Intra and Extra Familial Sexual Offenses in Rural and Urban Tennessee

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Sexual offenses can be categorized as intra- or extra-familial, reflecting the relationship between perpetrator and victim. Despite colloquial beliefs that incestual sexual offenses may be more prevalent in insulated, rural communities, empirical study of geographical trends for these offenses is limited. In the United States, Menard and Ruback (2003) found that urban areas had a higher average number of sexual assaults against children, but that rural communities had higher per capita rates. They did not, however, examine intra versus extra-familial offenses. There are a small number of studies that discuss instances of incest in rural areas, such as Collinridge (1993) in Wales, who found an increased rate of incest for rural areas in comparison with urban ones. Similarly, Goldman and Goldman (1988) suggest that, in rural Australia, intra-familial child sexual abuse rates are higher for girls raised on farms or from small communities with population less than 5,000. However, these findings are in contrast with the fact that victims of sexual assault within the family are less likely to report, and that the close-knit nature of rural communities and stigma associated with incest may actually deter reporting. The main goals of the current study are to report rates of sexual offenses in the state of Tennessee for rural versus urban counties, and to examine the difference in rates of intra and extra-familiar sexual offenses in rural and urban counties in the state of Tennessee. Data for the current study were extracted from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's (TBI) crime statistics database. Communities are coded as rural or urban based on 2013 Rural Urban Continuum Codes (RUCC). The RUCC codes counties into nine categories per population density and urbanization; however, for this study, Tennessee's counties were placed into three collapsed groups based on the RUCC codes: (1) metropolitan counties (RUCC codes 1-3; n=42), (2) nonmetropolitan counties with an urban population density (RUCC codes 4-7; n=37), and (3) rural counties or those with a population less than 2,500 (RUCC codes 8-9; n=16). Chi-square statistics will be used to differentiate rates of sexual offenses and intra- and extra-familial sexual offenses in rural and urban counties in Tennessee. Implications for prevention, victim services, and intervention will be discussed.


Johnson City, TN

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