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HUNTER abusers are cutting the heads off pet chickens, installing spyware on home computers and damaging mobile phones in an attempt to intimidate their partners.
Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) chief executive Kerrie Thompson said her organisation had seen an increase over the past year of reports of animal abuse, which she said could be inflicted as a form of domestic violence. "We ask them specific questions about children and pets and it's one question not many people are asked," Ms Thompson said.
"They will often say he has kicked the dog, broken the dog's leg, threatened to kill the cat.
"We had a case recently of pet chickens being decapitated and their bodies being left in the backyard.
"It's pretty horrific stuff when we're talking about a family's pet. Children see that and it's traumatising.
"They don't understand - they just go out the back and see the family pet has been killed.
"It's devastating for everybody involved."
Ms Thompson said victims often tried to downplay the violence, saying the attacker was in a bad mood or had a tough week.
"It often happens in a context where there's no physical violence to the victim.
"But it's 'I know you're attached to the pet, you love the pet, so I'm going to hurt it'.
"A lot of people get jealous over different kinds of relationships.
"They see the pet and someone give the pet attention and some people just want to punish the animal for that.
"People say 'We're aware of what he can do so we're trying to keep the peace, because he'll get angry and hit the dog or kill the cat'."
Ms Thompson said animal abuse was intended to create intimidation and fear and was a "very big warning and red flag".
"It shows a significant pattern of disordered thinking," she said.
"When we're hearing people attack pets and kill pets that's a significant indicator to us that the perpetrator has that level of violence within him.
"It's the next level because these pets are helpless, defenceless, vulnerable."
Ms Thompson said physical violence could also take the form of aggression towards objects such as phones.
She said it was important to remember domestic violence also included financial abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse and coercive control, which she said was behaviour used to intimidate, threaten or stop someone from speaking up.
"It could be a look or words or a slow pattern of behaviour that spreads like poison through a relationship," she said.
"It robs a person of their self esteem and they don't know what's happening.
"It's like gas lighting, when someone tries to have an opinion but is called delusional, irrational or constantly put down and they question their own sense of reality and perceptions."
She said control could also include dictating what a partner can wear, if they can work, that they can't seek medical attention alone and asking for passwords.
"We had one instance where the husband knew how far their wife drove from work to home and would monitor the kilometres to ensure they weren't deviating from the route."
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