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.