I have added a resource page to offer information about the connections between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. Please feel free to review the resources and share the information. If you know of other good resources on the topic, please contact me so I can add them to the page. Thanks!
There are several studies that confirm the link between abuse to animals and interpersonal violence between human beings. It is not a supposition. It is a fact. Abuse towards animals often points to circumstances where children and other vulnerable persons are in danger as well.
Unlike other health and safety concerns, however, these studies simply are not on the general public’s radar. Why not? Probably because there is no trendy PR campaign to promote it. (I aim to change that.)
But there is another ugly reason.
Society tends to operate in an “out of sight out of mind” manner when it comes to messy things. Domestic violence, child abuse and animal abuse are messy things.
We can easily express outrage at horrible things that happen to people and to animals. But getting to the bottom of what leads to the horrible things happening in the first place is not so easy.
Follow my process here.
Increased awareness about a messy thing such as children in risky and dangerous situations leads to better identification of actual children at risk. When a child at risk is identified (or thousands, as the case might be), we are compelled to do something for that child. We are compelled to provide child welfare intervention, physical health care and mental health services. These services cost money – public money.
And right now, public money for child welfare intervention, physical health care and mental health services is VERY scarce.
From a callous and myopic point of view, there is a disincentive for public policy makers to become aware of something that will identify more troubles than they have money to address.
I spoke with Mary Lou Randour,Professional outreach coordinator, Animal Cruelty and Fighting Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States this week, and I asked her about that concern. Her response was that the long term costs of NOT intervening early far outweigh any temporary savings from ignoring the obvious.
Children who witness violence and/or experience violence in their home/community often become the perpetrators of violence and other delinquent acts. They are at high risk for drug abuse and drug related crime. By not putting resources to early identification and intervention, we end up putting more resources towards criminal justice interventions later on with these same individuals.
There is currently a lot of political rhetoric in the public discourse about the funding of health care and government programs. The debate is so polarized, it is difficult to discern what is truly at the heart of the matter. I will make no specific political statement here, nor will I espouse a direct opinion.
I will only state that any cuts to services for children in need likely will lead to forced interventions in criminal justice programming later down the road. Is that what we want?
We need to be aware of children and animals that are in danger in our society, and we need to stop the “out of sight out of mind” manner in which we approach messy societal concerns. We need to identify and we need to intervene. We need to compel our public policy makers to prioritize these issues as they determine funding for essential public programming.
Our children are our most valuable resource, and their pets are often the one thing that brings them joy and a sense of safety. Let’s not let them down.
I used to say that doing counseling (my other career) was like painting a painting. Instead of using lines and color and various media, I was managing human variables, bringing them together to find harmony out of chaos.
In both – creating a painting and using communication skills to bring about emotional healing – you have to surrender a certain amount of control to dimensions out of your reach. But with both, you rely on your skills, talents, and spiritual connections with others to bring about something of value.
As I am moving towards my artwork becoming my main career focus, I am astounded at how the counselor in me comes through in the art, much as the artist in me did when counseling was my main focus.
Although I specialize in painting animals, a subject that would seem to be somewhat separate from more social conscience types of art, I am amazed at how healing pet-themed artworks can be to people who rely on their pets for balance and connection in their worlds.
I also find that I have become more deeply connected with people who are doing great work with pet rescue and animal charities to deal with the inhumanity perpetrated on innocent creatures in our society.
Recently, a lost and forlorn cat crossed my path. Residing in a parking lot and in danger of being killed by heavy traffic in the area, she was like a sitting duck. Reluctantly, I rescued her – the reluctance being because of my own circumstances being not the best for adopting a new cat.
I was deeply humbled by how many people not only followed her story here, but also donated to her veterinary care. Within DAYS, $305 was raised for my little Okey.
It is clear to me that Okey was socialized to some degree with people, then abandoned. The way that she cowers with me leads me to believe that the humans she has encountered before me were frightening to her. She is coming around, but it is a slow process.
It is one thing to care about animals and to have compassion for creatures who are lost in our human world. Yet there are those who would suggest that we should worry more about other social ills first. An editorial in my local paper went so far as to decry volunteers who give of themselves, implying that childhood poverty was a more important concern to address.
But here is the reality. 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. Where there is poverty, there is an abundance of unwanted pets due to animals not being spayed and neutered.
Truth be told, child welfare programs grew out of the efforts of animal rescue organizations who were seeing children in deplorable conditions when they were rescuing endangered pets.
The issue of pet abuse and abandonment is deeply connected to the issue of child abuse and domestic violence. Both issues need to be addressed together, not one in isolation of each other. I have a whole contingent of women and children advocates who will back me up on this.
My community of Stark County, OH has had a long history of poor management and horrible conditions at the county dog pound. Recently, mismanagement led to a family pet being wrongfully euthanized, and our commissioners are, once again failing to see how this issue connects with the other ills of our society.
I want to make it VERY difficult to do that from here on out.
I want to make my local community, as well as the broader global community with whom I connect, to realize that we must treat our animals well, in addition to addressing the needs of children and others in need in the community.
How? I am planning a series of large public artworks to place prominently in my community to highlight the value that animals bring to our world. Along with the artwork, I want to create a public awareness campaign to highlight the connections between animal maltreatment and child abuse and domestic violence.
These will not be negatively focused artworks to make us feel guilty, rather, they will be artworks designed to make us feel good about doing what is right.
I do not yet have the funding for the project, and it will likely come in stages. I plan to utilize Kickstarter.com, potential grants, and other resources to raise the funds. I am submitting the idea to Launchpad, in hopes that I might become one of their “Five people, five ideas, transforming five communities”.
I hope that I can rely on my fans and friends to get the word out and help in anyway that they can. You guys are THE BEST.
In the interest of full disclosure, please know that I have to make a living, so the fund raising will provide me support to live as I engage in the project. Consider it an Encore Career, combining “purpose, passion and a paycheck”. I would not be able to do it otherwise. But trust me, I will not be getting rich off of the project.
Art with a purpose and art with passion is essential to me. Bringing about change through creative motivation is the most valuable change there is. I want to be a part of the solution to community concerns locally, and worldwide.
In honor of my little rescue cat, saved from the dangers of the streets in Canton, which I intend to make safer for all, I am calling the project “Okey’s Promise”. The art will make a promise to do better for our community’s children and creatures.
As I try to show this little cat that some humans are OK, and the world doesn’t have to be so scary, I am haunted by the fact that there could be a child out there missing her.
And that child doesn’t have me or anyone else to show him or her that the world is OK.
Will you help me change that?