White Ribbon Australia engages men to highlight the role they can play alongside women to stop violence against women, based on the understanding that most men are not violent, with today marking White Ribbon Day. While our society is well aware of the frightening statistics about women and children affected by domestic violence, little is reported on the effects of this societal problem on animals and in particular, pets.
Earlier this year, Year 12 Trinity Grammar School student, Carl Coorey-Ewings managed to pull-off a world-first education programme to help voiceless victims of domestic violence. His approach uncovered the emerging links between domestic violence and the mistreatment of animals. Recently completing the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, Coorey-Ewings first became aware of the link while researching for his Extended Essay which is a foundational requirement for the IB Diploma.
“There is an indisputable link between animal abuse and domestic violence,” says Coorey-Ewings, “Pets are present in 70 percent of cases where domestic family violence occurs.” It was this realisation that inspired him to put together the pilot for a school awareness programme, assembling a panel of experts to present to students.
Keynote speaker, Dr Lydia Tong, is a forensic veterinarian who has a special interest in the area. “Carl’s is the first education project of its kind in the world.” Pointing out the fact that people who are vulnerable often really treasure the bonds they have with their animals, she freely recognises that abusers can use that bond in order to gain control over their human victims. “If you care for your pet it can be very difficult to get out of an abusive relationship. People stay because they don't want to leave their pets.”
Matt French, RSPCA Community Education Manager, is another enthusiastic supporter. “As a male, I am incredibly proud to be a part of this programme.” His significant experience in the field, retrieving animals from abusive situations has made him conscious of the human story behind every animal. “Quite often the humans behind animal abuse face a range of issues including alcohol and substance abuse,” says French. “The animal can also be used to create leverage on a partner or children.”
Senior Constable Ingrid Reilly is the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer at Marrickville Local Area Command. Having witnessed the patterns of domestic violence first-hand, she categorically supports the research findings. “There are really clear links between animal cruelty and sexual assault, as well as domestic violence.” She highlights the role of the community in bringing these cases to the attention of police, advising that social media posts showing video footage of animal cruelty should be reported to police as the behaviour constitutes a criminal offence. Her plea is for people to speak up. “Animals have no voice and there are others too scared to speak out. Please be their voice.”
Although only a pilot project, Coorey-Ewings can see this becoming part of the national school curriculum. He is also very aware of the need for men to take the lead in this regard, claiming, “We need to recognise the gendered nature of animal and human violence.”
“Young men can make the change,” says Coorey-Ewings, “and early identification of animal abuse can save the lives of people.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by what was discussed in this article, or you need assistance, here are some helpline details:
NSW Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 65 64 63
Click here to go to the Family and Community Services website
RSPCA: 1300 CRUELTY - 1300 278 358
Click here to go to the RSPCA NSW website.
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