NZ-Cruelty to animals by children could indicate sexual abuse

Escrito por Nuria Querol i Viñas. Publicado en News in English.

 
The abuse of animals by children is a sign that they themselves might be abused, research suggests. 



 
Cruelty to animals by children could indicate sexual abuse
 
09.07.05
 
By Simon Collins
 
The abuse of animals by children is a sign that they themselves might be abused, research suggests.

The Plunket Society cites an overseas study stating 35 per cent of boys and 28 per cent of girls who have been sexually abused have been cruel to animals.

Only 5 per cent of boys and 3 per cent of girls who were not sexually abused have been cruel to animals.

The study forms part of a paper by policy analyst Cathy Kern to be presented at today's child and family policy conference in Dunedin.

It is supplemented by a report on the levels of animal abuse seen by vets in New Zealand.

More than 70 per cent of the 400 vets who responded said they had seen animals that had been abused by humans in the past five years.

About a quarter saw deliberate violence at least once a year and 2 per cent saw it at least once a month.

Of those who reported violence to animals, 9.6 per cent also knew of or suspected abuse of humans in the same households.

Ms Kern said: "Everyone is becoming much more aware that this is not just about animals. It's very definitely an early warning indicator [of child abuse] and a call for early intervention," she said.

Conversely, she said, teaching children to love and care for animals was a valuable way to teach young people how to care for other human beings, including their own future children.

Unitec lecturer Virginia Williams - also cited in the Plunket paper - said vets were sensitive about intervening in these cases because they did not want to scare people away from bringing their damaged animals in for treatment.

"A lot of them mentioned the difficulty in creating trust between the vet and the client and that there is a fine line to be walked to retain that trust," she said.

Ms Kern said children learned abuse from adults who abused them.

"Animal cruelty by children is not normal behaviour," she said.

"Children might pull the wings off insects - that is not acceptable either - but if they are abusing a pet, or maltreating it, it's something to be worried about."

Unitec animal researcher Arnja Dale - cited in the report - said children were more likely to hurt wild and stray animals.

"There tends to be a lot of violence towards birds, and also stray cats, depending on what area you are in," she said.

"We do see quite commonly overseas that if they are victims or are abused themselves, they will often abuse animals, so we are looking at that link here."