Human/Animal Rights

National Network to End Domestic Violence Hands down, one of the best resources on the web.

A personal fave, the chocolate Labrador retirever.

Short story:

A patient, someone who is weighing whether or not to leave an abusive spouse, a spouse who will not get help, tells me, "No human being has the right to hurt another."

Uh, huh. Go on.

Then she asks, "Don't you agree? Does anyone have the right to hurt anyone else?"

Probably not, probably not. And yet, it happens. And you have to get out of that when it does, even if it means abandoning, hurting the one who hurts you. Hurting that someone else, the one who has been hurting you, has to happen, it's a part of the process, and most people would agree that even if it's going to hurt, even if there's risk, you might have to go anyway.

You're not punishing, you're just going, I like to say. Nobody's punishing anyone.

And there are risks, safety risks, which is why support is so, so important. So many qualifiers when it comes to these things.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The month is really brought to you by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and if we reach way back, the Family Violence Prevention and Service Act of 1984. But when I searched "domestic violence awareness", surprise surprise, the NNEDV didn't show at all.

Somebody did their SEO* homework, that's for sure, and a collaboration between PAWS and the American Humane Association grabbed the top spot with a feature on the Pets and Women's Shelters Program. Social service providers are matching up pets and abused women to alleviate stress for both, kill two birds with one stone. Not the best metaphor, admittedly.

At first I was confused. The whole idea, really, throwing women and pets into the same sentence. But pets are vulnerable, and women and children are vulnerable, too. Almost anyone, male or female, can find himself at the end of someone's boot now and again.

This is really pet therapy, using pets as therapeutic agents. Animals have healing powers, provide comfort to humans. There's even a genre of specially trained Therapy Dogs that pad into nursing homes and residential treatment centers. These uncomplicated creatures are only in the biz to give and to take love. They haven't much else to do, really, and they're furry. So why wouldn't victims of violence love to love them?

Some might prefer to have the rent paid, or a fur coat, maybe, but then the PETA people would be on them about that. There you are, recovering from an abusive relationship, hugging your fur coat, and someone throws paint on it.

The PAWS idea makes sense to me, however. PAWS stands for Progressive Animal Welfare Society, by the way. I've suggested to parents, on occasion, referring to an occasional very, very sad kid,
"This kid needs a dog."
Or maybe a cat. Or a bird. Or a fish tank. But the dog, well, a dog is (wo)man's best friend, proof positive, everyone knows. You've seen Lassie, Rin Tin Tin. I'll take that chocolate lab, if you don't mind.

It's amazing how fickle we can be, some of us, after burying a faithful pet. You would think that replacing him is the next step. But service complete, we sometimes let them go, decide that taking care of a dog is too much work, too big a commitment, come to think of it. And have you seen the price of heart worm medication lately? I hope the Pets and Women's Shelter Program is going to pick up the tab.

Let's move on. There's so much to know about domestic violence, like one out of four of us will fall victim in our lifetimes. Check out what the President of the United States says.

And the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

and the US Department of Justice.

Don't miss the Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP)

I like their mission statement a lot:

The Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) supports the rights of all women and girls to live in peace and dignity. Violence and all other forms of oppression against all communities of women and their children must be eliminated. To change belief systems and practices that support violence against all women, the DVAP recognizes and promotes the participation of the entire community in building social intolerance towards domestic violence.

And they have resources, things a person with heart could do to work towards eradicating domestic violence, give it a shove out the door, make it one of those zero tolerance things.

The idea that we should work toward eliminating violence and all other forms of oppression against all communities of women and children, fantastic. I would add, toward men and pets, too.

It's all very much like, "No human being has the right to hurt another."



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Tzipporah said…
Today, on the way back to work after lunch, I saw a ragtag family walking down the street, mom carrying a giant duffel bag on her back, father (boyfriend, friend, whatever, clearly not he father of the children) carrying an even larger one, and two children, about 7 and 8, carrying their own backpacks/luggage.

Heartbreaking. They had clearly lost their home, but were still together, wherever they were going.

You wonder how some families get through such awful situations intact, and how other ones fall apart, start picking at each other (kicking the mom, the kids, the dog, whatever). And how the awful economic situation right now is making it harder for abused family members to get away.
therapydoc said…
Right, there but for the grace of . . .
lynette said…
i wrote about this same topic a few days ago, seeing the seas of pink supporting women who fight breast cancer, and this other scourge, domestic violence, that affects more women and children and families than we can imagine.

thank you for bringing attention to this issue.
Retriever said…
Great post, as always. I get angry when people fuss more over abused animals than abused people. Despite being an animal lover myself, and having been accused at times of being more demonstrably affectionate to the dog than the rest of the (grumpy) family in the morning rush...

I think animals make great therapists. Think everyone should have a pet. And no matter how depressed one may be, it helps to have to take care of a pet. They don't talk, so are less threatening and demanding than people. Taking care of someone or something else can improve one's mood and outlook hugely. One kid I know found even a beta fish a great help in a terrible depression.

I think one element of domestic violence that does not receive enough attention is that directed by children against parents. Altho I worked in youth with abused kids (in a child welfare agency), I have subsequently come into contact with many people who have been brutalized by their mentally ill or "healthy" but aggressive children. And they have no recourse. If it"s a little kid, the first assumption by clinical types is usually that the kid is violent in response to parental abuse or bad and neglectful parenting. This is very hard on loving parents who do NOT abuse their kids.

In NAMI groups for families of patients, I have heard many stories of parents with adult mentally ill children living with them who bully or rampage. The parents love them, know it is the illness, not the kid, and don't want them made victims in jail or other institutions, so keep them home. One woman in my community ended up stabbed to death by her son when he was delusional.

