Jan 122013
 
Drawing of a boy by BZTAT

Artwork by BZTAT

Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, our collective senses have been rattled. Not only with the telling of the story of what happened, but also with the images that have been thrust into our view of frightened children, grief stricken parents, and other signs of intense pain.

And guns. Everywhere you turn – newspapers, TV news, online magazines – you see pictures of assault weapons. It is as if seeing the image of these machines that are designed to kill will somehow motivate us to some kind of action.

As we are gripped with the pain of this one tragedy, however, we tend to ignore the daily tragedy of harm that befalls other children daily.  An average of 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse in the United States. Nearly 6 million children are harmed in some way by domestic abuse each year according to reports, which likely underestimate the true number of abuses cases.

We have ugly pictures to go along with that too. Photos of sad, morose children wth dirty faces and black eyes evoke pity and implore us to do something. Again, it seems that the only way to motivate people to action is to assault them with images of awful things.

Another area of activism that tries to motivate with horrifying imagry is the pet rescue community. Images of bloody and emaciated animals creep their way into my Facebook newsfeed every day. Activists think that sharing these awful pictures of abused and neglected animals will motivate us to do something to stop animal abuse.

Artists often buy into this myth that scare tactics motivate people to action. They fill their artworks with macabre images that thrill the arts intelligencia, who analyze their expressiveness with egoistic verbosity.

But looking at the statistics on mass shootings, child abuse and animal abuse, these motivation tactics do not seem to be working. Children are still being harmed. Animals are still being harmed.  The two phenomena are deeply intertwined in their occurrence in our society.  And shocking us with imagry is not making a dent in creating change.

As an artist, I do not enjoy creating ugly things. I deplore violence towards children and animals, and I want to use my art to educate people about how these two issues are connected. I want to inspire and lead people towards meaningful change. But I cannot, and will not do it by perpetuating the ugliness.

All of my artwork has a positive and joyful quality. It is not by accident. I choose color and other artistic elements that bring about those qualities on purpose. It is not to ignore the less positive realities in life, but to articulate the more positive outcomes that we seek.

With my Okey’s Promise projects, I more purposefully challenge people to initiate a dialogue about the links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence – a particularly ugly reality of human society. But even so, I do this by intriguing people with images of hope instead of creating images that make them want to turn away.

I don’t know if I will make a dent any more than those who resort to sensationalism tactics. I can’t go wrong with hope, though. What have I got to lose?

BZTAT

..

Please view Our Comment Policy before commenting.
Nov 282012
 
Okey's Promise: Art for a Cause public art mural sketch by BZTAT

Okey’s Promise mural sketch by BZTAT

I spent 20 years working as a professional clinical counselor. In that time, I met a number of children who had been abused or exposed to domestic violence. The trauma was profound and the emotional effects were deep for these children.

Most of these children are now adults. Some have recovered from their painful experiences and have gone on to be successful in their endeavors. Others still struggle, but are working towards recovery.

And there are a few who have ended up in prison for violent crimes. That is the reality of recovery – some do not get to the place where we want them to be.

I met up with a young woman recently with whom I had worked towards a healing journey from her painful history. This young woman continues to struggle. She has a support network that stands by her, though, and a family that she has accrued through the years. She knows how important that is to her.

I had not seen her in probably 5 years. The reunion was emotional for both of us.

I was completely disarmed by her genuine gratitude for my past efforts on her behalf. As a child, she had many moments of reacting angrily against me, so I was surprised that she had recognized that I was helping her. One by one, she recounted incidents where I had stood by her despite her ingratitude at the time.

And she thanked me.

Not just for standing by her, but for understanding her pain.

This young lady loved animals, but when she experienced her emotional torment, that love turned to hate. She did not understand why, and she hated herself for it, but when her pain became too great, she attempted to harm the very pets whom she loved.

Luckily, she had foster parents and a treatment team that understood this. Plans were in place to protect the child and the animals from the dangers of her pain.

As we walked down memory lane recalling this, she was profuse in her gratitude about my help in keeping her from hurting the animals who were her best friends.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead has said, “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” My young friend told me in so many words that she believed it to be true.

She rekindled my belief in the necessity of educating the public about this important issue.

Okey’s Promise is not just about animals. It is not just about children. It is not just about abuse and domestic violence.

Okey’s Promise is about bringing widespread awareness to the connections of animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence through public art, so that we can help animals AND people be safe in our world.

I cannot do it alone. Will you help me?

My young friend, and many others out there deeply appreciate your understanding and willingness to share it with the world.

BZTAT

Please support the latest Okey’s Promise project. Become an Okey’s Promise Keeper today!

donate to Okey's Promise: Art for a Cause

.

Please view Our Comment Policy before commenting.
Jul 292012
 

cavalier king charles spaniel puppy abstract by BZTAT

As the major media outlets have been focused on the Olympics, the latest political news, and the traumatic shooting in Aurora, CO, a tragedy in upstate New York seemed to slip by us virtually unnoticed this past week.

