Domestic Violence: A Pandemic Within a Pandemic
There’s a lot going on now to stress many Americans, and experts suggest that as a result domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV) may be on the rise.
If this is true, abuse to animals may also be on the rise. Animal abuse in a home has long been considered a predictive factor of abuse to a partner or child.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine notes many communities aren’t experiencing an increase in hotline calls, in fact, in many places there’s a significant decrease. Experts in the field believe that rates of IPV have not decreased, but rather that victims have been unable to safely connect with services or trapped with their abuser and feel too intimidated to report. Journal of Medicine story calls it ‘A Pandemic within a Pandemic.’
Linking Animal Abuse to Domestic Violence
Phil Arkow coordinator of the National Link Coalition notes similar issues may occur with animal abuse in homes (as he mentions on an upcoming appearance on Steve Dale’s Pet World, national radio show to be posted here soon). There may be fewer reports of abuse, as often people don’t reveal why a pet was injured, but veterinarians figure it out. In many states, veterinarians are then mandated to report suspected abuse. But abuse can be difficult to discern via telehealth. Often people confide in veterinary professionals, but those reveals are far more likely to occur with in-person visits, which are now rare as pets are handed off in a parking lot or at the front door and examined without the owner in the exam room.
All studies point to a tsunami of abuse happening under the radar. Arguably, it’s not been since the great depression or Pearl Harbor that people have had as much to worry about, and there was no social media back then to accelerate anxiety. From the isolation of spending so much time at home, to dealing with home-schooling, to so many unemployed or partially employed and associated financial issues, to social unrest, to political drama and the fear of getting COVID-19 or dealing with family members or friends who are ill. That’s a lot!
Even under the best of circumstances, one in four women and one in 10 men experience IPV,
The public health restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the virus have also reduced access to alternative sources of housing: shelters and hotels have reduced their capacity or shut down, and travel restrictions have limited people’s access to safe havens. Shelters have made valiant efforts to ease crowding and to help residents, who are victim of abuse, to move into hotels, extended-stay apartments, or the homes of family members and friends. If there are pets involved, finding a place to stay is far more difficult. Though some restrictions have been lifted, many shelters remain closed or are operating at reduced capacity, which creates challenges for people who need alternative housing arrangements.
Celebrities and Purple Leash Project
Journalist and talk show host, Tamron Hall, and actress, Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), are lending their voices as advocates for the Purple Leash Project. Founded by Purina and nonprofit organization, RedRover, the national initiative aims to provide more resources and support for domestic violence survivors with pets.