What it means for domestic violence treatment programs

 

I recently read about a study that said people feel more empathy for dogs than each other. The research showed people fake news clips of a brutal attack on 4 different victims: a puppy, an older dog, a baby, and a human adult. The puppy received the most empathetic response; the human adult the least. Another study used imitation donation campaigns, asking people to help a dying dog or a dying human. Any guesses which got the most donations? If you said the dog, you’re right.

The investigators offered some theories why the results came out like they did. The first was that compassion flows to victims that are more vulnerable, which of course favors animals and the young. A second conclusion was humans associate nearly all of the negative things happening in the world with other people. This builds our tendency to be leery of each other while, dogs and children don’t carry that same baggage.

As the founder of a non-profit whose aim is to help those who have done harm in a domestic relationship to stop, all of this could seem pretty disheartening. I was prepared to fund this effort on my own simply because it’s the right thing to do. If more people would rather help pets than people, and strongly prefer helping the most vulnerable, what chance does the Ananias Foundation have to garner support when it helps those causing harm?

What chance does the Ananias Foundation have to garner support when it helps those causing harm?

I was surprised, then, at the very positive response I received when I began sharing our mission with others. One thing donors told me is how inefficient it is to support victim services rather than programs to help those causing the harm to stop. Some of our volunteers could see past the hurtful behavior to a hurting human being worthy of being restored rather than discarded.

For many, domestic violence is a personal issue. Some were in an abusive relationship at one time in their life. They loved the person causing the harm and just wanted the behavior to stop. Others had dads or brothers who committed violent acts. They did not see their family member as a bad person, just a person who did something they shouldn’t have done.

For many donors and volunteers, domestic violence is a personal issue.

Do I always get a supportive reaction? No. Sometimes I tell people about the work of the Ananias Foundation and they quickly change the subject. Sometimes they offer their opinion about the punishment abusive people should receive—even suggesting sanctions that cross into the cruel and unusual category.

That’s okay. I know not everyone has the foresight to see what really needs to happen to address the domestic violence issue. I understand that many will follow the human tendency to demand justice and are unable to grant mercy to those genuinely seeking to change their behavior. I am, however, extremely grateful for the many who do share our vision and can rise above simple vengeance to help us create solutions. Are you one of them?

Not everyone has the foresight and mercy to support our work. We’re very grateful for those that do.

 

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