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To Leave or to Stay?: Battered Women's Concern for Vulnerable Pets

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 1367-1377
Catherine A. Faver; Elizabeth B. Strand
Date Published
December 2003
This study examined whether rural battered women’s pets were more likely to be threatened or harmed than those of urban battered women, and the impact of batterers’ threats or actual harm to pets on the likelihood that concern for pets would affect a women’s decision about leaving their batterers.
The study findings demonstrate that concern for the welfare of vulnerable pets is a factor in many battered women’s decisions about whether to leave their batterers. Specific, noteworthy findings include: (1) rural as well as urban women reported that their pets had been threatened or harmed and that concern played a role in their decision about leaving or staying with their batterers; (2) compared to urban women, rural women may have more or different types of pets, and may have less access to services or help for themselves and their pets; (3) rural women may develop stronger attachments to their pets because they are more isolated geographically; and (4) battered women’s concern for their pets was more likely to be a factor in their decisionmaking if their partners had actually threatened or harmed the pets. In summation, when pets are at risk, battered women’s concern for their vulnerable animals may affect their decisionmaking process. Implications of these findings are presented and discussed. Research has well documented the relationship between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence in families. After reviewing the relevant research, this study addressed two questions not previously explored. First, are there differences between battered women in urban and rural areas in their experiences of pet abuse and in the role of concern for pets in their decisions about leaving or staying in the home with their batterers? Second, to what extent do batterers’ threats or actual harm to pets increase the likelihood that concern for pets will affect women’s decisions about leaving their batterer? The study sample consisted of 61 women receiving services in 2 rural and 4 urban battered women’s shelters. Tables and references