Vol XXX   NO. 3      Friday      23rd March 2007
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Children 'must be protected from domestic violence'

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 Wednesday.

"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 and culture.

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.

Experiences

"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 inspiring example.

"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.

  
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