According to the New York Daily News, one of the few news sites that did notice the tragedy, an 11-year old girl was arrested for senselessly beating her foster parent’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy to death.

According to the news report, the girl’s actions were surprisingly callous and provoked simply by being told “no” by her foster parent. The implication was that the child’s superficial needs being thwarted prompted the attack.

We know virtually nothing about the girl, other than the fact that she was in foster care, and that her placement in the home where the tragedy took place was temporary.

Knowing that the girl was in foster care, we can surmise that she had encountered some sort of turbulence in her young life, but we can only speculate on what experiences may have led up to her horrible actions against an innocent creature.

We do know this, however. Children are not born with malice. It is put in them.

When children harm animals, it is likely that they have been harmed themselves. Their actions are typically the only way they know how to release the pain and psychological torment that has interrupted their experience of childhood.

Although the girl’s actions resulted from a seemingly superficial disappointment, I feel confident in guessing that there was much more to it than that.

The tragedy here is that many lives have been deeply hurt by the girl’s actions. The puppy lost its life, and the foster parent’s family lost a treasured pet. The girl now is not only a likely victim herself, she is a perpetrator, leaving her with legal consequences and deeper psychological trauma.

“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” -Anthropologist Margaret Mead

We cannot, and should not let this girl escape consequences for her actions. Yet consequences alone will not be sufficient treatment for her. She needs a combination of specialized trauma therapy, close supervision and monitoring, education regarding effective problem-solving, and unconditional support.

Will she get it?

I have my doubts. Our system of care for troubled youth is underfunded and not well-designed. Sadly, it often fails. Even if this girl does get the right mix of services, there are so many others who need it and will not get it.

That is why it is so important to watch for signs of trouble before it reaches this level of tragic outcome. We need to be aware that children in troubled situations need help, and they often show signs of their distress well before it gets this bad.

What can you do?

  1. Report known or suspected incidents of child abuse to authorities IMMEDIATELY. Failing to report because you do not want to get involved is a tragedy in and of itself.
  2. Be alert to the behaviors of children and adolescents with whom you are regularly in contact, and report incidents of aggressive behavior towards animals to caregivers or authorities.
  3. Combine efforts to rescue animals with advocacy for children. If you have rescued an animal from a bad situation, see if any children may be in that same bad situation.
  4. Volunteer as a mentor for children with Big Brother’s Big Sisters or other mentoring groups and involve youth in compassionate programming for animals.
  5. Check out our Resource Page to learn more.
  6. Spread the message of Okey’s Promise so that others will be aware to watch for signs of animals and children in need.

Actual intervention and involvement with children is so needed in our communities. Combining that intervention and involvement with animal causes is a win-win on many levels.

Advocacy is important too. We can all spread the word.

Will you help us do that?

BZTAT

Learn about how you can get involved with the latest Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause project!

..

Please view Our Comment Policy before commenting.
Jun 042012
 

We awakened today to the news that alleged killer Luka Rocco Magnotta has been arrested in a Berlin internet cafe. Accused of murdering and dismembering a man, filming his actions, and sending severed body parts to politicians, Canada’s most notorious criminal was the subject of a worldwide manhunt.

A collective sigh of relief can be heard echoing from continent to continent regarding his capture.

Magnotta’s grisly crime was foreshadowed by reports that he filmed his prior actions of killing kittens in a video posted on the web. Animal rights activists have been tracking him long before the crime that led to his most recent notoriety.

By many accounts, Magnotta was a deeply disturbed individual. His profile is both bizarre and grotesque. As we learn more about him, we are likely to find that his behavior and personality are well outside of what most of us could conceive as human.

Many notoriously bizarre killers abused and killed animals before they killed human beings. Jeffy Dahmer, comes to mind, as do Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz. As a result of this knowledge, we typically connote animal abuse with the most heinous of crimes. As we should.

Yet these types of crimes are rare (thank God). Other crimes that are linked to animal abuse are not. Child abuse and domestic violence occur every minute of the day.

Thankfully, few animal abusers go on to commit grisly murders. Many more than we can imagine, however, DO act out violently towards women and children and other vulnerable people in less known crimes.

As important as it is to take note of the links between animal abuse and serial killers, it is even more important to recognize the links to the more prevalent crimes of domestic violence and child abuse.

Children who harm animals need intervention. Not because they will grow up to be like Jeffrey Dahmer or Luka Rocco Magnotta, but because they are likely to grow up to be like the person(s) who abused them.

When animals are suffering in society, children are too. When there is violence to animals, there is likely violence to children and others who may be defenseless.

If you are aware of abuse to animals, please act and seek help. The animals deserve this, as do the humans who maybe subject to the abuser’s rage as well.

You may prevent a wayward person from becoming a serial killer, but more likely, you will prevent them from becoming a child or partner abuser.

And that is as important as anything.

BZTAT

.

 

Please view Our Comment Policy before commenting.