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Place Matters: Domestic Violence and Rural Difference
Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society (2008)
  • Lisa R Pruitt, University of California, Davis

This Article considers the phenomenon of domestic violence in relation to the rural-urban axis. Written for a symposium commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project at the University of Wisconsin, it assesses the difference that rurality makes to the occurrence, investigation, prosecution, and judicial decision-making regarding this crime. Among the factors analyzed are spatial or geographic isolation, along with the social isolation and lack of anonymity it fosters; severe economic disadvantage; the entrenched nature of rural patriarchy; and legal actors who are often ill-informed about domestic violence and constrained by limited resources. These rural differences are presented through the lens of critical geography, using space, place and scale as analytical tools. The Article thus provides an illustration of rurality as difference —difference from what has become the implicit urban norm in legal scholarship and in a great deal of law- and policy-making. It concludes by arguing for place-specific responses aimed at diminishing the obstacles to justice that confront rural victims of domestic violence. It further asserts that the solutions to this social problem must be multi-scalar (or multi-jurisdictional), using local know-how that is informed by universal norms that establish women’s rights and dignity.

  • domestic violence,
  • gender,
  • geography,
  • intimate partner violence,
  • women,
  • crime,
  • social problems,
  • space,
  • place,
  • scale,
  • feminism,
  • feminist legal theory,
  • rural,
  • urban
Publication Date
Citation Information
Lisa R. Pruitt. "Place Matters: Domestic Violence and Rural Difference"Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society 347 (2008) (symposium celebrating 25th anniversary of Feminism and Legal Theory Project). Available at: