Addressing the Link
What can we do?
Complex societal challenges, like the prevention of violence, require integrative solutions and collaborative initiatives. The National Link Coalition is working on the local, national and international levels to:
- educate the public about The Link
- train professionals in many fields how such a multi-disciplinary approach can help them and their clients
- help communities organize and sustain interdisciplinary coalitions against family violence in all its forms.
Through educational programming and public awareness about The Link, these groups try to intervene before violence begins or escalates. Community presentations, special events, humane education in schools, programs in universities, and in-service training to professionals are building awareness and developing effective organizational strategies.
Awareness of The Link is encouraging many agencies to seek cross-training so they may build local networks and report other forms of suspected abuse, knowing that they may also be preventing other forms of violence. When any form of family violence is suspected, the appropriate agency should be informed so its experienced personnel can evaluate whether a further investigation is warranted.
The National Link Coalition publishes a monthly electronic newsletter, The LINK-Letter, filled with news about public policy, research, coalitions, and exciting new developments. We also have a Speakers’ Bureau who can provide workshops and training to a variety of disciplines and to public audiences. Contact us for more details.
Women’s shelters are forging partnerships with animal welfare groups to provide foster care for the animal victims of domestic violence, thereby enabling battered women, children and pets to leave abusive relationships earlier. Many pioneering domestic violence shelters are building animal kennels within the shelters themselves to keep family survivors together.
Human services personnel who work with abuse victims are screening for animal abuse by asking questions about the presence and welfare of companion and farm animals on crisis lines, in intakes, client assessments, interviews, and other places where this information can be highly revealing.
Youth who are at risk of antisocial behaviors and juvenile offenders are getting therapeutic opportunities to interact with animals in a positive manner through pet training programs that help homeless animals and teach youths about empathy and non-violent confrontation skills. Animal-assisted therapy programs are comforting child abuse victims during difficult forensic examinations and courtroom testimony.
Veterinarians are receiving training to recognize the diagnostic signs of animal abuse, cruelty and neglect, using the “CSI”-type forensics that have long been part of human medicine. They are also exploring their roles regarding the recognition and reporting of other forms of family violence, as their human medicine counterparts have long done.
3. Public Policy
State laws against animal cruelty have been toughened and now widely include felony provisions based on research indicating the risk to human safety that animal abuse can cause.
Many states now allow judges to include pets in protection-from-abuse orders in domestic violence hearings.
Other new laws encourage or require professionals in several disciplines to report suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities without fear of civil or criminal liability or of violating confidentiality constraints.
Academic journals and textbooks in child welfare, human-animal studies, sociology, child development, criminology, psychology, social work, veterinary medicine, and many other disciplines are now publishing compelling research describing The Link and its many manifestations. These reports are making their way into mainstream media to increase community awareness and build additional credibility for the ways that animal abuse, domestic violence, child maltreatment, and elder abuse are often interrelated.
You can help!
Animal abuse is now recognized as part of a continuum of family violence with serious implications for multiple victims and society. Acknowledging The Link between animal abuse and domestic violence, child maltreatment and elder abuse provides professionals with an important tool. By working together, professional and public awareness will be raised which, in turn, will lead to safer and healthier communities and more effective programs.