What is 'the Link'?
Behind this photograph lies a video. Behind this video lies a question? Behind this question many thousands can be saved from lives of violence and abuse.
The knowledge that animal abuse is associated with other forms of abuse and violence, often 'hidden', asks the question.... WHO ELSE? Other animals? A child? A wife? A neighbour?
They can now be found!
'The statistics on physical child abuse are alarming. It is estimated hundreds of thousands of children are physically abused each year by a parent or close relative. Thousands actually die as a result of the abuse. For those who survive, the emotional trauma remains long after the external bruises have healed'. ... American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
It is now known that Animal Abuse can be an indicator of 'hidden' violence and abuse. By looking 'behind' the abuse of an animal, many children and vulnerable women can be rescued from their worlds of darkness. This Link is increasingly being enacted across Europe where the potential exists to save many and to break the Cycles of Abuse.
Who Will Turn the Light On?
By knowing that animal abuse may be linked to those vulnerable individuals and families living hidden in the darkness of abuse, an opportunity is now given to those authorities who look for associated abuse and turn on the bright light of discovery to find those in need.
Animal abuse, cruelty and neglect are often considered isolated incidents wholly separated from other forms of family violence. Today, professionals involved with victims of family violence are not surprised when they learn that often these acts are linked, and that various agencies are working with the same families. They no longer excuse animal cruelty as “boys will be boys” or “it was only a cat.” Instead, they see animal abuse as a sentinel indicator, “the tip of the iceberg” and often the first sign of other family and community violence. Intentional abuse in any form should be taken seriously. Knowing that there is a Link, agencies involved in preventing family violence need to work together for a more effective, species-spanning response.
How are they linked ?
Once caseworkers in any of the four fields begin to look for it, they often find other forms of family violence co-occurring. These can include:
Domestic violence and child abusers may kill, harm or threaten animals to exert dominance and power over their victims and to show them what could happen to them. In this way, animal abuse silences domestic violence and sexual abuse victims, is a serious risk to pets, and is a significant barrier that prevents them from leaving violent relationships.
When children are cruel to animals it is not necessarily an exploratory stage of development; it could be the earliest stages of conduct disorder, a gang initiation ritual, an act of revenge, peer pressure, or a way for an abused child who feels powerless to exert control over his or her own victim and gain a sense of power. Exposing children to animal cruelty may desensitize them against all forms of violence.
Senior citizens in particular may be at risk of not being able to care for their animals adequately, of neglecting themselves in order to care for their pets, of being exploited by those who would take advantage of their attachment to pets, or of keeping too many animals in inhumane hoarding conditions.
What are the effects of animal abuse?
In addition to causing pain and suffering to the animals, animal abuse can be a sentinel indicator and predictor — one of the earliest ”red flag” warning signs of concurrent or future violent acts. Abusers and impressionable children who witness or perpetrate abuse become desensitized to violence and the ability to empathize with victims. Abuse is often cyclical and inter-generational. The earlier professionals can intervene to break the cycles of violence, the higher the rate of success.
Why should social services professionals pay attention to animal abuse?
Victims are often reluctant to talk about abuse that has been directed at them, but they may be more comfortable talking about abuse to their pets, which can then break the ice about discussing their own abuse. Neighbors are more likely to report suspected animal abuse than child welfare, domestic violence or elder abuse cases, thereby making their local humane society or animal control agency a “first responder” and the first point of social-services contact for a family in crisis. Children who talk about having many pets that died or disappeared may be trying to say that their pets have been killed or abused, and further investigation is necessary.
Offenders often do not see animal cruelty as a serious crime and may readily admit to animal abuse but not to family violence. This may be one way to put an offender away where he will
not hurt others.
Professionals in law enforcement, social service agencies, education, human and animal health care, and the courts should recognize animal abuse as a significant dynamic in their work and routinely screen for animal welfare issues. They can partner with animal care and control agencies in concerted, collaborative prevention and intervention programs.
A new initiative which is proving successful is for first responders to animal abuse, to refer concerns to those authorities responsible for Child and Adult Safeguarrding
The Link in Europe
It began in the USA, being embraced by police forces and the FBI, but now Link coalitions are growing throughout Europe where authorities exploring 'beyond' animal abuse for associated violence and abuse against people and discovering many previously hidden vulnerable children and adults. The Link is coming to most of the European continent for the first time and many opportunities are now opening to find the most vulnerable in society. An increasing number of police forces and authorities are now embracing this new knowledge and enacting programs in their countries.
Also as awareness increases that by affording importance to the abuse of an animal can lead to the discovery of 'at risk' children, those who previously had minimal concerns, now seeing an equivalency with helping children, raises the importance of the animal in society. In one program in the UK, where animal abuse responders looked for associated abuse, 86% of the children referred were previously unknown to the authorities. They were 'saved' by applying the Link. The importance of the animal grows in the eyes of those who previously were unconcerned. Regard increases. Awareness grows. A new consideration is born.
We will continue to :
Inform European authorities and invite their enactment of protocols which not only raise public awareness of animal abuse but also provide possibilities of discovering hidden human violence and abuse.throughout the EU.
Use diverse methods including social media, awareness of the Link can be expanded across Europe to create awareness among the general public and increasingly invite authorities to create Link Coalitions in their countries.