The Netherlands is no exception when it comes to the relationship between domestic violence and cruelty to animals. Violence in families affects adults, children and animals.
For most people, it is common knowledge that domestic violence is a problem in Dutch society. However, research (Enders & Jansen 2019; Garnier & Enders 2012) has demonstrated that domestic violence and cruelty to animals is frequently intertwined in various ways. Cruelty to animals can even be the doorway to domestic violence. What can begin as aggression towards animals may end in violence perpetrated against adults, children and animals. Victims of domestic violence can be blackmailed by the perpetrator by making threats with regard to the animal. When the animal is a beloved pet, such threats towards the animal may result in the psychological abuse of the adult or child.
In other countries, knowledge about and understanding of the relationship between domestic violence and cruelty to animals has already lead to new policies and new programmes to combat this phenomenon. However, in the Netherlands there is still a long way to go yet.
The foundation Circle of Violence, which was established in 2010, is dedicated to increasing the knowledge about the relationship between domestic violence and cruelty to animals in the Netherlands and to promote research in this field. The sooner that awareness of this topic can be raised, the sooner policies and strategies can be developed to combat and prevent domestic violence and cruelty to animals.
Foundation Circle of Violence seeks to achieve this by publishing in journals and periodicals, teaching schoolchildren about the relationship between domestic violence and cruelty to animals, giving lectures and presentations at symposia, organising workshops, above all for professionals and students who have to deal with situations where adults, children and animals are exposed to domestic violence.
In addition to this, lobbying is also an aspect of the Foundation’s activities: lobbying to encourage the development of strategies, policies and a more intensive collaboration between professionals working on domestic violence or cruelty to animals.
The Foundation Circle of Violence believes that it is necessary for policies relating to domestic violence and those on cruelty to animals are interconnected. If achieved, such integrated policy would have many advantages:
- Collaboration between professionals on domestic violence and cruelty to animals would be encouraged;
- Links between several disciplines on domestic violence and cruelty to animals can be made: police, child protection agencies, youth services, women’s shelters, veterinarians, physicians, law enforcement institutions, etc.;
- Collaboration between disciplines should improve preventative strategies and allow for the timely identification of violence against humans and animals;
- Improvement of knowledge to combat domestic violence and cruelty to animals.
Further to the aforementioned activities, the Foundation Circle of Violence also supports the foster care of animals. The foundation has always had a strong interest in activities that are focused on strengthening shelter provisions and care for animals who cannot be looked after by their owners due to domestic violence situations. The foster care project was initially supported financially by the Zilverschoon Foundation. IFAW is currently running the ‘Hands off my animal’ project.