Abby Gentry and Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron will host what used to be called the First Ladies of Boone County Breakfast.

And guests will learn from the keynote that links between violence against animals and domestic violence are prolific and undeniable.

The event in its third year is now called the First Families of Boone County Breakfast because Zionsville’s new mayor is a woman. The town has no first lady to co-host with Gentry, Lebanon Mayor Matthew Gentry’s wife.

The April 14 event in Zionsville Town Hall comes during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Speakers are Hannah Fisher, a Boone County Sheriff’s Animal Control Officer, and researcher Andrew Campbell of Campbell Research & Consulting.

The two compiled crime data on Boone County and found that animal and domestic violence parallel one another and threaten public safety.

Campbell notes that in cases involving both intimate partner and animal abuse, 74% of victims experienced strangulation. Nearly a third had a history of sexual assault or rape.

Children were present in 60% of the incidents, and 78% of victims feared the suspect would eventually kill them, Campbell reports.

Campbell used data compiled by Fisher to develop a “heat map” that shows incidents of animal abuse and domestic violence in Boone County, and the dots marking both kinds of abuse overlap, Kassie Frazier, Sylvia’s Child Advocacy Center executive director, said.

Children living in a home in which an animal is being abused are 75% more likely to also be abused, Frazier said.

“Animal abuse is the tip of the iceberg,” according to The National Link Coalition, a network of people and organizations in human services and animal welfare addressing animal abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse as intertwined.

“The way animals are regarded in a family is a window into the interpersonal relationships and family dynamics,” The Link website states. “Investigators who find animal cruelty, abuse or neglect are rarely surprised to see other issues lurking beneath the surface.”

“Research shows that if a family animal is being hurt, most likely there are other forms of violence going on in the home, not just domestic or child abuse,” Frazier said.

That makes Fisher a first line of defense for children, Frazier said. Fisher investigates allegations of animal abuse, maybe a dog left chained up in the sun for an extended period, and notes conditions of the home and property, the number of children present and if something is amiss that may harm the children.

Fisher may report dangerous or suspicious circumstances to Frazier, the Indiana Department of Child Services, or detectives for further investigation.

HOW TO HELP

Proceeds from the First Families breakfast will benefit the Sylvia’s Child Advocacy Center. The Lebanon center serves children who are victims of sexual or physical abuse in Boone County with a number of family friendly services. The SCAC is part of the Indiana Chapter of National Children’s Alliance

Breakfast tickets cost $20 each and are available online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/first-families-breakfast-tickets-95692124721?aff=erelexpmlt.

To learn more about Sylvia’s Child CAC, visit the website at https://incacs.org/centers/slyvias-cac/.

To learn more about speaker Andrew Campbell, visit the website at https://www.campbellresearchandconsulting.com/about.html.

To learn more about The National Link, visit the website at http://nationallinkcoalition.org/faqs/what-is-the-link.

Maria Flora writes for The Lebanon Reporter. Email her at maria.flora@reporter.net.

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