Frieda, adopted from a shelter. About 12 yrs old now. Missing one leg.

I see a lot of tweets from animal shelters about needing help with funds/food as well as about finding homes. All of this is, of course, wonderful. But I don’t see many requests for funds and support from domestic violence shelters. I follow many people who are active in women’s health, so I am pretty sure I’m following the right people. But it got me wondering.

Obviously people are okay tweeting/talking about animals in need of a home. There is no perpetrator lurking, trying to pick up clues to stalk their victim. Maybe a lot of domestic violence shelters and advocates have anonymous accounts or are not on Twitter at all. I can see that. Privacy and security are big issues with domestic violence. I mean, have you ever seen a domestic violence 5K? Pretty hard to concentrate on the race while you are looking over your shoulder.

However, once I started thinking about the underrepresentation of domestic violence advocacy on twitter (not to mention that gruesome hashtag #reasonstobeat…) a factoid started rolling around in my head that I just couldn’t ignore. I read somewhere that there are 3 animal shelters for every 1 domestic violence shelter.

Could that be true? I found a reference from 1990 supporting the claim, but another one saying it wasn’t based on any evidence. And you known me. I’m ALL about the evidence. As there were no sources to support either claim, I figured I’d get to the bottom of it myself.

So I checked California. I tracked down the most recent listings of animal shelters and domestic violence shelters by county and counted them all up. Twice.

The results: in California there are 187 animal shelters and 111 domestic violence shelters. I couldn’t figure out which shelters accepted men, so, I bet the number of available shelters for men is sadly even lower. Way lower. But given this ratio it shouldn’t surprise you that 50% of homeless women have been victims of domestic violence.

Cruelty to animals is terrible and is often a marker for violence against women, children, and men. I understand there are more homeless animals than victims of violence looking for shelter, but it just doesn’t seem right that we seem to be able to offer more shelters for dogs and cats than we can for people.

As a society we seem more offended by violence against animals. There are still tweets and murmurs about Michael Vick and his jail time for animal cruelty, but how much jail time did Chris Brown see for beating Rhianna? And Warren Moon was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2006 even though he had been arrested for domestic violence. The news media have referred to his arrest as “embarrassing.” It’s not embarrassing behavior, it’s fucking criminal behavior. I bet when it comes time for Vick to be inducted in the hall of fame, his conviction for animal abuse will be a major PR hurdle. But hey, domestic violence, that’s just embarrassing.

Maybe it’s that sentiment that allowed the #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend hastag to become a trending topic and for the good folks at twitter to not think to remove it until there was a public outcry. Somehow I think the reaction to a #reasonstobeatyourdog hashtag would have been so much different on so many levels.

And that makes me sad.

Able to avoid a shelter because financially independent and had people looking out for her

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  1. Great post Dr. Gunter. Your examples of Michael Vick and Warren Moon are right on the spot. Here is another example to blow your mind about where our values are today. Pete Rose was banned for life by MLB for betting on baseball. Charlie Hustle will never make into the Hall of Fame for his timecas a player and all he did was bet on baseball *as a manager*. Compare him to Warren Moon and Mike Vick. He was a 17 time all star, 3 time World Series champ and held no less than 5 all time MLB records. How many Super Bowl Rings does Vick have? How many does Moon have? The point being we are willing to let abusers and sick people keep playing and honor them after they retire but one of the greatest players of all time gets banned for life for a victimless crime that had no bearing on his playing days. That is what is wrong today.

  2. Thank you for bringing up this subject. I try to spread the word about domestic violence awareness using the hashtags #DV #DomesticViolence #VAW (Violence Against Women) #YWCA #Psych and #SpeakOut

  3. Your post is thought-provoking. It is disturbing that DV does not get more attention as a social problem. As a pediatric hospitalist, we screen our families for DV/abuse during every admission, regardless of the reason for hospitalization. The ER does it too. By doing this however, we are only screening a tiny fraction of the population. I wonder if perhaps the schools should get involved, as well as PCPs (if they are not doing so already). I have never had my PCP ask me if I was involved in an abusive relationship, even though she always asks me how much I drink, smoke, and exercise. Thanks for bringing this subject up in social media.

    1. When I was at the hospital for a procedure, the nurse asked me briefly if I felt safe at home. I didn’t know why at the time, but I wanted to answer no. I think if she had really looked me in the eyes I would have broken down and maybe gotten help a year earlier than I did. Some abuse is covert. Often victims cannot see the abuse for what it is, or it is hidden, such as in gaslighting.

  4. This was an excellent article. As a domestic violence legal advocate, it is always uplifting to see people writing about the dangers of public discourse in regards to domestic violence.

    I love that you are so aware of how this violence permeates into our lives, not just victims’ lives. Domestic violence affects us all, and you are doing a great job raising awareness.

  5. Great article, and I’m glad you touched on the fact that of those 111 shelters for Domestic Violence Victims probably very few of them offer any assistance to straight male victims of dv, domestic abuse, stalking, etc. even though straight men are the victims roughly 40% of the time. Based on my experience calling around for help, the number of shelters for men is somewhere between 0 and absolute 0.

    I’m not a member of the gay community but statistically you gotta wonder if there is gay on gay domestic violence too…and where are the resources for those folks?

    DV is not strictly an issue for straight women. It affects everyone. Kudos to you for helping to raise awareness.

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