In the first study correlating acts of domestic violence with animal abuse in Brazil, psychologist Maria José Sales Padilha has found that 51% of battered women reported their abuser also attacked household pets or other animals.
The study, conducted by Associação Amigos Defensores dos Animais e do Meio Ambiente (AADAMA), surveyed 450 women seeking assistance at police stations in Recife specialized in attending to women’s issues. The age and educational levels of survivors and aggressors ranged widely.
Both groups were over-represented by individuals over age 30, which Sales Padilha attributed to older women being more aware of women’s rights laws and older men being more entrenched in Brazil’s “machismo” culture.
The types of violence inflicted upon the animals included:
• Physical beating: 50%
• Deprivation of food and water: 10%
• “Emotional blackmailing”: 9%
• Abandoning the animal in the streets: 22%
• Other violence: 9%
Survivors added such comments to their survey questionnaires as, “He kicked the turtle and skinned the cat and dog and said he would enjoy doing the same thing with her,” and “He beat the dog to death, later saying that he did it to the dog in order not to do it to me.”
The aggressors were the woman’s partner (27%), husband (23%), ex-husband (16%),
ex-partner (27%), or other household member (7%). “The percentages show that
even after the end of a relationship women are not free from violence because the
man generally does not accept the break and still wants to exert control over his excompanion,” she wrote.
Sales Padilha cited four cases of Brazilian serial killers and mass murderers who – like many counterparts in other countries – had histories of animal abuse. She reported estimates of Brazil’s pet population at 25 million dogs and 7 million cats in a nation of 196 million people.
The 61-page study aimed to encourage the Pernambuco Departments for Educational Services to include respect to all life forms in school curricula; to alert teachers and parents that children’s cruelty to animals can be a symptom of serious behavior disturbances; to include animal cruelty in violence prevention programs; and to encourage police officers to intervene when they encounter cruelty.“Society generally disregards, underestimates or is ignorant of violence against non-human animals, but such violence is associated with conflicts in relationships between human beings. In recent decades, violence against non-human animals has been recognized as a possible sign of serious aggression that should be considered as latent psychopathology that could eventually be expressed through violent acts against human beings,” she concluded, urging Brazilian officials to recognize animal cruelty as “a serious
problem against life itself [that] can reinforce the circle of violence around women in society.”
-- Sales Padilha, M.J. (2011). Crueldade com Animais x Violencia Domestica Contra Mulheres: Uma Conexao Real
(Cruelty Against Non-Human Animals versus Domestic Violence Against Women: A Real Connection).