Abstract: Disparities of Violence Prevention and Intervention Efforts: Implications for Rural Communities (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Disparities of Violence Prevention and Intervention Efforts: Implications for Rural Communities

Friday, January 14, 2022
Liberty Ballroom P, ML4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Allison Salisbury, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
Rachel Garthe, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Douglas Smith, PhD, LCSW, Professor and Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background and Purpose: Violence is a significant public health concern, resulting in significant detriments against communities, economies, and health and well-being. In rural communities, geographic isolation reduces violence prevention and intervention efforts, due to limited opportunities for adequate collaboration, funding, and provision of evidence-based services. It is imperative to take stock of rural communities’ needs and engage key stakeholders serving individuals, families, and communities experiencing violence, as the individuals offer key insights into their community’s unique needs and offer multi-systemic suggestions for promoting healthier communities. Therefore, to better understand geographical disparities in prevention efforts, we surveyed violence prevention and intervention staff across the state of Illinois.

Methods: As one component of a multifaceted statewide needs assessment and prevention planning effort, violence prevention and intervention staff were recruited through statewide and local networks to complete an online survey. Nine questions were analyzed, including three descriptive (their organization, role, and communities served) and six open-ended questions (impacts of violence in their communities, additional factors for preventing violence, solutions, collaborators, first action if money were not an issue, and additional thoughts). Three coders performed three rounds of conventional inductive qualitative content analysis—open coding, grouping, and abstraction—and completed inter- and intra-rater reliability.

Results: Representing 91% of Illinois counties, 130 respondents served in trauma-informed care, victim services and advocacy, youth development and education, mental health, and child maltreatment prevention. Rural community prevention and intervention staff were less likely to provide violence prevention, workforce development, trauma-informed care, and educational opportunities; less knowledgeable about evidence-based violence prevention programs; and felt less likely to successfully address social problems, especially housing. Additionally, despite the perceived importance of protective factors in preventing violence—including positive childhood experiences, social-emotional learning, and family engagement and support—community organizations are overwhelmed, and many feel they do not adequately address these factors in their communities. Similarly, rural communities felt lower levels of adequacy in addressing protective factors compared to suburban and urban communities. In addition to the barriers rural staff indicated, violence prevention and intervention staff also indicated areas for growth across the state. Furthermore, participants suggested several multi-pronged actions: collaborating with law enforcement and community organizations and providing equitable access to housing and transportation, mental health and health care, trauma-informed care, safety measures, social connectedness, community involvement, and restorative justice.

Conclusions and Implications: This study highlights collaborations and geographic considerations in offering holistic opportunities for violence prevention. Respondents identified needs of rural communities and uncovered the lack of opportunities, services, and resources available for rural counties to provide violence prevention and intervention services. To solve inequities inhibiting violence prevention and intervention efforts, numerous practitioners recommend holistic approaches—including restorative practices and equitable access to housing, employment, transportation, basic income, education, safety, and health and mental health services—to achieve equitable implementation of violence prevention and intervention knowledge, evidence-based practices, and community-based collaboration.