Susan Jones knew she had to leave her remote southeast Alaska village when she came home to find her husband clutching his loaded rifle.

In his other hand, she said, was the crumpled restraining order she had filed against him a day earlier after he sent several bullets whining past her head.

"He just had it bunched in his hand, and it clearly didn't mean anything at all," Jones said.

Many crime victims in rural Alaska face the same predicaments Jones was confronted with as a victim of domestic abuse: weak law enforcement, lack of anonymity in sparsely populated communities and no easy way to escape the state's isolated bush communities.

Jones divorced the man she said violently abused her for 10 years, and she moved 1,250 miles northwest to Kotzebue. For the past 13 years, she has run the family shelter in this small western Alaska city just above the Arctic Circle.

Jones assists women and children -- and occasionally men -- who are victims of sexual crimes or domestic violence in the Inupiat Eskimo hub community and its 11 satellite villages.

About 80 percent of Alaska's 655,000 residents live in or near the state's three largest cities: Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. The rest live in villages or tiny cities scattered over an area more than twice the size of Texas.

Dangerous weather and the lack of a road network in rural Alaska can leave crime victims marooned for days. Most villages can be reached only by air or sometimes by boat or snowmobile.

"There's nothing comparable to that in the Lower 48," said Susan Lewis of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in Enola, Pa. "It's one thing to say 'rural,' but the word more often used for Alaska communities is 'remote.' "

Victims cannot hop into cars to seek help or escape their tormenters. Many fly hundreds of miles from home to safe houses and treatment centers in the cities.

A woman who identified herself only as Theresa left her village to live in Anchorage after she was sexually assaulted more than two years ago. She would not reveal her last name because many in her 750-person village near Bethel are not aware of the assault.

"I knew I'd have more opportunities to get help here than if I went to the village," she said.

Alaska has struggled for decades with rural public safety. About three dozen of Alaska's more than 200 bush villages have no law enforcement at all because of a lack of state or local funding.

Those who stay in their villages after reporting a crime must wait for state troopers to catch a plane or helicopter from the nearest large community, a trip that can take hours or even days in blizzards or fog.

"We could get a bad weather case, and it could be days, in a worst-case scenario, before we could get out there," said Lt. Rodney Dial, a deputy commander with the state troopers.

The lengthy response times often result in victims recanting their calls for help. Delays can also allow telltale wounds to heal or perpetrators to destroy crucial evidence.

Even communities with small police departments or state-funded village public safety officers have difficulties helping victims.

According to the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission, such officers' role is limited to protecting crime scenes until a trooper arrives. They are usually the only law enforcement presence in their village and are often local hires who are related to, or friends with, the alleged perpetrators, and as a result are at times reluctant to investigate crimes. They are also barred from carrying weapons.

Because of the lack of patrols in the Alaskan bush, even the decision of a victim to obtain a restraining order can be a deadly choice.

Recalling her experience with her former husband, Jones said: "That piece of paper's not bulletproof."

Susan Jones left an abusive relationship and moved to Kotzebue, a small Alaska city above the Arctic Circle, where she runs a family shelter.