The thing is, it is ten times easier to leave an abusive spouse (even if terrified, even if economically and emotionally dependent on them) than it is to leave a violent kid. One doesn't want to abandon them to the tender mercies of the criminal justice system or substandard institutional care. One wants to believe they will improve. The bond with a child is far stronger than with a spouse.

It isn't that I am flip about marriage (married 21years) but that ties of blood are stronger (I think) than even the most faithful marital attachments.
Wait. What? said…
Dogs and domestic violence - both subjects are close to my heart. Bullies are my preferred variety.
CiCi said…
One of my favorite posters is of a young boy and the writing is listing the things for the boy not to do when he becomes a man and the last line is "Respect women". I am learning that as we respect ourselves we then pass along a courtesy and regard for others that is healthy and hopefully plants a seed somewhere to learn respect and so it goes.
Jack Steiner said…
I seem to recall a certain doc threatening men with a violent response if they didn't place the toilet seat down. ;)

1 in four is a striking number. I don't think that I would have guessed that.
Excellent post, chock full of info - a lot to think about. Man's inhumanity is a serious problem.
JJ said…
My favorite part in this post is the dog part, though I have to disagree about the chocolate lab. My yellow lab is currently snoring in a ball next to me on the couch. He is definitely a recipe for mental health. Seriously, my uncle has just gone through a very destructive bipolar episode. He lost his friends, his job security, his ability to excel in a couple of his hobbies, and his hunting privileges taken away (guns...). We'd be a lot more worried about him if we didn't know that his yellow lab won't even let him go to the bathroom alone. That dog is the best thing that has ever happened to him.
Anonymous said…
Good timing, therapydoc. I have just been told by my therapist to leave my husband because he is verbally abusive and an untreated bipolar. He also allows his children (my stepchildren) to abuse me. Ironically, he says I abuse them. That's his bipolar. His oldest son, who is 6 feet tall, won't take his bipolar medications and is on probation at school for an episode. They're all very frightening. Husband has his mother in the same neighborhood and she can't say enough unkind things about me.

I never thought this would happen to me. I have an Ivy League education, after all!

Unfortunately, I am unemployed and recently moved to a new town (the result of a bipolar episode my husband had) and have very few options.
therapydoc said…
Yellow lab is good, too, of course. Now I want one of those!

Nah, it's not fair to an animal to have to live in Chicago.

To those of you dealing with mental illness, all I can say is that it's treatable if a person wants to treat it. And I know, I know how hard it is to live with it, yet very rarely go on record as saying, You have to get out of there.

But when you do, you do.
Anonymous said…
To the anonymous poster above living in a new town with very few options. I do not doubt that those things are true but one option that you might have is a domestic violence hotline. There are both national and local hotlines available. If you haven't already done so and if it is a viable option for you I would urge you to call. It is a great place to start.
Syd said…
Great post about a difficult subject. I find that animals have amazing powers to calm, heal and help others. They are innocent and offer unconditional love...well, almost totally although they do like to get treats. I can see what a great fit it would be to have a dog help soothe those who are victims of domestic violence. Plus, they lower blood pressure too.
Zan said…
Great post. This is an issue that really needs the spotlight. Although I would like more awareness to be raised when it comes to men being abused by women.. don't think that one is getting enough attention at all.
But attention is something domestic voilence really needs. I was told by the social welfare when I looked to them for help (and I had never made a police report) "If it's not on paper, it doesn't exist." Shocking!

To the anonymous poster above currently living in an abusive situation..
I had no job either, I had no immediate friends, but I realised there was a huge support network in women's shelters. I ended up moving back to my parents, in the end I had no choice, I had a 3 month old baby I needed to put in safety.
But job or no job, friends or no friends, family or no family, it can be done!
Wishing you the best for your future!
Anonymous said…
I work for Social Services.

The average ratio of abused women is about 50% (of course given DHS is where I encounter them).

The term "abuse" is so broad. It has been used so much that it no longer has the startle effect it used to have that would get someone's blood pumping and make them want to do something about it.

Saying a woman is abused is a coverup compared to watching the woman as she fails to completely straighten her small 5"2" 105 pound frame to walk to my interview room. Abuse is her pretty smile twisted in agony as she tries to speak to me through the purple/yellow bruise spread over her face.

Abuse is her tears when she believes she has failed to explain to me how unimportant she feels and how desperate she is to feed her family. Abuse is that look in her eyes when she tells me her abuser wants her back in his life and because she has no money, no food, and no medical care, and she has given his invitation some thought.

Abuse is when even I am powerless to help her. Society needs a heads up. We all need to find a way to fix this thing on a grand scale or it will never be a safe place for women.

I am cynical, yes. I can't help it.
SWTP said…
New blogs, new links here:

(I got licensed.)
Anonymous said…
I'm glad that you added the part about stopping abuse of men, too. I think it is absolutely important to make sure that woman and children know there is a way out of abusive situations. My suspicion is that many men stay in emotionally and verbally abusive situations not quite recognizing it as abuse because it doesn't involve hitting. I suspect men are far less likely to be the victims of physical abuse but that does not mean they are not subjected to abuse. Thanks for a great post on a difficult subject.
blogbehave said…
Pet therapy for assault victims. I like the therapeutic potential of a victim connecting to the innocence and dependency of the pet.
The Blue Morpho said…
This is such a heart-rending subject. I feel so strongly about the bond between pets and people - and it is an important, intuitive concept. Intuitive enough that abusive parents will hurt or kill a child's pets as a means of abusing the child. That happened in our family. It is hard to describe the unbelievable pain of being a child and having your pet abused or killed by your parents. The loss, and then the implied threat to your own life, are impossible to assimilate. This project of pairing hurt people and hurt pets seems a very positive idea. I hope it works in practice.

The Blue Morpho

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