Our Executive Director recently published an article in the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts - Ontario Chapter (AFCC-O) newsletter. Aimed at educating professionals who work with families in the court system (mediators, lawyers, social workers, judges), she proposed four actions that individuals can take in order to address the "link" in their work:
1. Ask about animal abuse, and look for it. Batterers will often go to great lengths to hide their behaviour from outsiders, but this is not always the case with their abuse of animals. Survivors of IPV and child abuse are sometimes more willing to talk about animal maltreatment than abuse directed at themselves. This can open up a larger dialogue about family violence and safety planning.
2. Know where to report animal abuse. Ensure that police take animal cruelty seriously, as it is a crime in itself, and is often a “gateway” crime leading to other forms of violence.
3. Familiarize yourself with “link” resources in your community. Link Coalition Toronto runs a SafePet program, through which the pets of victims of domestic violence are fostered while the women stay at Toronto-area shelters. A similar program is offered in Ottawa, through SafePet Ottawa.
4. Spread the word. Once you begin talking about “the link”, you will be amazed at how many lightbulbs you see going on over people’s heads! The co-occurrence of these forms of abuse seems obvious once you are aware of it, but often people will not come to that conclusion unless you make the explicit connection for them.