DOMESTIC violence is not a gender issue, it affects women and men
and both need rehabilitation, whether they are the abuser, or the
victim, says the founder of the world's first refuge for battered women.
In the UK, one in four women and one in six men will experience
domestic violence at some time in their lives and figures are likely to
be similar for Bahrain, said Erin Pizzey, who opened the world's first
refuge for battered women in 1971 in Chiswick, London.
Ms Pizzey is in Bahrain until Monday as an adviser to the Aisha
Yateem Family Counselling Centre, which opened in Hamad Town on
"The aim of the centre is to break the cycle of violence and to see
children who are victims of domestic violence become adults with
children of their own, who are free from violence," she said.
"The main problems I see are women who have been sexually, verbally, or physically abused as children.
"They have the tendency to self-harm, have drug problems, mental
problems and they really need help. "It's not just about offering rooms
and counselling, it's about making sure they don't end up in the same
situation. "In the UK, two women every week are killed by their
partners, but here we won't know because they aren't counted."
She said the centre aimed to restore and uphold family values, not
to destroy them, because it was integral to the country's civilisation
Ms Pizzey said that when she started the first battered women's
shelter in the UK, there was no concept of domestic violence and if a
mother ran away with her children she was seen as a bad mother.
However, she said public perception had changed in the UK and now it
was accepted that every woman who is a victim of domestic violence is
entitled to save herself and her children.
Today in the UK, there are about 500 refuges.
"The first woman I helped was Kathy, she came to me black and blue
and I took her in and the next person that came in was her daughter
because she had married a violent man," she said.
"I then had a woman with long blonde hair and two children who had come all the way from Southampton.
"At that time we had so many people we had to put mattresses on the
floor for children and the women had to sleep with their backs to the
wall and rest their heads on their knees.
"One day a man walked in who had read about us and asked what he
could do to help and he ended up building and paying for a house, that
was our 'Mother House'."
Following her experiences at Chiswick, Ms Pizzey wrote the
pioneering book on wife-battering, Scream Quietly or the Neighbours
Will Hear, in 1974. That book was very successful in bringing the
problem of battered women to the world's attention. Shelters for
battered women began springing up all over the world in the wake of her
"This centre is a world-class initiative and my feeling is that if
the public in Bahrain are not so worried about women they will be
interested in children," said Ms Pizzey.