National Link Coalition introduces Family Spirals™

The National Link Coalition is an association of professionals bringing greater attention to the linkages between violence against animals and humans (i.e., “the Link”). I introduced Family Spirals™ in the February 2012 edition of their LINK-letter (p. 7):

Logo - National Link Coalition

Family Spirals™ Addresses The Link and Sibling Abuse

The links among various forms of violence towards humans and other animals are perhaps most evident within the family. A new organization, Family Spirals™, is being developed to address multiple dimensions of family relationships and cohesion. Our Interspecies Families division explores our relationships with animals, particularly pets, within a family context. Family Spirals™ plans to advance Link work by exploring new ways in which to frame family problems, deepening our understanding of these connections, and contextualizing linkages within a broader multidisciplinary framework of family dynamics.

As a cultural anthropologist and pioneer in the emerging field of animals and culture studies, I’ve drawn upon cultural anthropology in examining human behavior and thought holistically, looking cross-culturally as well as within particular cultural milieus. Such an approach opens up new interpretations of family dynamics, and may enrich our framing of family violence to resonate with varied audiences. 

Our Sibling Dynamics division addresses another overlooked form of family violence – sibling abuse – often minimized with the more acceptable tag “sibling rivalry.” While sibling abuse has not been emphasized in the discourse highlighting animal abuse, the abuse/killing of a sibling’s pet has been recognized in the literature on sibling rivalry/abuse. To be comprehensive, we also assert that pet abuse is not only an indicator of other abuses within families, but may be itself a form of child abuse, spousal abuse, elder abuse or sibling abuse. Likewise, we also recognize that attacks against a human family member in front of a pet may traumatize that animal, which can lead to behavioral manifestations. This is important to note in order to find ways to (re)integrate the pet within the family.

Family Spirals™ seeks to amplify marginalized voices within the field of family violence and to help empower those who have experienced its ravages. We plan to help ensure that aggression towards animals will not be isolated within broader discourse on violence. By generating greater visibility to marginalized/stigmatized forms of violence, we plan to create opportunities for public education and provide sound policy recommendations. We also hope to launch a number of research projects and to consult/collaborate on projects based at universities.

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