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

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Apr 092012
 
Asian boy painting

Painting by BZTAT

The first painting for the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human Animal Bond project is complete! This is the first painting in the series, based on a photo of a young man named Isaac who lives in Rochester, NY (We will get a better photo of the painting soon).

The background contains images created by students at 2 local schools who are participating in the project through the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. (DVPI). I met with the students along with a therapist from DVPI, and we talked with them about the importance of treating animals in a humane manner. We also talked about how animal abuse and domestic violence are linked, and encouraged them to share their own experiences.

Asian boy painting close-up

I was encouraged to hear many of these students sharing how their animals were spayed and neutered and otherwise well tended. Some shared of loss of a pet. One shared that he had difficulty understanding boundaries with a pet, leaving him with frequent scratches on his arms. He seemed to gain new understanding from our discussion. His teacher was hopeful.

Okey's Promise Gallery installationThe project will include a series of 10-12 professional artworks (approx. 48” H x 32” W each) that relate to the links between animal abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. These artworks will become a traveling exhibit that will be used locally by the DomesticViolence Project, Inc. (DVPI) and other interested agencies at events and other designated activities to raise awareness about the issues of domestic violence and pet abuse.

My hope is that the project will travel nationwide. If you are interested in having it visit your city, contact me.

Each face depicted in the exhibit will represent the outcome that we seek – safe, happy children and animals – with the backgrounds depicting the artwork of youth on the issues of animal abuse and domestic violence.

Follow posts here to see the project develop!

BZTAT

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Dec 152011
 
20111215-144346.jpg

Okey smiling and purring her thanks!

The winners of the annual ArtsInStark Special Project Grants have been announced, and I am proud to report that Okey’s Promise is one of them! In collaboration with the Domestic Violence Project, Inc., we have developed a more in-depth project, and it has been awarded $5000 by ArtsInStark, the Stark County, OH county arts council!

The grant monies will be combined with the money contributed by Okey’s Promise Keepers, which, to date amounts to $2738. Matching funds were required to qualify, so the Promise Keepers made it possible for us to be awarded the grant. Thank you ArtsInStark, and THANK YOU OKEY’S PROMISE KEEPERS!!! We still could use additional funds, so if you are interested, please consider contributing via the ChipIn widget in the sidebar.

I am excited to be working with the Domestic Violence Project, Inc., which is a very progressive organization that works with survivors of domestic violence in Stark County, Ohio. I am very grateful to them, and in particular, their Executive Director, Melissa Pearce, who has been deeply supportive of the Okey’s Promise mission. Melissa contributed personally to the first project and she has been by my side every step of the way with the overall Okey’s Promise concept. Melissa is also coordinating with a local effort to provide foster care opportunities for pets from families affected by domestic violence. The effort will work to ensure that pet care is not an impediment for securing safety for vulnerable individuals.

The new Okey’s Promise project has evolved and includes a youth and community focus that extends beyond the original project design. The following is the description of the project that was submitted to ArtsInStark:

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. – Artist BZTAT via Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause

A number of high profile violent crimes in the Stark County area have alarmed citizens in recent years. Many of these crimes involved domestic violence, and many were either perpetrated against, or witnessed by, children. National statistics inform us that children who witness or experience such violence are at great risk for becoming violent perpetrators themselves or being adult victims who expect to be abused.

Statistics also inform us that abuse to animals is significantly correlated with domestic violence and child abuse. Women often remain in violent situations because they have no place for beloved pets to go when they and their children go to shelters. Abusers often manipulate their victims through threats or actual violence to pets. Children who experience violence often express their trauma by harming animals, and many later become violent towards people as well.

The Domestic Violence Project, Inc. (DVPI) is deeply concerned about the youth served through its agency programs. DVPI is currently exploring opportunities to develop shelter options for pets so that Stark County victims of abuse can reach safety for themselves and their animals. In this effort, DVPI and artist Vicki Boatright (known as BZTAT) are collaborating to bring intense focus and awareness to these issues, and assist children affected by violence through an innovative art project.

DVPI and BZTAT intend to work with at-risk youth, encouraging them to use art as a means of self-expression and healing. In addition to the therapeutic benefit of creative expression, young participants will also benefit from humane education in the process, integrating empathy, compassion, integrity, wisdom and knowledge into their value system.

