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by Abigail Van Buren

Husband's Violence to Pet Could Escalate to People

DEAR ABBY: I am a social worker at a large, church-owned group home for abused, abandoned and neglected children. I hear many stories similar to the letter from "Wanting Peace and Quiet in Oklahoma," who described how her "wonderful husband, Chad" breaks things, punches holes in the walls, and had even flung the family dog to the ground in a fit of anger.

I wonder if that woman is really considering what's best for her children, or if she's like some single mothers whose desire to feel loved by a man has clouded their decisions.

If her children grow up with Chad as their father, they may end up attaching themselves to an abuser or even becoming abusers themselves, believing violence is acceptable because it's familiar.

That woman should leave Chad for now. It's healthier to be a single-parent family than a two-parent family in an atmosphere of violence, incest or discord. If Chad really loves his family, he'll do whatever it takes to become the husband and father he needs to be to get them back. If he doesn't -- he's no asset to the family.

That mother should protect her children now, rather than risk their becoming statistics in the foster care system. -- SOCIAL WORKER, FALCON, N.C.

DEAR SOCIAL WORKER: I agree that for the sake of her children, "Wanting Peace and Quiet" must end the fear and disruption in their lives. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Chad's" actions have nothing to do with an "anger" problem. They have everything to do with controlling his spouse. His behavior is a planned technique to control through fear and intimidation. He does not need anger management. At a minimum, he needs to be in a batterers treatment program and to be prosecuted for his abusive treatment and do some jail time. It should not be jail in lieu of treatment, but a combination of the two.

I am a law enforcement officer who has spent years working with survivors of violent relationships. I see a tremendous need for society to stop the violence and hold batterers accountable. My experience shows that the husband is abusing the pet to show the wife and children what he'll do to them if they tell anyone.

That woman should seek help immediately to begin safety planning and counseling. -- OFFICER DAN

DEAR OFFICER DAN: "Wanting Peace" did not describe her husband as violent to her or the kids. She said she was afraid to assert herself for fear that he would walk out on her. I advised her to get counseling ASAP to get her priorities in order and to give her a more complete understanding of what she must do.

While violence to animals, intimidation of children and destruction of property are deplorable, it appears that some women do not have the emotional strength to leave their abusers without outside intervention. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: No matter how "wonderful" her husband is the rest of the time, anyone who deliberately hurts the family pet (in front of the children, no less!) is clearly a danger to the rest of the family.

People who scapegoat and abuse defenseless animals are also prone to hurt human beings. In recent years, cruelty toward companion animals has been increasingly recognized as a warning sign of other actual or potential violence within the family.

The Humane Society of the United States began a campaign last year called "The First Strike Campaign," to alert the public to the connection between animal abuse and violence toward humans.

Abuse toward any living being -- human or animal -- is a serious problem that should never be tolerated. -- CONCERNED READER IN NEW YORK CITY

DEAR CONCERNED: You're right. According to a 1997 survey, in the largest shelters for battered women in 19 states and the District of Columbia, 85.4 percent of women and 63 percent of children described incidents of pet abuse in the family.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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