October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Nationally it is estimated that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic partner abuse in her lifetime.

This is an appalling statistic particularly when you factor in the collateral damage inflicted on children who often are witness to the abuse and worse wind up on the receiving end more often than not. An abuser is as likely to extend his behavior to include his children even household pets in an escalating cycle of violence and abuse all designed to maintain control.

In this depressed economy control is the one element to most often go missing first as families struggle with rising economic challenges, unemployment and possible homelessness.

Women caught in this cycle of violence and the hopelessness can escape to shelters with their children as many will eventually however for the most part that avenue is closed to women who refuse to abandon family pets.

Abusers often hold those pets as hostages threatening further abuse even injury or death to the animal if the woman will not return; it's all about control by any method available.

This month as groups across the country engage in a campaign to educate the nation about the epidemic of violent domestic abuse it would be well to think about all the victims and begin to measure the harm that domestic violence can visit on the most vulnerable among us - children and animals - when that trust is broken.

Here are a few links that may inspire you to ask how is my community responding:

Online Directory of Safe Havens for Animals Programs

New Maine Law Shields Animals in Domestic Violence Cases

Domestic Violence Pet Support Program

Safe Havens for Pets: Guidelines for Programs Sheltering Pets for Women who are Battered

Animal abuse and domestic violence resources