Kids into Criminals:
by D. J. Herda
An experienced on-screen talent and formidable marketer and self-promoter. Former syndicated columnist in over 1,100 English-speaking dailies, including most of the largest and most influential papers in the U.S. ( L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, etc.). Former book, magazine, and newspaper editor. Strong ties to newspaper and magazine book reviewers everywhere. Strong library name-recognition. President of the American Society of Authors and Writers with complete access to the society’s book-promotional division, The Author’s Place.
As if animal abuse weren’t bad enough, it turns out that they we’re paving the way for abusive children to become the hardened criminals of tomorrow.
Animal abuse. Serial killer. A distant relationship? Not on your life…literally. It turns out that parents who turn their backs on—or even condone—animal abuse are creating the conscience-hardened rapists and murderers of tomorrow. And all of society is paying the price, in more ways than one!
NFL quarterback Michael Vick isn't merely “immature”; he's a runaway freight train. People who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against other people and four times more likely to commit property crimes, such as arson and burglary, than those without a history of animal abuse, according to a recent study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Northeastern University.
Many other studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology over the past 25 years have shown that violent offenders frequently harbor childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children.
Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and abuse of the elderly. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.
If you break down animal abuse to its bare essentials:
"Abusing an animal is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim he or she knows cannot defend itself."
Now break down a human crime, such as rape. Substituting a few pronouns, we have this:
"Rape is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim her or she knows cannot defend himself."
Now try the same thing with child abuse:
"Child abuse is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim he or she knows cannot defend himself.”
Do you see the pattern?
The line separating an animal abuser from someone capable of committing human abuse is much finer than most people care to consider. People abuse animals for the same reasons they abuse other people. Some of them will stop their abuse with animals, but enough have been proven to continue on to commit violent crimes against people that we need to begin paying attention.
Virtually every serious violent offender has a history of animal abuse in their past, and since there's no way to know which animal abuser is going to continue on to commit violent human crimes, they should all be taken that seriously. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Allen Brantley: "Animal cruelty... is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual; this is a warning sign..." It should be looked at as exactly that…a clear indicator of psychological issues that can and often do lead to more violent human crimes.
Dr. Randall Lockwood, a Doctor of Psychology and a senior vice president for anti-cruelty initiatives and training for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said, "A kid who is abusive to a pet is quite often acting out violence directly experienced or witnessed in the home.” Studies show that one-third of children who are exposed to family violence will act out this violence, often against their own pets.
Others abuse pets or threaten abuse as a way of controlling someone else.
"So much of animal cruelty... is really about power or control," Lockwood said. Often, aggression starts with a real or perceived injustice. The person feels powerless and develops a warped sense of self-respect. Eventually they feel strong only by being able to dominate a person or animal.”
Sometimes, young children and those with developmental disabilities who harm animals don't understand what they're doing. Animal hoarding, or the practice of keeping dozens of animals in deplorable conditions, is an example of a greater mental illness, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Just as in situations of other types of abuse, a victim of abuse often becomes a perpetrator. When women abuse animals, they almost always have a history of victimization themselves. “That's where a lot of that rage comes from," Lockwood said.
In domestic violence situations, women are often afraid to leave the home out of fear the abuser will harm the family pet, which has lead to the creation of various Animal Safe House programs that provide foster care for the pets of victims in domestic violence situations, empowering the abused persons to leave the abusive situation and get help.
Whether a teenager shoots a cat without provocation or an elderly woman is hoarding 200 cats in her home, "both are exhibiting mental health issues... but need very different kinds of attention," Lockwood said.
Those who abuse animals for no obvious reason are budding psychopaths. They have no empathy and only see the world from the eyes of what it's going to do for them.
Parents can change all that. But they can’t do it alone. Besides challenging their own parenting habits, they must also deal with other critical societal influences, including our schools, churches, judiciary, legislature, and media.
A tough task? Absolutely. But author and informed parent D. J. Herda has been studying the problem and researching its cure for more than a decade. Now, finally, he presents the solution to the dilemma in a single well-organized volume, Kids into Criminals: Turning Our Children into Rapists and Murderers--How Our Failure To Stem Animal Abuse Is Destroying Our Families.
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