Women fleeing domestic abuse may be forced to leave behind loved ones, such as the family pet. The escapee will find the animal was killed overnight— almost without exception.
Without their place of refuge having the facilities to also accommodate a pet, battered women will either remain in the situation causing them harm or, what likely feels like, abandon a member of their household.
The LeeShore center has been responding to the link between domestic violence and animal abuse since opening their doors in 1985
For the first time fundraising from the LeeShore Center’s 26th annual RadioThon will be used for services to improve the safety of animals and their owners displaced by domestic violence. The fundraiser will be broadcast from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., September 8, on KSRM 920 AM.
Currently two roofless, exposed kennels house any incoming pets at the Transitional Living Center, LeeShore’s emergency shelter facility, said the organization’s executive director Cheri Smith. Previously, up to eight animals had shared the limited space.
Money from the center’s annual fundraiser has covered the bare bones of day-to-day operations, Smith said. Structural essentials come first, such as replacing a water heater, or constructing a new sewer system. But, the expansion of enclosed kennels is also crucial, she said.
“It is a matter of life or death,” Smith said.
Three in every four women in shelters who reported currently or recently having an animal, nearly three quarters reported that their partners had threatened, injured or killed their animals, According to a study conducted and authored by Frank Ascione, in a Battered Women’s Reports of Their Partners’ and Their Children’s Cruelty to Animals published in the Journal of Emotional Abuse.
The national study has been reference in legislation on animal protection provisions penalties, such as the Family Court Act and Criminal Procedure Law in New York City, and by national organizations such as the American Humane Association.
“People are beginning to realize the link,” Smith said.
Of pet abuse reports, 87 percent of the incidents occur in the presence of the women, and 75 percent in the presence of children, according to the American Humane Association. This is a tactic used to psychologically control and coerce the victim, according to the association.
Many women who fear for the lives of their animals will not leave home to seek shelter themselves, Smith said. And it isn’t just dogs. The center has housed snakes, hamsters and cats before, she said.
Homes with children frequently have pets, according to the association. Battered women have been known to live in their cars with their pets for as long as four months until an opening was available at a pet-friendly safe house, according to the association.
Pet abuse is also an indication of the imminent danger the victims are in when their animals are being threatened, Smith said. It is also devastating for children to witness that kind of abuse.
LeeShore has been taking in victims and their animals since opening in 1985, Smith said. Other shelters around Alaska are now opening their doors to pets as well, she said.
During the RadioThon, Sen. Peter Micciche R-Soldotna will co-host Smith. Gov. Sean Parnell will speak about his Choose Respect initiative, aimed at eradicating the domestic violence epidemic.
Out of every 100 adult women who reside in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 43 have experienced intimate partner violence. Thirty have experienced sexual violence, and 52 have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both, according to a 2013 survey performed by the University of Alaska Anchorage and The Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
The RadioThon will also include education on the Green Dot violence prevention strategy, Smith said. Kenai was chosen as one of the pilot cities for green dot, and the center is trying to incorporate the program into activities and events as much as possible.
Gearing up for the RadioThon the center is also hosting a Green Dot Trot, where community members who wish to donate in-kind items can drop packages at half of the 10 local businesses participating in the event and be entered to win a drawing for an iPad. The packages can include donations of laundry soap, dryer sheets, paper towels, bleach, shampoo, conditioner, feminine hygiene items, diapers, Canned and dry goods, all products that are used at the center, Smith said.
Jimmy Dawson of Petroleum Equipment and Services, Inc. donated the chain link materials that will be used for the new kennels.
Stamped flyers and form must be turned into the center by the close of day Friday.
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org