By Deb Young
In recent years, a strong connection has been documented linking domestic violence, child abuse and animal abuse.
Nationwide, professionals in such fields as law enforcement, child protection, human and veterinary medicine, domestic violence intervention, education, and animal control — among other fields — are beginning to realize that they need to know more about the many connections between animal cruelty and violence against humans.
In a number of studies , one national and the others statewide, 71% to 83% of the women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners also abused or killed the family pet.
Women who do seek safety at shelters are nearly 11 times more likely to report that their partner has hurt or killed their animals than women who have not experienced domestic abuse.
When an abuser threatens, abuses, or kills an animal, several messages are being relayed to the human victim.
The abuse, or even threat to abuse the animal, displays the domination and control the abuser has over the victim.
The abuser often is successful in getting his message across through abuse of the pet.
For example, following through on threats to injure or kill an animal shows the victim that the abuser is willing to kill an animal and that he may also kill the victim.
Not only can abuse of the pet be used to manipulate or coerce a partner or child into compliance with the abuser’s wishes, it also can be used to frighten, intimidate, punish, or retaliate against a partner or child.
Especially , if the animal is the victim’s only source of love and affection, killing or injuring the animal further isolates the victim from anyone or anything but the abuser.
Many years ago I was told the story of a woman who finally left her abuser and was staying at a shelter. One day, the woman approached an advocate at the shelter and said ‘I have to go home.”
The victim had received pword of her abuser cutting off the ears of her dog with scissors. The victim knew that the only way to save the life of her dog and other animals at the house was to return to her abuser. Situations like this and the fear of what will happen to a beloved pet often keeps a victim from leaving their abuser.
Just as animal abuse is related to domestic violence, so it is also related to child abuse, another form of family violence.
Studies have found that in 88 percent of families where there had been physical abuse of children, there were also records of animal abuse.
For children, the abuse of the pet can have vast, long-term effects on their well-being.
Children who witness or are victims of domestic violence may start to abuse pets as a way of releasing their anger or expressing their distress.
In a study of abusive households with pets, it was found that in 32 percent of these homes, the children abused their pets.
Certainly not all children who abuse animals or witness abuse will grow up to be abusers or mass murderers. However, the fact children witness abuse of both their mothers and pets can only increase the chance that they will adjust poorly to life as they get older. Additionally, children who are raised in an abusive environment learn that violence is a way to solve problems.
Less well known is the fact that many of the infamous school shooters also engaged in animal cruelty before turning their aggression against their classmates, teachers, and parents.
If you break it down to its bare essentials: “Abusing an animal is a way for a human to find power, joy, fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend itself”
Now break down a human crime, say rape. If we substitute a few pronouns, it’s the SAME THING. “Rape is a way for a human to find power, joy, fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves”
Now try it with, say, domestic abuse such as child abuse or spousal abuse:
“Child abuse is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves.”
Do you see the pattern here?
There is legitimate evidence that the individuals involved in violent acts against animals present a danger to the public that must be addressed. Intentional animal abuse is often seen in association with other serious crimes including drug offenses, gang activity, weapons violations, sexual assault and domestic violence—and can be one of the most visible parts of an entire history of aggressive or antisocial behavior.Virtually every serious violent offender has a history of animal abuse in their past, and since there’s no way to know which animal abuser is going to continue on to commit violent human crimes, they should ALL be taken that seriously.
The line separating an animal abuser from someone capable of committing human abuse is much finer than most people care to consider. People abuse animals for the same reasons they abuse people & enough have been proven to continue on to commit violent crimes to people that it’s worth paying attention to.