The artist will work alongside an art therapist with children and adolescents in groups, encouraging them to express themselves creatively about their experiences. The artist will then use the artwork created by the youth in a series of 10-12 professional artworks (approx. 48” H x 32” W each) that relate to the links between animal abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. These artworks will become a traveling exhibit that will be used locally by DVPI and other interested agencies at events and other designated activities to raise awareness about the issues of domestic violence and pet abuse. The artist will assist DVPI through public speaking and other activities during and after the project in a public awareness campaign.

This project is innovative on a number of fronts: 1) It empowers children and adolescents who have experienced the pain of domestic violence to utilize creativity as a means for healing, behavioral redirection and humane education. 2) It allows children to work with a professional artist to create an important piece of public art that educates and informs the public about serious issues. 3) It brings important public awareness to the well researched yet little known facts connecting animal abuse and domestic violence. 4) It assists in the promotion and development of pet shelter options for those seeking refuge from domestic violence in Stark County. 5) The artist involved has been nationally recognized for her innovative approaches to raising awareness for serious issues through art and also for creative fund raising for her projects (social media, Kickstarter, ChipIn, etc.).

Work on the project will begin in January 2012. Stay tuned and be sure to follow us on Facebook to get the latest updates!

BZTAT

 

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Oct 272011
 

chalk-art-cat-sidewalk

This is part of the Okey’s Profiles of Hope series, which highlights anonymous stories of courage and hope related to the issues of animal abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence. This story was sent to me from a follower of this blog.

Trudy’s Story

I remember reading a book that said that if a woman does not have a good relationship with her father, she will end up marrying a man like her father…. Well I guess that is what I did:  I married a man like my father, only worse.

I grew up in a home with an angry, critical father, and a self absorbed, distant mother.  I got out of the house as soon as I could.  I always tended to be attracted to the “bad boys”.  If a guy was nice to me, I dropped him like a hot potato.  And so I ended up marrying “Richard”.  Honestly, looking back, the warning signs were there before we got married, I just refused to see them.

Richard was angry and very critical, just like my father was.  We were married just two and a half years, but it was hell on earth.  I could not do anything right, the food wasn’t cooked correctly, the bed was made wrong, the house wasn’t clean enough.  He didn’t like me seeing my friends, kept me isolated.  Bullied me.

We bought a house in the country, contrary to my wishes.  We had 2 cats, a dog, and a pony.

The abuse started with the animals.  He kicked the dog, twisted the pony’s ear, and threw my little kitten against the wall so hard, I thought he had killed it.  I was seeing my pastor regularly to try and help me get through this, and I remember he said “If he is abusing the animals, he will abuse you.”

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised the first time he hit me.  I called the cops, and the cops talked me into staying.  The second time he tried to throw me down the basement steps, I don’t know how I hung on, but I did.  He was so angry he stormed out the back door.  I got my purse and left.  I didn’t even have a toothbrush.  I stayed with friends for about six months till I got back on my feet.

I had to leave my sweet kitty there, because I was sleeping on couches.  I still feel so bad for abandoning Dusty to that horrible situation.  If I could have taken him, I would have.

I wish I could say I met the man of my dreams and remarried, but that is not what happened.  I was never able to allow my walls to come down to be able to have a lasting relationship. My life has been full, and right now I have four rescued cats that are quite spoiled.  They are my family, and I love them dearly.  I have made some mistakes, and I have a lot of regrets, but I do NOT regret leaving Richard at all.

I admire Trudy’s courage to leave, and I appreciate her willingness to share her story. I also admire her for making the tough choice of leaving her pet behind in order to secure her own safety. Yes. I said that – I admire her for choosing her own safety over risking both hers and the animal’s safety.

Many women remain in dangerous situations because of not having a safe place for their pets to go. Although I am a STRONG advocate for the development of more safe places for survivors to take their pets, I also am an advocate for women to take charge of their own safety, too. Especially when children are involved.

Sometimes walls are good boundaries. It is not essential to be in a relationship in order to find happiness.

Thank you Trudy for being so honest. I wish you and all your pets great happiness!

BZTAT

Would you like to submit an Okey’s Profiles of Hope story? Contact BZTAT to learn how.

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