Abusers know no bounds when it comes to emotionally abusing their victims. They will go to great lengths to keep their victims in a constant state of fear. Why? What would they have to gain by making threats and intimidating us?
Control. It’s all about power and control. Making threats to harm a pet is a tool abusers use to drive their victims further into compliance.
Harm or threats of harm is abuse
Let’s be abundantly clear: Threatening to harm a family pet is emotional abuse. Why? Because the abusers want to scare you into compliance. They want to get us to do whatever it is they want us to do. Their goal is to cause us to feel fear. They want us to live in fear of the “what if.”
As a matter of fact, according to The Hill, almost one million animals are abused or killed every year because of domestic violence.
The abusers want to hurt us, so they threaten our pets. These threats cause further harm to our psychological well-being. The abusers know we are attached to our pets and use that to “pull the string” and play puppet master.
The lethality factor
According to Oxford Living Dictionaries, the definition of lethality is “the capacity to cause death or serious harm or damage.”
It’s been a proven fact that people live happier lives when they have a pet in their lives. The goal of abusers is to keep their victims in a constant state of emotional discord. In other words, they don’t like seeing their victims happy. In the eyes of the abusers, if the pet in the home makes the victim happy, they are more likely to become emotionally strong. The abusers may even threaten to harm the animals to keep the victim living in fear. Essentially, the victim’s deep love for the pet is exploited and used against them.
Let’s say you have a beloved cat in the home. You love that cat. The abuser knows you love that cat, but the abuser thinks you pay more attention to that cat. The abuser will make threats of tossing the cat into the streets to fend for itself. The abuser may even threaten to toss the cat out of a moving vehicle. Maybe the abuser has already physically harmed the cat. The abuser will say (and do) anything to keep you fearful.
The above situation is exactly what Vivek Upadhya was talking about in the piece written for Emory University School of Law titled The Abuse of Animals as a method of Domestic Violence. Upadhya said, “The abuse of an animal is a potent source of harm and control: victims have described their anguish and despair at witnessing their partner torture their beloved animal in front of their eyes, and frequently speak of how their concern for the animal obstructs their ability to leave the home.”
Situations like this can exponentially increase a survivor’s risk lethality risk. If the abuser has such a capacity to entertain the notion of harming an animal, there is no stopping the abuser from causing the victim serious physical harm.
Abusing an animal is often the precursor to harming a human. Two very alarming statistics regarding animal abuse and domestic violence, according to The Animal Legal Defense Fund:
- The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University conducted a study in 1997 that found animal abusers are five times as likely to also harm humans.
- A study conducted in 2017 indicated that 89 percent of women in abusive relationships reported their animals were threatened, harmed or killed by the abusive partner.
It’s because of studies such as those that authorities need to begin taking threats against animals seriously. Too often, authorities have not pursued charges against an abuser because there was no proof of harm to an animal. There are laws that have begun to take shape, though, that include animals on protection orders, so that is a step in the right direction.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.