Jersey: Clinical psychologist, Miriam Silver, said that research showed that ‘very distressed’ children were cruel to animals.
In this disturbing case from the island of Jersey in the English Channel of the coast of Northern France, two sibling children were subjected to incest and neglect and forced to eat off the kitchen floor. They were so horrendously abused by their parents that they lacked basic life skills when ‘rescued’ from the family home.
One of them killed the family cat. Hence the reason given by the clinical psychologist. It is an interesting thought and one worth exploring. The children were also ‘very sexualised’ and suffered ’emotionally abusive parenting’. Their mother referred to them as ‘muck’.
They were given dolls by their carers one of whom has been sectioned (temporary placement in a mental health unit) and is in a UK facility. One of the children played out scenes of incest and sadistic cruelty with the doll. The siblings are seeking massive damages of £121m and £117m in suing the government of Jersey. The government has offered £14.5m. The claim is that the health service should have intervened earlier and placed them into care.
It’s well documented that childhood cruelty to animals is the first warning that the individual is on a path to violent criminal behaviour.
According to Psychology Today, almost all perpetrators of violent crimes start off with animal cruelty. However, ‘some researchers (McPhedran, 2009; Piper, 2003) reject the idea that children who are cruel to animals will escalate into more violent behaviors as adults’ (psychweb.chbs.jmu.edu). However, the FBI accept the important link between animal abuse and other serious crimes.
The infamous Boston Strangler, Albert deSalvo, shot arrows through dogs and cats as a child. As an adult he murdered 13 women.
Children who abuse animals have often been abused themselves and/or witnessed it. This link between personal abuse and animal abuse is well known.
I am not a psychologist but the siblings in the Jersey case must have learned to be abusive towards others through their own abuse by their parents. Perhaps they saw it as normal and having learned this norm one of them killed the family cat as the first available living creature upon which to express this learned behaviour.
There are other reasons such as rehearsing violence against a pet as a form of practise in doing the same against a person. Another reason is simply copying their parents’ abuse of animals. A further reason is ‘reenacting violent episodes with an animal victim’ (Psychology Today).
The domestic cat is a terribly vulnerable creature in the family home. Their whole life is dictated to by the standards and attitudes of their human owners. Thankfully most are good cat caretakers. There is a broad spectrum of standards of cat ownership. The example on this page is at the extreme end of bad. But there are many cases in the grey middle zone where cats are neglected in one way or another. That may be overly pessimistic but through my reading about cat ownership, I doubt it. We can do better. let’s put it that way.
Source: Times Newspaper (hard copy).