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Rural Connectedness May Prolong Domestic Abuse: ‘Everybody Knows Everybody’

Editor’s note: The following article talks about domestic violence and may be difficult for some readers. The Office Against Interpersonal Violence within the Mississippi Department of Health maintains a hotline for people experiencing domestic abuse. Those who need help can call 1-800-898-3234 or 601-981-9196.

Hayden stood in her home, clutching a shard of broken glass so tightly that her hand began to bleed. In front of her stood her husband, who moments before punched her in the face after she confronted him about sleeping with another woman.

“I was just that angry and wanted to see blood come from him because I had got to a point that I was just tired of him hitting on me,” she said.

Reining in her fury, Hayden did not counterattack. The next morning, she called her brother and aunt, who told her to “leave him and never look back,” telling her that her mother “would turn over in her grave” if she knew Hayden was being abused.

She did, and she married her current husband two years later. The pair have been happily together for 28 years.

“I do believe now it was God that kept me from cutting him because I would probably be in jail now ’cause of the rage that was in me that night,” Hayden said.

Living in a small Mississippi River town, Hayden endured her then-husband’s cruelty because for a while she adhered to the belief that domestic abuse is something to be hidden from the broader community and kept within the confines of the household.

That mindset is frequently found in rural communities, where domestic violence often goes unchecked not only because of that belief but also isolation, lack of transportation and access to resources and personal support systems.

Hayden, who asked to go by her last name for safety concerns, grew up with her parents and two brothers in the type of town where “everybody knows everybody.” After Hayden’s mother died young, she was raped multiple times—she would not say by whom. That trauma, she said, culminated in years of self-hatred that led to her entering

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