Rescuing Me, Rescuing You: Companion Animals and Domestic Violence
In this book we have considered how human-animal companionship in the context of domestic violence might be better understood. Most importantly this has involved advocating for an intersectional feminist understanding of domestic violence inclusive of species concerns. Part of this has involved us arguing for a new iteration of The Link, one that allows for animals to be constituted as victims of domestic violence in their own right. As one part of this involves raising awareness of animal victims of domestic violence, in this final chapter we reflect on historical changes associated with feminists making domestic violence a public, not just a personal, problem. Our interest in the love, empathy, and healing possibilities of human-animal companionship that has been evident throughout this book continues in this chapter through our discussion of the need to value the labour that companion animals perform, especially their emotion work. Recognising their labour necessitates us thinking about what companion animals might get out of their relationships with humans and whether they are ‘voiceless.’ In practical terms, we must also think about the necessary provisions for animals in the context of domestic violence, including suitable housing for human and animal victims. For illustrative and inspirational purposes, we point to several current relevant policy and programme examples. We end with a discussion of six key commitments that need to be shown by humans towards companion animals for the notion of the significant other to become truly meaningful.
Escape, refuge, and recovery are the themes of this chapter. We demonstrate how victims/survivors manage to escape domestic violence in their homes and how they try to recover from the violence and rebuild their lives with the support of others. Because participants stressed the importance of housing, we pay attention to their attempts to find alternative housing that would accommodate themselves and their children, but also their animal companions. We present other challenges to recovering from violence by ‘loved ones’ to show that in contrast to the popular fantasy of escape, post-separation may not be experienced as liberating but as another period of anxiety and hardship. We then consider the roles companion animals can play in supporting human victims/survivors.