Session: Improving Safety Planning for Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence Who Have Companion Animals (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

40 Improving Safety Planning for Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence Who Have Companion Animals

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Union Square 3/4 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Violence against Women and Children (VAWC)
Janet Hoy-Gerlach, PhD, University of Toledo, Aviva Vincent, MSW, Case Western Reserve University and Natarajan Aravindhan, PhD, University of Toledo
Intimate partner violence (IPV) includes emotional abuse, such as threatening, injuring, or even killing the companion animal of the person being abused. While emotional abuse and animal cruelty are in and of themselves egregious, companion animal harm/threats of harm in the contest of IPV have also been found to delay or preclude people from exiting from violent situations. In an exhaustive literature review of empirical studies in which participants reported experiencing IPV and having a companion animal, in over half of the identified studies participants cited concern for their animals as impacting and/or delaying their decision to leave their respective abusive situations. Reasons for this delay included fear that the animal would be harmed and/or a lack of responsiveness from IPV services with regards to accommodating the animal in safety planning.

Concern for one's companion animal is an empirically substantiated delay for people attempting to exit dangerous intimate partner violence situations. While there has been a handful of empirical research (n=4) on safety planning and shelter policies on accommodating companion animals of individuals experiencing intimate partner violence, these studies have yet to be explicitly integrated and considered in terms of how to guide intervention response.

This roundtable session will begin a dialogue about related empirical research and the responses of service providers to women with companion animal who are seeking to exit intimate partner violence situations and also want to provide for their respective animal's safety. Presenters will focus particular attention on the dimensions of emerging response models, such as: co-sheltering of animals in domestic violence shelters; off-site sheltering of animals in facilities; and off-site sheltering of animals in foster homes. For example, presenters will discuss the health and safety factors salient to animal co-sheltering models vs. sheltering animal off-site models, as well as beginning a discussion of how to empirically evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies in terms of client outcomes (e.g., how do we examine these emerging models in terms of client preferences and potential to expedite exit from intimate partner violence).

Our goal is to stimulate conversation that will promote understanding of how to develop research-informed programming to remove barriers for people with animals who are attempting to leave intimate partner violence situations.

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