Photo credit: Traer Scott
Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month- Feature article
By: Megan Senatori, Co-Founder/ President
This October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. However, unlike in year's past, this year the media has focused national attention on domestic violence, due to the horrific video of Ray Rice and his then-fiance in an elevator. The NFL's inept response fueled the media firestorm. As I write this article today, the media is reporting that one former NFL-executive has come forward to denounce that during his 30 years with the NFL, teams hid hundreds and hundreds of abuse cases. While it has been encouraging to see domestic violence garnering the media spotlight, some of the coverage has served as a stark reminder there is still so much that most people do not understand about domestic violence.
Perhaps most troubling was coverage in which comments were made that blamed Janay Palmer for what happened to her, or disparaged her for marrying Ray Rice after the incident. These insensitive comments reflect a lack of knowledge or understanding of the significant barriers to safety faced by victims of domestic violence. Victims of domestic abuse, unlike victims of any other crime (other than sexual assault) are routinely criticized for their "role" in provoking an assault. We judge victims who stay (they deserved it). We judge victims who leave (they didn't try hard enough). We judge victims who fight back (they were the aggressor). We judge victims who surrender to stay safe (they should have fought back!). We judge victims, and that is the problem.
This month, in honor National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, my wish is that as a society we can learn to set aside judgment and instead support victims of domestic abuse without ever blaming them, explicitly or implicitly, for what happened to them. I look forward to a day when the media coverage of an incident of abuse is squarely focused on the abuser - not the victim. And, I thank all of you who support SAAV, because you understand the tremendous barriers to safety that are faced by victims of abuse. Here at SAAV, we focus on one barrier - the lack of safe refuge for a beloved pet. Through our shelter network, we remove that barrier so that victims may find safety for themselves and their children without leaving their animals behind. Sadly, that is only one barrier to safety. There are so many other barriers. Let's keep removing barriers to safety and change the dialogue to focus on the wrongdoing of the abuser, not the actions of the victim, so that victims always feel that they will be supported without judgment, no matter what.
Board Spotlight - Megan Senatori
Megan co-founded SAAV with law school friend and colleague, Pam Hart, in 2001. She currently serves as President. Megan is a Shareholder at the law firm of DeWitt
Ross & Stevens S.C., where she practices civil litigation and appeals. Megan oversees SAAV's overall operations and coordinates services between SAAV and its collaborating partners, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services and the Dane County Humane Society.
What do you do for fun?
My little guy, Samuel (age 3) is just the most fun. He is passionate about everything at this age, but especially about construction equipment! I will never look at a cement mixer or digger the same and I know the lyrics to "Bob the Builder" by heart because we sing it daily (repeatedly).
If you were on an island and could have three things with you what would they be?
I assume that my loved ones are excluded, or the obvious first two answers would be my husband, Adam, and Samuel. So, taking it literally to include only things, there is no doubt that I would need: chapstick, my iPhone (do we get service on this island?), and sunscreen.
What are you passionate about? What really sparks your interest?
In addition to SAAV, I am an avid yogi (power yoga and hot yoga). I pursued a dance career once upon a time (ballet and jazz), and I adore yoga because it taps into that part of my spirit. I also love how calming it is on the mind. As a litigator with a full-time law practice, I need every bit of zen that I can get!
What motivates you to work with SAAV?
Oh, there is so much. First and foremost, to provide support to victims who already face so many tremendous challenges to find safety. No victim should have to choose her own safety at the risk of death or harm to a loved one, including the animal members of the family. I also do this work because I believe that when people understand the connection between animal cruelty and other forms of violence, it changes the prism through which they view crimes against animals. You cannot separate how we treat animals from how we treat our fellow human beings.
Superstar Volunteer Spotlight-
Rachel Rasmussen & Ron Radunzel
We could not provide life-saving support for victims without the generosity of our foster volunteers. Our network of confidential foster homes provides a safe landing place for
victims to find refuge for their animals while they seek safety for themselves. Since 2010, Rachel & Ron have been part of our foster network and they rise to the challenge of fostering with love, compassion, and enthusiasm. SAAV animals that are placed into their home are certain to find welcoming arms and lots of patience. We met up with Rachel to find out why she and Ron devote their valuable time to fostering for the SAAV Program:
How did you first learn about "the link" between domestic violence and animal abuse?
