The Dog and the Rabbit: Helping children understand domestic abuse

One of our readers put this story in a comment she left on our post, Why aren’t you and Daddy married anymore? She wrote this story for her grandkids when their mom left her abuser. We felt that it’s a wonderful way to help children understand the complex circumstances surrounding domestic abuse, so we put it in its own post to make sure everyone sees it. Thank you, dear reader, for sharing this with us!


Once upon a time there was a home that had a dog and some other pets: a rabbit, some cats, and some hamsters. It seemed like the dog got along fairly well with most of the animals and with the people, although he did get into bad moods and growled at them for no good reason. On his good days, he’d wag his tail and play with the cats and hamsters and they ran around and had fun together. However, the dog had a thing about the rabbit. He thought rabbits were wimps and he thought it was funny to growl at the rabbit and chase him and see him scared.

The rabbit quickly figured out that it had better keep its distance from the dog and most of the time it would hide under the bed or behind the furniture when the dog was around. If the other animals or his owners were around, the dog would wag his tail and pretend to be friendly to the rabbit. But as soon as no one was looking, he’d get fierce and growl and chase the rabbit again, sometimes nipping it in the leg. If someone else came into the room, he would quickly stop chasing the rabbit, and instead start wagging his tail and give his innocent doggy look: “Who me? Chase rabbits? Do I look like a dog that would chase a rabbit?” Because the dog was so sneaky about chasing the rabbit when no one was looking, the other pets, and even the pet owners, didn’t realize that it was a big problem. They only wondered why the rabbit was always shaking and scared and spent so much time hiding.

The rabbit was so traumatized that it gradually became a quivering mass of nerves and had no appetite and couldn’t even really sleep for fear the dog would come sneaking up on it. So do you think that rabbit might have started thinking about getting away? Would it have been hoping someone would accidently leave the door open so it could escape? You’re right. One day the rabbit saw its chance and shot out the door like a streak of lightning. The cats and the hamsters and the pet owners were all confused….where did that rabbit go and why on earth did it leave their happy family of pets? They did look at the dog, and wondered if maybe he had something to do with it, but he was giving his innocent doggy face and wagging his tail and shaking his head about the silly rabbit who ran away.

So what do you think? Should the rabbit go back or should it find a new safe place to live?

[March 20, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to March 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to March 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to March 20, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (March 20, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

15 thoughts on “The Dog and the Rabbit: Helping children understand domestic abuse”

  1. Excellent way to describe a perpetrator and the victim. I think it would even be helpful for [an] adult victim to clearly understand that she is a soft and beautiful individual and it’s not her problem or fault if the abuser has a mental illness or wickedness inside.

      1. Yes, someone write the book! Excellent analogy. As I experienced, like so many of us, no one would have believed the rabbit had the rabbit spoken up, so she fled.

  2. This is a beautifully written fable-like piece expounding truth concerning the issues many of us face at times. Psalm 118:8-9. Trust in Jesus for He cares for you.

  3. To him that is afflicted
    pity should be shewed from his friend;…. [Job 6:14]

    Have pity upon me, have pity upon me,
    O ye my friends;
    for the hand of God hath touched me. [Job 19:21]

    Job 6:14 & Job 19:21.

    Pitiless adults need to have this “children’s story” read to them, before they hear the details of abuse from the spouse. Perhaps if they imagine the abused to be a little, helpless quivering bunny, they can see the analogy of what it is like, for the “rabbit”.

    Oh if “the church” would only have pity and show pity, for the afflicted “rabbit”. What a picture of Christ-likeness that would be!!

    1. Excellent observation, For My Daughter’s Sake. Even Jesus used stories to convict and to represent a deeper message. Also didn’t Nathan the prophet effectively confront David with his sin with Bathsheba by using a similar method? Sometimes it is easier to wake people up to the painful truth of a matter, by using a story that is easier for them to relate to first.

  4. This is a great observation, For My daughter Sake. Even Jesus used “stories” to convey a deeper message, and to also expose the evil that lurked in the polished appearances within the religious sect. And didn’t “Nathan the prophet” use a similar type story as a pre-requisite, when confronting David of his sin with Bathsheba? This idea is perfectly Scriptural in application. Perhaps this is the approach that needs to be taken “to open the eyes that cannot see, and the ears that are dull of hearing” [Paraphrase of Matthew 13:15.].

  5. I’m a rabbit. Only I did not run away. And I could not find an open door, so somehow I believed this was my cross to bear and that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. Somehow there was purpose in this, there had to be right? We were a family and it would be wrong to leave, and I was told it was wrong to leave. All the baby bunnies and puppies had grown up and found new homes and friends. I’m a grown up rabbit, even a Grandmother rabbit. Eventually through much prayer and tears I heard “that’s enough, it’s ok”. I could go, But I still didn’t leave. For 28 years this was my life and I didn’t know if I could run far enough away or how to run away. So God moved for me, the dog decided to leave and start a new life in a new home by himself.

  6. Thank you so much for putting this in its own post. I “found” it (still making my way through the treasure trove of posts) only a week ago. God’s timing! I needed to use it today for my kids to explain what was going to be happening. It was so helpful as they could relate and understand because of the story.

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