The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey of Shelters for Women Who Are Battered

From a major national study undertaken to more fully assess the already known relationship between animal abuse (including bestiality) and domestic violence.  Please read the full article as well as the excerpts below.

“Although an age-old issue, the relation between the abuse and maltreatment of nonhuman animals and human interpersonal violence is receiving renewed attention from the scientific community. Two recent reviews of literature (Arkow, 1996; Ascione, 1993) highlight the potential confluence of child maltreatment, domestic violence, and animal maltreatment as shown in the diagram in Figure I which illustrates how each form of abuse can occur independently or in combination with other forms of violence.”

“An earlier paper (Ascione, 1993) outlined a series of issues that pertain to the development of cruelty toward animals in childhood and adolescence, using the following definition of cruelty: “…socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/or death of an animal…” (p. 228). Case examples from the early psychoanalytic literature were reviewed as well as primarily retrospective research from forensic psychiatry and sociology linking childhood histories of animal abuse with contemporary patterns of criminal violence. One of the watershed events for research in this area was the inclusion of “cruelty to animals” among the symptoms of Conduct Disorder in children and adolescents in major psychiatric diagnostic manuals (American Psychiatric Association, 1987; 1994). Conduct Disorder represents a pattern of antisocial behavior that can persist into adulthood.

“Research examples included the association of animal maltreatment with cases of child physical abuse, the sexual abuse of children, and partner battering or domestic violence.”

“…we also know that animals have been abused by perpetrators to frighten their partners, as a threat of potential interpersonal attacks, as a form of retaliation or punishment, and abuse has been implicated in forced bestiality.”

“Arkow (1996) cited two studies, one of which was conducted at the Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence in Colorado Springs, Colorado and found that 24% of women (N=122) seeking safehouse refuge reported that their abusers had abused animals in the women’s presence. The other study was conducted by the La Crosse, Wisconsin Community Coalition against Violence with 72 women using domestic violence prevention services. Eighty-six percent of these women reported having pets and, of these women, 80% had experienced their partners’ maltreatment of pets.”

“Ascione (in press), in collaboration with a shelter in northern Utah for women who are battered, surveyed 38 women entering the shelter for in-house services. Using a form of the Battered Partner Shelter Survey (BPSS) – Pet Maltreatment Assessment (Ascione & Weber, 1995), he found that 74% of the women reported having a pet currently or in the past twelve months. Of these women, 71% indicated that their boyfriend or husband had either threatened harm to their animals or had engaged in actual maltreatment and/or killing of an animal. The prevalence of pet abuse by children in these families was also disturbingly common. Thirty-two percent of the 22 women with children gave examples of children hurting or killing animals. This level of cruelty is comparable to what has been found in samples of mental health clinic child clients (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1981; Achenbach, Howell, Quay, & Conners, 1991) and in a sample of sexually abused children (William Friedrich, April, 1992, personal communication). In this sample of women with pets, nearly one in five (18%) reported that they had delayed entering the shelter because of concerns about their pets’ safety.”

“The overwhelming majority of shelters we surveyed indicated that women seeking shelter mention experiences of pet abuse. A smaller but still substantial majority also reported that children have shared instances when pets have been abused in their homes. If in fact, shelters reporting that children talked about pet abuse always reported that women discussed pet abuse as well.”

“We know that cruelty to animals may be a battering partner’s attempt at control, coercion, intimidation, retaliation, and an element of forced bestiality.”

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all quotes from:

The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey of Shelters for Women Who Are Battered

By Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D, Claudia V. Weber, M.S., and David S. Wood,
Utah State University, Logan, Utah
Originally published in Society and Animals, 1997, 5(3)

in The Zero – The Official Website of Andrew Vachss

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