Talking about domestic violence isn’t easy, but it is a discussion that needs to be had. Many victims suffer in silence. Why is this coming up on a site about cats? The victims of domestic violence are not always human. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate by age, sex, sexual orientation, social class, or species.
A Brief Look Inside Domestic Violence
The experiences I’m about to share are true, but I’m disguising the identities of those involved due to the nature of the stories.
Rose was about 11 years old when her mother, Jenni, met Dan. At first he was incredibly charming. Dan took Rose, her little sister Ann, and Jenni to nice restaurants, fun local events, road trips, and even on motorcycle rides. Jenni fell hard and fast for Dan. They were married just days after Jenni’s divorce from Rose’s father was final.
It didn’t take too long after the wedding for Dan’s personality to begin to change. He needed to control everything in the house -he even kept track of the girls’ menstrual cycles. Other people were only allowed in the house when he said it was okay for them to be there. He demanded to know who called whenever the phone rang.
Any deviation from Dan’s rules meant there was going to be pain for someone. He would yell, but that wasn’t really the worst of it. At dinner time, he found it amusing to tell the entire family about all of the details of the times he had cheated on or abused his previous wife. He began to sexually molest 11 year old Ann and get into bed with Rose while she was sleeping saying that she felt just like her mother. He would lock the doors, unplug the phones, and assault Jenni.
The family pets didn’t escape Dan’s abuse. He would use the family’s cocker spaniel to manipulate Jenni, Rose, and Ann. If they didn’t give him what he wanted, he would choke the dog, step on it, or threaten to shoot it. Very similar threats were made on the family bird. He told stories about the other animals that he had abused or killed. In one story he had thrown a cat out of the window while driving down the freeway. Dan knew that the girls would do anything to protect their beloved pets.
Unfortunately, stories like the ones above are not that uncommon. Domestic violence statistics in the United States are quite shocking. The amount of abusers who use pets to control their victims is equally astounding. According to the National Collation Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and the National Link Coalition:
- Nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the US.
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some type of physical violence by an intimate partner .
- 13% of animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.
- 71% of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters report that their batterer threatened, injured or killed the family pet.
- 25% to 40% of victims of domestic violence are unable to leave their situation because of the fear of what might happen to their pets or livestock.
- Battered women have been known to live in their car with their pets for 4 months waiting for an opening at a pet-friendly shelter.
Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence & Their Pets
There is help for both human and non-human victims of domestic violence. If you or someone you know is being abused, know that you don’t have to leave your pets behind. Domestic violence shelters and programs are responding to the very real need to rescue all of the victims from their situation. Here are a few of the major resources that are out there:
- This organization helps to bring animals out of crisis situations whether it be a domestic violence situation or a natural disaster. They offer Domestic Violence Safe Escape Grants to help victims temporarily house their pets while they find a more accommodating situation. For existing shelters, they also offer Domestic Housing Safe Housing Grants that can provide up to $6,000 to create pet-friendly housing.
- Safe Place for Pets
Founded by Red Rover, this website is a searchable database for pet-friendly domestic violence shelters. All you need is a city and state or a zip code.
- Safe Havens Mapping Project
This is another searchable database of domestic violence shelters. These shelters either have facilities to shelter pets, relationships with facilities that will house pets, or the ability to refer you to a facility that will house pets.
- Saf-T Shelters
Saf-T is a program that give shelters guidelines that help them to house pets with their owners. This program is used in shelters in the US, Canada, and Australia. A list of participating shelters by state (and international links) can be found here.
The NCADV and other domestic violence organizations are now recommending that police and case workers ask victims about their pets when assisting them. The ASPCA is also pushing for laws that will add violence towards pets to the legal definition of domestic violence and allow pets to be added to protection orders. The list of states that have already added violence towards pets to their domestic violence laws can be found here.