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A Cycle of Violence

The following is a guest post by animal welfare reporter, activist, and domestic violence counselor Deborah Kay Steinken.

Children who witness cruelty to animals experience psychological and emotional damage that compromises their empathy development because they become desensitized to feelings of kindness, hurt, pain, and suffering in themselves and other living beings. Constant exposure to animal abuse can cause children to engage in abusive reactive behaviors and posttraumatic reenactments perpetrated against animals or younger siblings.

Children who abuse animals are often displaying signs that they are victims of physical, mental, or sexual abuse. As a child’s anger escalates as a result of the continued abuse, he or she may ultimately lash out against humans. When a child matures and becomes a parent, the person’s anger is often vented upon his or her own children, continuing the cycle of violence.

Juveniles who commit animal abuse have characteristics similar to those of individuals who set fires and vandalize with graffiti, as these crimes are done covertly when no one is looking. Adults and authorities need to understand these early warning signs and behaviors in order to identify individuals who are at risk for interpersonal violence.

Animal abuse’s connection to child abuse and domestic violence should be considered more seriously by judges, attorneys, and social workers. It is my opinion that the evidence of prior acts of violence toward members of a family, whether they be animals, children, or spouses, should be admissible not only in civil trials determining child custody or adoption but also in criminal trials attempting to prove motive, intent, or lack of accident by the abuser.

If you witness animal abuse in your home or neighborhood or know someone who abuses animals, contact your local police department immediately. If we don’t speak up for animals, who will?

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  • cyndi says:

    it would be great if alot more schools offered programs and information about proper animal care. the school my son goes to raises animals in class (rabbits,chickens,a goat one year,fish ect) mostly farm animals but this starts in kindergarten and carries through grade 4. i love this because at an early age they learn right and wrong concerning animals.

  • barbara and philip burghardt says:

    We must help stop ALL animal abuse! They need programs in schools, to teach children how to be good to others, especially animals!!!!!!!

  • helen hansen says:

    Now we have horse fighting – on one small island in the Philipines, Mexico, etc. They tie a female horse up (in heat) and bet on the two horses fighting for her. These horses get really hurt in the process. I was telling a co-worker (a nice – hardworking Philipino about this and she said – well did they eat the horses afterward? I couldn’t believe it. I have noticed that certain people from other countries have no regard for animals and the pain these animals go through – they eat dog and think nothing of it. They just don’t get it.

  • Teresa Ingersoll says:

    Deborah has made another GREAT and informative article. Studies have shown what Deborah has stated are true. If children grow up in a violent atmosphere, chances are, they too will become violent. Most of the violence starts with animals and then makes it way to other human beings. We need to STOP violence BEFORE it starts.

  • kathy says:

    Actually, a child who enjoys hurting animals is the single best signifier that the child is a sociopath. Signs that the person is a sociopath can be taken seriously by the age of 6. This isn’t popular to say, but it’s the truth. Sorry. The only thing parents of sociopaths can do is set boundaries for behavior. It’s not possible to instill what is missing into a person with this disorder though.

  • Jörg Salbe says:

    Beschützt die Tiere den sie beschützen auch uns.

    Mehr liebe kann uns niemand geben.

    I love my Dog

  • eddie toruno says:

    HELLO MY NAME IS EDDIE FROM GUATEMALA CENTRAL AMERICA, I WAS A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MY SELF, AS A CHILD I DID NOT RESPECT OTHER DOMESTIC ANIMALS, I LIKED THEM BUT IN MY OWN WAY, BUT NOW IT IS WAY DIFERENT, NOW I REALLY CARE FOR ANIMALS ALL, THIS IS WHY I WANT TO WORK WITH THEM, THEY NEED US, THEY CANNOT SPEAK BUT THEY SHOW US LOVE IN DIFERENT WAYS,…WE ARE THE WORLD….

  • Dawn Forsythe says:

    This is a horrible problem. But I think we also need to point out that victims of abuse sometimes turn out to be strong advocates for animal protection. We need to encourage them to come forward and share their experiences.

  • Ramune says:

    I hate such kids. But parents are often guilty because of such children behaviour. And that is why we have “wonderful” people in the world.

  • Laurence Burris says:

    Very true words- “If we don’t speak up for animals, who will?” Everyday I’m going to try and remember this phrase.

  • Ruslan says:

    no more cruelty, no more abuse

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