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: Reporting to police and medical attention, 1992–2000. Washington: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.Google Scholar
  44. Rennison, C. M. (2010). An investigation of reporting violence to the police: A Focus on Hispanic victims. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38, 390–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rennison, C. M., DeKeseredy, W. S., & Dragiewicz, M. (in press). Intimate relationship status variations in violence against women: Urban, suburban, and rural differences. Violence Against Women.Google Scholar
  46. Rennison, C. M., & Rand, M. (2007). Introduction to the National Crime Victimization Survey. In J. P. Lynch & L. A. Addington (Eds.), Understanding crime statistics: Revisiting the divergence of the NCVS and the UCR (pp. 17–54). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Ruback, R. B., & Ménard, K. S. (2001). Rural-urban differences in sexual victimization and reporting. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 28, 131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schwartz, M. D. (2000). Methodological issues in the use of survey data for measuring and characterizing violence against women. Violence Against Women, 6(8), 815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schwartz, M. D. (2005). The past and the future of violence against women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20, 7–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stanko, E. A. (2006). Theorizing about violence: Observations from the economic and social research council’s violence research program. Violence Against Women, 12, 543–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women. Washington, DC: United States department Of Justice; Office of Justice Programs; National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from
  52. Truman, J. L. (2011). Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) - Criminal victimization, 2010 (National Crime Victimization Survey Bulletin). U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from
  53. Truman, J. L., & Rand, M. (2010). Criminal victimization, 2009. Washington: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.Google Scholar
  54. Websdale, N. (1998). Rural woman battering and the justice system: An ethnography. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Weisheit, R. A., Falcone, D. N., & Wells, L. E. (2006). Crime and policing in rural and small-town America (2nd ed.). Long Grove: Waveland.Google Scholar
  56. Wiist, W., & McFarlane, J. (1998). Utilization of police by abused pregnant Hispanic women. Violence Against Women, 4, 677–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Willson, P., McFarlane, J., Lemmey, D., & Malecha, A. (2001). Referring abused women: Does police assistance decrease abuse? Clinical Nursing Research, 10, 69–81.Google Scholar
  58. Wolitzky-Taylor, K. B., Resnick, H. S., McCauley, J. L., Amstadter, A. B., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Ruggiero, K. J. (2010). Is reporting of rape on the rise? A comparison of women with reported versus unreported rape experiences in the National Women’s Study-replication. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 807–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Callie Marie Rennison
    • 1
  • Molly Dragiewicz
    • 2
  • Walter S. DeKeseredy
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public AffairsUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Social Science and HumanitiesUniversity of Ontario Institute of TechnologyOshawaCanada

Personalised recommendations