Today saw the launch of the Loving You, Loving Me: Companion Animals and Domestic Violence art/photo exhibition in South Australia. The exhibition is part of a project that looks at the roles companion animals play in the lives of women and children during and after leaving domestic violence and features beautiful images taken by volunteers from the Mawson lakes photography club.
At the official launch today we heard from Christine Craik who talked about her considerable work in the domestic violence sector, as well as her personal experiences of being a survivor of abuse that also affected her children and their animal companions. Feedback from attendees was that Chris’s talk resonated with many of their own experiences and underlined how important it is that we provide secure housing for women and kids leaving domestic violence where they can remain with their animal companions.
Heather Fraser and Nik Taylor then spoke about the research part of the Loving You, Loving Me project which is based on interviews with women survivors of domestic violence. They explained that the aims of the project are:
- To design a project that shifts the focus from perpetrators to victims/survivors and the bonds they have with their animal companions;
- To understand the importance of animals in the lives of those fleeing domestic violence;
- To understand that, and how, animals are affected by violence too;
- To understand the importance of housing animal and human survivors together;
- To highlight the ways animals help women and children in their post trauma recovery, through, for example, offering emotional safety, unconditional love, and open companionship;
- And to achieve this in a way that engages people, gets them talking about domestic violence and animal abuse rather than turning away from it. This last aim underpins the art exhibition and seems already to be working if early press coverage is anything to go by.
Carley Milich from Northern Domestic Violence Services spoke about her work on the project, with the children who contributed art work. She explained how animals were important to them and to their recovery post-abuse.
Minister Zoe Bettison spoke about the importance of understanding what matters to women leaving domestic violence so we can be more readily able to help them, before formally opening the exhibition.
The day felt to us like a success. We met some great and passionate people working in the area of DV and animal welfare service provision. We received great feedback about the presentation and about the exhibit with lots of comments about how beautiful the photos are. It felt rejuventating to be around so many people all wanting to learn more and do more for women and animals affected by domestic violence. Honourable mention has to go to the lovely Betty, the assistance dog, who snored loudly, but adorably, all through Nik’s talk!
A full news story on this issue and exhibition can be seen here (Australia Wide 10/6/17, starts c. 15 minutes in).
For further information about the project please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com