A Feminist Approach to Women and Companion Animals Surviving Domestic Violence

October 18, 2017

The 3rd STOP Domestic Violence Conference Australia will be held at Rydges Melbourne from Monday 4 – Tuesday 5 December, 2017.

Heather Fraser, Associate Professor in Social Work at Flinders University will be presenting “Loving me, loving you: an intersectional feminist approach to women and companion animals surviving domestic violence”.

heather fraser - A Feminist Approach to Women and Companion Animals Surviving Domestic Violence
Heather Fraser

In this paper we discuss the 2017 project called, Loving you, Loving me: domestic violence and companion animals, which involved an interdisciplinary and interagency collaboration between Flinders University researchers (Fraser from Social Work and Taylor from Sociology), Northern Domestic Violence Service (NDVS) Manager (Felus) and Children’s Advocate (Milich), and Relationships Australia (North) Aboriginal Family Advisor (Graham). The presentation fits two conference foci: ‘lived experience’ and ‘collaborating and supporting diversity and intersectionality’.

The Loving Me, Loving You project aimed to:

1) Raise community awareness of the link between domestic/family violence for women, child and companion animal survivors.

(2) Explore the importance of human-animal connections for many people (adults and children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous) especially during family crises and/or while recovering from domestic abuse.

(3) Recognise the existing work occurring in the northern suburbs of Adelaide that help to foster ongoing bonds with animals for women and children escaping domestic/family violence.

The project had two parts:

(1) a community exhibit of photography and artwork led by NDVS; and

(2) a qualitative research component led by Flinders researchers.

In this presentation we focus mainly on the research component, which involved analysing:

(a) artwork and photography; and

(b) transcripts from individual, narrative feminist interviews with adult women, mostly conducted in the presence of their companion animals.

Four specific questions will guide our discussion:

(1) Why focus on women and companion animals surviving domestic violence?
(2) How might feminist intersectionality be conceptualized to include interspecies relations?
(3) What does an intersectional feminist perspective offer DV policy makers, managers and practitioners interested in progressing the needs of human and animal victims/survivors of domestic violence?
(4) From an NDVS practitioner perspective, what was needed to help make the research component of the project possible?

The 2017 STOP Domestic Violence Conference will embark on the theme of ‘Domestic Violence Does Not Discriminate’ with nine featured speakers and over 50 expert stream/ workshop presenters.  The Conference aims to provide a platform for a unified national voice on ending domestic violence.

Find out more here.

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