There was a huge fight and I ended up looking down the barrel of a 45 caliber handgun. But he didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, he ordered me out of the house with the threat of both of our deaths on me. So I ran. I ran out of the apartment, tears streaming, and avoiding anyone I came into contact with. But, I didn’t even reach the car before my phone was ringing. And, of course, I answered.
The new directive? Come back before something happened to Tabby.
Tabby was my cat. And, if I left, there was no saying what he would do to him. I had seen him harsh with the cats before. Screaming at them and beating them for things out of their control. Tabby was all I had left. Horrible images flashed through my head of my husband beating my baby to death or shooting his tiny body with a weapon meant to take down a grown man breaking into our home.
I didn’t even think twice, although dread filled me for every possible reason. If I left, Tabby would not be safe. If I went back, I might end up dead. But I went back all the same.
Pet abuse is very real in families where domestic violence is the norm. Consider these statistics:*
- 71% of women entering shelters state that their batterer had threatened, injured, or killed family pets.
- 87% of pet abuse is done in front of partners for the purpose of revenge or control. Pet abuse is used as a punishment for leaving, or in order to coerce the partner to return to the abuser.
- Up to 40% of victims were unable to leave their abuser because they feared for their pets safety.
- 76% of pet abuse incidences were carried out in front of children. Abuser threaten, harm, or kill childrens’ pets to coerce children into sexual abuse or force them into silence in regards to domestic violence.
- When pet abuse is involved, there are twice as many incidents of child abuse.
- 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence. Investigations of pet abuse are often the first point of social service for a family experiencing domestic abuse.
To me, these statistics are quite sobering. We often see domestic violence as a crime against women in a heterosexual relationship. But that is not the case; domestic violence covers so much more. Domestic Violence affects women, men, children, elderly, and even our pets.
We are seeing a movement where talking about domestic violence is more acceptable, but it is still more of an uncomfortable topic than one people are willing to engaging in. But we need to be speaking up. We need to be sharing the numbers, and we need to be educating people on the truth of the matter.
Domestic Violence is a very real issue that affects our most vulnerable members of society. Family pets are a source of comfort and joy. Yet, they are unable to protect themselves from those who use them as a target of manipulation. If we don’t stand up for them, who will?
*Statistic from https://hope-eci.org/_documents/petsanddv.pdf