According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, there are more than 12 million victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.
The numbers are staggering, but sometimes, that’s all we see – numbers. People reduced to statistical data. It’s hard to fully grasp the reality that there are amongst us who suffer through horrible experiences and are fighting to survive such violent environments. How do they cope?
To many of these victims, their pets are their source of comfort. Sadly, their animal companions are as exposed to the abuse as they are. A study by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence states that 71% of the victims reported their abuser had also abused the animals. Some survive, some, sadly do not.
While there are several organizations that provide help and shelter to victims of domestic abuse, they do not offer refuge for the pets that they bring with them.
This is where organizations like Ahimsa House comes in.
Over a series of email exchanges with Ahima House’s Community Service Coordinator, Samantha Alfest, we were able to learn about and understand what Ahimsa House does and stands for.
A Story of Survival
Ahimsa House is Georgia’s first and only organization dedicated to helping human and animal victims of domestic violence reach safety together.
Their founder, Emilie Christie, was a domestic violence survivor herself. She escaped with her cat and sought help from a shelter only to be told that her beloved pet could not accompany her.
Left with no better options, Emilie entrusted her cat to a friend’s care. By the time she was ready to get her back, her friend had lost her pet. Heartbroken, Emilie decided that nobody should have to choose between their safety and that of their animal companion. She was determined to address this issue.
In 2004, she founded Ahimsa House.
Temporary Care for Pets
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word meaning “nonviolence”. Samantha explains that it is a key virtue in Indian religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism which encourages followers to practice nonviolence towards humans and animals.
It is this virtue that Ahimsa House embodies by providing temporary care for pets at no charge. When safe housing is found, the pets are reunited with their owners.
“Our program provides care for pets (of any species or breed) so that their owners can enter a domestic violence shelter and do whatever else they need to do to get back on their feet.”
In many cases, victims choose to stay in abusive relationships, while some resort to sleeping in their cars with their pets rather than abandon them. In fact, 50% of victims delay their escape out of concern for their pet’s safety.
Knowing their pets are properly cared for sets the victims’ minds at ease as they seek safety from domestic violence and work on rebuilding their lives.
Ahimsa House provides as much needed help as they can. Advocates connect them to whatever resources they need while the animals are safely housed in foster homes, boarding facilities, and veterinary offices throughout the state for up to 60 days.
Routine veterinary care is given to animals to treat injuries related to abuse or neglect. Pet supplies, training, pet deposits, and other assistance are also provided.
Real-World Issues, Real-Time Rescue
Domestic violence is considered a public justice issue that reaches every corner of our society. It can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, age, class, or religion. And it can happen anytime.
In that sense, Ahimsa House does everything it can to answer the calls for help whenever it is needed. For instance,
“One night a few years ago, we got a call at around 10 PM from law enforcement. A victim had been taken to the hospital for severe injuries inflicted by her abuser, but that her two dogs needed somewhere to go. We mobilized quickly and our volunteers took in and cared for the pets overnight. The client eventually recovered from her injuries and was reunited with her beloved pets soon after.”
People with pets know too well the importance of a trusted caretaker while you’re away. For the survivors of domestic abuse trying to regain control of their lives, this kind of care is on a whole ‘nother level.
For 60 days, Ahimsa House provides the assurance that their animal companions are treated for injuries, fed, and loved. At the end of this period, or as soon as their owners are ready and have the means to start a new life, the organization arranges for pets and their humans to be reunited.
According to Samantha, it is one of the best motivations for the survivors to work through the often-daunting steps towards rebuilding and recovery.
For the amazing people behind Ahimsa House, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing their clients living life to the fullest after their horrific past. Many survivors keep in touch and send them updates every now and then.
Samantha shares with us a success story.
“We assisted with a case a few years ago where the abuser left a door open hoping our client’s dogs would run away and never return. The dogs did get out and one of them was hit by a car, while the other stayed right by his side until help arrived.
The injured dog required extensive surgery with daily visits to the vet to have the bandage changed. One of our wonderful veterinary partners cared for this dog free of charge and even boarded his sibling on nights he needed to stay over at the hospital so that the bonded pair could still be together.
After the pup made a full recovery, his mom participated in many speaking engagements and media opportunities on behalf of Ahimsa House to share her story of success.”
With only 6 full-time staff members, Ahimsa House relies on volunteers to help them serve the whole state without any cost to their clients. As such, the organization’s own support network includes foster families, animal transporters, crisis line volunteers, outreach volunteers, and special events volunteers.
To gather all the help they can get, Samantha says they operate an outreach program to spread awareness about what they can do to help victims of domestic violence and their pets.
“We educate the community on the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty, and to spread the word about our services to people who may need them.”
Ahimsa House also holds events such as fundraisers to amplify their cause. Printed materials play an important role in these efforts by sending out invitation postcards, pledge cards, and informational brochures.
Ahimsa House chose UPrinting to produce their printed materials. For an organization whose work is instrumental in mobilizing free support and services to victims of domestic violence, we could not be happier to be their printing partner.
We are so glad to have found UPrinting! As you can imagine, we need quality printed materials to help get the word out while also saving as much money as possible to serve our clients. Click To Tweet
“We are so glad to have found UPrinting! As you can imagine, we need quality printed materials to help get the word out while also saving as much money as possible to serve our clients. We have been so happy with every one of our orders and when I’ve needed to contact customer service (about my own errors or with questions), they’ve been extremely helpful and friendly!”
A Phone Call Away
For those who find themselves in an abusive situation, Samantha says they do not have to wait until they’ve escaped to seek help.
“If they can find a safe time to do so, they can call their local DV shelter or a state/nationwide hotline (1−800−799−7233) to speak with an advocate. The advocate will help them find resources in their area and assist with safety planning.”
Safety planning is the process of creating a personalized plan to help a victim stay safe before, during, and after leaving a relationship with their pets. Ahimsa House’s services are available to anyone seeking safety in the state of Georgia. They can be present residents or moving to the state to escape an abuser.
The best way for victims (or anyone concerned about their loved one’s safety) to contact Ahimsa House by calling their 24-hour crisis line: (404) 452-6248 for immediate response. For general inquiries, they may call their admin line at (404) 496-4038 or email email@example.com.
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