Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence
The Link between Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence
Several studies have shown that there is a link between animal abuse and domestic violence, as have reports from victims and survivors of domestic abuse. This really is quite logical - someone who is able to be abusive towards other people, is not likely to be any more considerate towards animals. Furthermore, people who are able to use and manipulate children to either gain or maintain control over their partners are not likely to have pangs of conscience in using pets in the same way. Being violent or abusive towards animals is one of the early warning signs of an abusive character, and in some states in the US the police are trained to look for signs of animal abuse or neglect in pets when called to a domestic violence incident.
For some of the research into the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence and child abuse check out the following links:
How is an abuser likely to use pets to reinforce control? And what are the messages being sent to victims (partner & children)?
In harming animals an abuser is showing what he is capable of, the implicit message to the victim is 'this could be you'. Purposely harming pets or allowing harm to come to them is also another way of hurting, and thereby controlling, the victim. As the following statements from abuse victims show clearly, the link between animal abuse and domestic violence is very real and only too often used as another way of terrorizing partners and children:
Pets can be used to buy silence and compliance... "if you tell anyone/don't do as I say/agree with me/etc ... your cat might disappear" - a tactic used by paedophiles to silence children they molest too.
Animal abuse can be used to further isolate the victim and prevent her from leaving, either by insuring the pet or by threatening to either do so or not to look after it if the victim is not around, leaving the victim of abuse feeling that the only way to protect the pet from the abuser is to stay (ie not leave) or not to go out during the day/evening, hence further the social isolation.
A pet can often be a form of comfort to an abuse victim, so harming or killing the pet can add to the feelings of loneliness and despair. Some surivors of abuse have also said that their abuser objected to their relationship with their pets and would get jealous of any attention shown to it, or use issues surrounding the pets to start an argument which would lead to further violence.
An abuser who is willing and capable of brutally killing a pet is also perfectly able to kill their partner or children, a fact which became very clear to Belinda when her husband massacred her dogs:
Keeping our pets safe
What options do we actually have for keeping our pets safe? Many victims of domestic abuse choose to rehome their pets for their own safety and well-being, before they themselves are ready to leave the relationship, or when considering leaving, in the hope of being re-united once safe from their abuser. In many cases victims of abuse have been unwilling to leave their home and seek refuge for fear of what would happen with their pets and have chosen to stay for their sake - which the abuser has only been too aware of and has used to continue to control their victim.
While there are not many Refuges (if any in the UK) which accept animals, there are a growing number of agencies and charities who understand the link between animal abuse and domestic violence and which work with the Refuges to provide short-term accommodation for pets of women escaping abusive relationships, such as the Freedom Project in London. Ask your local Women's Aid or Refuge for details of any such organisation in your area. There are also details on the Helplines page of Hidden Hurt.
If you have had to leave home in an emergency, it is often possible to ask the Police to accompany you back to your home to collect any pets which have been left there.
Some useful Links
The Freedom Project - The Freedom Project is as pet fostering scheme for women going into refuges or temporary accommodation, providing temporarily foster homes for dogs.
Paws For Kids - Offers a pet fostering service or helps find boarding kennels for pets of women fleeing domestic violence
Refuge Information for Pet Owners - Offering basic information on your options and the links and contact details of most pet fostering services available in the UK at present (including Scotland)
In This Section:
In the UK the following book is available:
In the US the following books looking at the links between animal abuse and domestic violence are available:
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