Like many people, domestic violence has touched my life, so I'm fully aware of the devastation it can cause ... and not just for the victims, but for their families, their friends, and everyone close to them. I hadn't really given much thought to the effect on victims' pets until I learned about the SAAV Program at a local dog fair. Unfortunately, I was not surprised by the statistics and was deeply affected thinking about animals in domestic violence situations -- they're just another innocent victim. When I learned about SAAV, I didn't hesitate for a second to get trained and approved to become a foster parent. Not only did I know any animal would have a safe, secure environment in our home, but more importantly, I wanted victims to have one less obstacle to getting out of a bad situation.
What is your favorite thing about fostering SAAV animals?
My husband, Ron, and I absolutely love fostering SAAV pets. While we're both true animal lovers, I think we also have a lot of empathy for the situation that brought the animals to us in the first place. These pets' owners are, most likely, going through one of the most difficult things they've ever faced. As a result, we assume each foster animal we take may only be used to high-tension, high-stress, potentially violent situations. So, our first priority is to provide a quiet, safe, low-stress, calm en
vironment for these animals.
Our second priority is to send updates to these pets' owners, thanks to the "chain of support" between DCHS, SAAV and DAIS. I can't imagine what it must be like to have no choice but to trust a complete stranger with your pet (our own dog is like family!). So I enjoy reassuring the animals' owners that their pet is being well cared for. Even with the anonymous nature of the SAAV Program, I'm always hopeful that by knowing their pet is happy and healthy, victims can focus their attention on getting the support they need from DAIS.
But, I would say our favorite part is after these animals have been with us for a little while. In every case we've had, we got to watch them go from scared and unsure to relaxed and trusting. You can almost see the understanding when they know they are safe, and they start to come out of their "shell" and show off their true personalities, which is really fun!
It must be hard to say goodbye at the end of the foster period after bonding with an animal for three months, any advice?
It's always a bittersweet day when we get word that a SAAV foster is going home. We're thrilled when
a pet can be reunited with its owner; after all, that's why we foster in the first place! And we always try to remember the courage it took to put their pet in the SAAV Program in the first place. So, while it's never easy to say goodbye, we also know that even though we were lucky enough to form a special bond with each of our fosters, it pales in comparison to the bond this animal has with its owner.
Please join us in thanking Rachel & Ron for
their amazing service to SAAV!!!
Upcoming SAAV Events
SAAV Foster Orientation Session
Tuesday October 21
Are you or someone you know interested in becoming a member of our network of foster homes? Please join us to learn about domestic abuse, the link to animal cruelty and how we serve victims and their animals through the SAAV Program. Please RSVP to reserve your spot by emailing email@example.com.
Other Great Local Events
Each year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month DAIS invites area restaurants to participate in Dine Out for DAIS, and donate 10% of their proceeds from a given day to support victims of domestic violence in Dane County. Dine Out for DAIS 2014 will take place on October 16, 2014.
For more information about participating restaurants, please visit the Dine Out for DAIS Page.
Celebrate Non-Violence: Recognition of Work to End Domestic Violence in Dane County
The Brink Lounge
Friday, October 17th
5:00 - 7:00 pm
Join the DVCCR (Dane County Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence) to celebrate an Emerging Advocate, Christine White, and a Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, Jill Sweeney. Hors d'oeuvres will be provided. There is a suggested donation of $20 at the door. Any profit (less expenses) will go to the selected agency, The Domestic Violence Visitation and Exchange Center.
Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims (SAAV) is dedicated to ending the cycle of abuse within families. SAAV plays a unique role in this fight by recognizing the importance of animals as vital family members and arranging for their safe harbor at the time of critical need- when a domestic abuse victim seeks refuge from an abuser. We provide temporary, confidential shelter (the SAAV Program) for a period of up to ninety days for the animals of domestic abuse victims in Dane County who are seeking safety for themselves and their family. The SAAV Program is provided by SAAV through a generous collaboration with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services and the Dane County Humane Society. SAAV also raises community awareness in Dane County and nationally about the link between domestic violence, animal abuse and how individuals can come together to stop the cycle of abuse. SAAV is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
We would love to connect with you! You can join our mailing list by clicking the link
or by liking us on Facebook!
PO Box 5152
Madison, WI 53705