This is Di Turgoose and Ruth E. McKie’s third blog in a series of six on pets and domestic abuse.  This blog details the local reach, influence and impact of their work in the area of Companion Animals and Domestic Abuse in 2019, at a local event on June 21st 2019.

In June 2019, the Institute of Research in Criminology, Community Education and Social Justice (CCESJ) held their annual symposium at Leicester Castle Business School at De Montfort University, where we were invited to present our work by the Institute’s Director Dr Christina Quinlan. You can access more information about the Research Institute here. https://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/centres-institutes/irccesj/index.aspx

Left Dr R. E. Mckie Right Di Turgoose

Here we presented a theoretical paper on our work on pets and domestic abuse to date. Our audience was an auditorium  of academics, pracademics and PhD students, whilst none of whom were ‘expert leads’ in domestic abuse, all were specialists from the School of Applied Social Sciences at DMU which includes colleagues from Policing and Criminal Justice, Probation and Community Justice, Social Work, Youth and Community alongside Educationalists who are familiar with domestic abuse as a volume crime.

In our paper we acknowledged an uptick in recognition of the importance of ‘hidden’ victims of domestic abuse as a distinct topic for empirical study and practical policy in recent years. This has increased awareness that previously ‘invisible’ and ‘vulnerable’ victims, such as children as we argued in our poster presentation in an earlier blog (you can access our poster through dora at https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/18324) should be given independent agency. That said whilst we welcome this progress it does not, we believe, go far enough.

Currently, non-human animal abuse is largely considered as a risk indicator (‘red flag’) for inter-human abuse in the Criminal Justice System and allied fields in domestic abuse relationships. Our aim at the symposium was to start a conversation concerning recognising non-human companion animals (‘pets’) as victims experiencing domestic abuse as worthy of victimhood status in their own ‘right.’ We argue, from this standpoint, that the concept of independent agency considered to apply to children is equally applicable to pets who are victims of domestic abuse. The overarching themes in our paper thus centred around pets, speciesism, , eco-feminism, intersectionality and victimhood.

We concluded our paper by asking our audience to re-assess ‘what should count as domestic abuse’ in light of our presented positionality. You can find our paper ‘realigning the domestic violence planet, bringing speciesism into focus and starting a conversation on a new intersectionality and victimhood’ here at  https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/18321 Our input was met with much interest and we were overwhelmed to see the local impact through personal pledges made to challenge speciesist practice. 

This response spurred us on and informed our next steps in terms of planning empirical research on pets and domestic abuse and criminal justice organisational responses to this phenomenon.  At the time of writing we are in the data collection stage of a ground-breaking project in this area; we expect to present our initial findings by Mid-2020.

We will be posting  further blogs on this site and would welcome contact regarding our work which is continuing at speed.

Di Turgoose is a Teacher Fellow & Senior Lecturer in the School of Applied Social Sciences at DMU.  She is a pracademic with 20 years work experience in the Criminal Justice System with perpetrators & victims of crime.  She is subject expert in domestic abuse for the MOJ. Contact Di at di.turgoose@dmu.ac.uk or via twitter @pracademiccrime

Dr Ruth E. McKie is a Senior Lecturer in the Community & Criminal Justice Division at DMU. Ruth’s PhD explored climate change denial & criminology.  She is subject expert in Environmental Crime & Harm, researching various crimes e.g. environmental crime & animal abuse. Contact Ruth on ruth.mckie@dmu.ac.uk or via twitter  @ruthmckie1

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