LGBT Relationships, Domestic Violence, And Companion Animals
The intersection of domestic violence and companion animal abuse is a dark topic, but it’s one that we haven’t shied away from at Faunalytics. We have given overviews of the issue, we have covered broad surveys and anthropological studies about the issue, we’ve published blogs about it, looked at the effect of domestic violence specifically on animals, and even looked at possible future directions for research. In all of our coverage, however, we have never seen a study on the link between domestic violence and animal abuse in LGBT relationships. The majority of research to this point has focused on heterosexual couples. The authors of this paper consider how a failure to examine the links between animal abuse and domestic violence in LGBT relationships “perpetuates heteronormativity and cisnormativity” (i.e., the assumption that most individuals identify with their birth sex).
First, the authors note that the lack of research on companion animals, LGBT relationships, and domestic violence is not surprising because there is a lack of research on LGBT people and companion animals in general. However, they note that the literature on domestic violence and LGBT relationships is extensive, from which data on the links between this type of abuse and animal abuse can be extrapolated. For example, many LGBT individuals believe shelters only provide services to heterosexual women. This perception stems from some shelters’ policy of segregating genders or requiring residents to disclose their transgender status. As such, LGBT individuals may not seek out shelters for protection from abusive situations.
The authors also explain that a generalized discrimination of LGBT people prevents a thorough understanding of how domestic abuse differs in these relationships. They urge policy makers and practitioners to recognize the unique challenges that LGBT individual face when deciding to seek help, including fear of outing; legal discrimination; and anti-homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender beliefs within the legal and justice system.
Moving forward, the authors emphatically suggest that there is a “need to re-orient research” away from assumptions that “men’s violence to women is solely constitutive of gendered violence.” While it is statistically more prevalent, failing to examine other forms of intimate partner violence reinforces the barriers that LGBT people face in getting help. For companion animal advocates, increased awareness and sensitivity to these barriers is crucial.