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Battered Women and Their Animal Companions: Symbolic Interaction Between Human and Nonhuman Animals

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Only recently have sociologists considered the role of nonhuman animals in human society.The few studies undertaken of battered women and their animal companions have revealed high rates of animal abuse co-existing with domestic violence.This study examines several aspects of the relationship between humans and animals in violent homes.The study explored the role of companion animals in the abusive relationship through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with clients at a battered women's shelter. In particular, the study focused on the use of companion animals by women's violent partners to control, hurt, and intimidate the women; the responses of the animals to the women's victimization; and the role of pets as human surrogates and the resulting symbolic interaction between human and nonhuman family members. The significance of the findings for family violence research and application are discussed, as well as the broader implications for sociological investigation of human-animal interaction.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, University of South Carolina, Spartanburg, SC 29303


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