The policing of domestic violence in rural and urban areas: The voices of battered women in Kentucky

Neil S Websdale, Byron Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Two main lacunae in the literature on domestic violence and its policing set the stage for our research. The first is the absence of the “voices of women” and the publication of their opinions and perceptions of police performance at domestic disputes. The second is the failure to address rural domestic violence and its policing. Using ethnographic research as a starting point, we formulate two propositions that guide the current research project. This project involved conducting 510 structured interviews with a random sample of battered women residing in spouse abuse shelters in Kentucky. Findings indicate that when battered women present visible injuries to police officers, rural and urban women report few differences in the immediate provision of police services such as transporting women to shelters and arresting the abuser. In terms of rating police handling of domestics in their areas, urban battered women consistently evaluate police more highly. Finally, both urban and rural women rate the overall performance of state police to be superior to that of local police. These “voices of women” offer compelling insights into the policing of domestic violence and the complex, multifaceted and dialectical nature of the gendered state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-317
Number of pages21
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1997


  • Domestic violence
  • Policing
  • Rural
  • Urban
  • Women's perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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