Tuesday, October 6, 2009
When 9-year-old Beth* was sexually abused by her stepfather, she told the prosecuting attorney that someone else knew about it -- but that he couldn’t talk. She was referring to her beloved cat, Oreo.
Beth explained that Oreo would bravely lie outside her door at night and hiss whenever her attacker appeared. In trying to protect her, the loyal black and white cat also became another victim of violence; Beth’s stepfather would always brutally kick Oreo away from the door.
Beth’s revelation gave the prosecutor an idea. She decided to have Oreo examined by a veterinarian. The results were chilling. Sure enough, poor Oreo had sustained injuries consistent with being physically abused.
When the prosecutor submitted the veterinarian’s report to the jury as evidence showing a pattern of violence in the home, Beth’s allegations gained credibility. In a way, Oreo was able to testify, convincing the jury that the traumatized little girl had been telling the truth.
Beth’s stepfather was convicted and received a long prison sentence. Meanwhile, Beth and Oreo were finally able to experience what every child and animal deserves: a safe home.
The prosecutor in Beth’s case was Allie Phillips, who now works for American Humane as vice president of of their Public Policy Office. She and her staff regularly conduct trainings for attorneys, judges, veterinarians, social workers, domestic-violence counselors and other social services providers on what American Humane calls The Link between violence to people and violence to animals, increasing awareness of the powerful role it can play in unmasking and preventing abuse.