October 2006 Views
Walking Against Violence
By Alexandra Matiella Novak*
I want to thank you all for being here today. Seeing all your faces in the crowd shows that
this community really cares about ending violence in the home. Today we are addressing a
major problem in our society. More and more studies are telling us that animal abuse and
domestic violence come hand in hand, so it makes sense that we have invited all our
four-legged friends to show support for this cause.
|Alexandra Matiella Novak speaks to participants
during the July 2006 Walk Against Violence, sponsored by both the
Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home and the Copper Country Humane Society. Over
95 people and 38 dogs marched through Houghton at the event to show support for
victims of family violence, including pets. Novak will also speak at the Oct. 16
Candlelight Ceremony. (Photo © 2006 Michele
I am a Michigan Tech graduate student and I am a survivor of domestic violence. I want to
make it very clear to you that I did not want to be in an abusive relationship. Women and
children never want to be abused. And just like there is no certain type of animal that is
more at risk for being abused, there is no type of woman who is more at risk for being a
victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence can happen to any woman, no matter her race,
education, economic status or religion. There are many reasons women donít leave abusive
partners. There were many reasons I didnít leave mine. The two main reasons for me were
that I felt an obligation to him and I was also afraid of him. The combination of these two
reasons was very powerful, and he was able to maintain control over me.
|Shalini Suryanarayana, Gundlach Shelter Board
member and one of the organizers of the July 2006 Walk Against
Violence, addresses the crowd gathered near the Houghton
waterfront for the Walk. Suryanarayana, winner of the 2006 Heart
and Hands Award, designated her award to this Walk. (Photo © 2006 Michele
I understand what an abused animal must feel like. I know the confusion of being punished
and not knowing why. I understand the helpless feeling of submitting to your abuser so that
the violence can stop. When an animal is abused, we never say that the animal did something
to deserve that abuse. We never say that the animal needs to change in order for the abuse
to stop. Just like itís never the animalís fault that they are the victim of abuse, it is
never the womanís fault either.
Now we see that abused animals and abused women are connected. We see studies showing us
that women in abusive relationships will sometimes not leave their partner for fear that the
abuser will act out against a pet. And this does happen. Iíve read stories about women at
shelters being sent pictures of their dead or tortured animals. One story in particular was
about a woman who was sent pictures showing the abuser cutting off her dogís ears. In order
to save her pet's life, she went back to her abuser. This just increases the control that
the abuser has over the victim. Itís another reason not to leave. But now, because of a
partnership between the Gundlach Shelter and the Humane Society, this doesnít have to be a
|Kristine Bradof and her dog, Keeper, join the July 2006 Walk Against Violence. The Houghton
police provided traffic control for safety during the Walk, which
began and ended at Bridgeview Park on the Houghton waterfront.
Participants, including pets, received commemorative bandanas like
the red one Bradof is wearing. As a member of the Houghton City
Planning Commission, Bradof introduced the ordinance that says pet
owners must clean up after their dogs. (Photo © 2006 Michele
The mission statement for the Gundlach Shelter is to eradicate domestic violence in
Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon County. This is our goal, but we canít do it on our own.
We need the community to help. And now, with this partnership, we are giving women more
control over their situation and helping them to survive.
Now that Iíve talked about not having control, I want to talk about who does have control.
It is time for us as a society to stop thinking about domestic violence as a womenís
problem. It is a problem for all of us. We are now addressing the fact that it is an
animal cruelty problem as well. If you care about life, you will try to end domestic
violence. If you care about your community, you will try to end domestic violence. And the
best way to end domestic violence is to stop it in the home.
Many of us feel that what goes on in someone elseís home is none of our business. Well,
that is just wrong and ignorant. Domestic violence never stays in the home. It may not
impact you directly, but it does impact our community. If you know a man who abuses his
family, but has never done anything to you, it is hard to resent that man. It is hard to
hold him accountable if his actions have never hurt you. But his actions will find a way
into our community. Many children who live in abusive homes grow up and become abusers
themselves. And even as children, they will abuse animals and become school bullies who
occupy the same schools as our children. This is a problem for our community and we must
stand together as a community to address it. We must hold abusers accountable for their
actions, because one day they will negatively affect us.
|Organizers of the July 19, 2006, Walk Against
Violence pause with their pets during their Walk along the
Houghton waterfront. Pictured, from left, are Diane Trudgeon,
Humane Society Board member, with Rosco (a dog seeking adoption at
the time); Alex Matiella Novak and her dog Daisy; Mary Ann Schulze
from WMPL and MIX 93, with Squeegie; Emily Newhouse, Gundlach
Shelter Home director; Shalini Suryanarayana and her dog Buddie;
Teresa Woods, Humane Society volunteer (her dog Chester not
pictured). (Photo ©
2006 Michele Anderson)
I implore you all today to go out and speak against domestic violence, which encompasses
violence against our pets as well since studies show that they are related. Donít turn a
blind eye if you see domestic violence; it will one day affect you or your family. If you
know a woman who is in trouble, let her know that there are resources available for her. If
you know a woman who is afraid to leave because she doesnít want to leave a pet behind, let
her know that the Humane Society can take the animal and the animal will be safe there. Let
her know that she has choices and she doesnít have to be afraid or feel like she is out of
control any more.
Unfortunately, I did not know about the Gundlach Shelter Home when I was being abused. To
escape from the violence, I would many times spend my nights wandering around Wal-Mart or
would spend the night in my office on campus. I didnít know that there was a safe place for
me. And this is why I am here today, to spread the word about the resources that are
|Gustavo Bourdieu of Hancock and Gordito, Keweenaw
Now's official mascot, joined the July 2006 Walk Against Violence
near the Houghton waterfront. (Photo © 2006 Michele
And I know that is why all of you are here today as well. You all want safe homes for our
pets and our families. Ultimately, that is why I left my abuser. I knew that if I stayed
with him and we had children, he would abuse them. If I stayed with him and we had a dog,
he would abuse that dog. And when I look at my dogs today and see that there are so happy
in their safe home it makes me happy that I made the right decision. By leaving my abusive
partner, I have made a happy and safe home for my pets and for my future children.
But there are still some in the community that I am worried about. I worry that not enough
people see the devastating impact domestic violence has on our children and on our
community. Crimes in this community are committed by people who grew up in an abusive home. The bullying that goes on in our middle and high schools is done by children who see the
abuse in their homes. So, it is up to all of us here to make sure people do understand. If
we could say one thing against domestic violence everyday, eventually we may be able to
change some minds. If we could get as much information out there as possible, imagine who
may stumble upon it and use it to save a life. No, domestic violence is not a womanís
problem. It is a childís problem, it is a petís problem, and it is a communityís problem.
And we are standing here today to let all the abusers in this community know that we will no
longer tolerate the abuse of our families, pets and ultimately our community.
|*Editor's note: Alexandra Matiella Novak is
a graduate student at Michigan Technological University and a Children's
Worker for the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home.
|Note: Views expressed by our guest columnists are not necessarily the views of Keweenaw Now.
Want to stay in the K-NOW? Don't miss out on the whole story. Find out how you can help.
Hire a Writing Pro
Does the writing on your Web site leave something to be desired? Thesis grammar getting you down? Find out how we can help.
Lure Our Readers to You
Our readers share your passion for the Keweenaw Peninsula. Lure them to
you through banners, sponsorships, and more.