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In 1971 Erin Pizzey founded Chiswick Women’s Aid, the first refuge for battered wives. Her 1974 book “Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear” brought the issue to the attention of the public.

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Just a few years before Sandra founded the first shelter in California, Erin Pizzey had opened the first refuge in the world in Chiswick, England. Below are some of Erin’s reflections on her original vision for the shelter movement and how it could provide truly effective help for couples and families.

Excerpts from “Domestic Violence Is Not A Gender Issue”
© 2006 Erin Pizzey

Because from the beginning, I was aware that domestic violence was not a gender issue, I opened a refuge for men in North London that closed for lack of support and funding. I was aware that of the first hundred women who came into the refuge sixty-two were as violent or in some cases, more violent than the men they left behind. I wrote up my findings in ‘A Comparative Study of Battered Women and Violence-Prone Women‘ as yet unpublished.

… In the refuge, I found I was facing two different problems: Some women were indeed ‘Innocent victims of their partner’s violence:’ they needed refuge, comfort and legal advice but very quickly, even if they did return to the violent partner on a few occasions, they walked away from the abuse and went on to create a new non violent life style.

Other women were ‘victims of their own violence,’ the majority of them had experienced violence and abuse from childhood. They had a history of violent relationships and often had criminal records. They needed not only legal advice and refuge but also counselling to help them to come to terms with their own abusive backgrounds so that they did not continue to return to violent and abusive relationships or replace the violent partner almost immediately with another one thus condemning their children to years of abuse.

… I find the arguments of whether men attack women first or women attack men irrelevant. Both sexes are harmed when exposed to violence and either sex can become a victim or a perpetrator. Much of the violence can be consensual in other words both partners are violent each believing that the other is the perpetrator.

[Professor Donald] Dutton says ‘… If they are interested in diminishing violence, it should be diminished for all members of a population and by the most effective and utilitarian means possible. This would mean an intervention/treatment approach …’ This was the approach that was practised at the Chiswick refuge where thirty years ago I recognised that … many of these children would grow up to repeat the patterns of their parents.

The tragedy for me is that I had a vision whereby people who were infected by dysfunctional and violent parenting could find a place that would give them a chance to learn how to live in peace and harmony. This dream was destroyed along with all my evidence and projects. The feminist movement resolutely refuted any argument that women should be allowed to take responsibility for their choice of relationships. The image of women as victims, as helpless childish dependents upon brutal men worldwide has damaged relationships between the sexes. The idea that the family is a danger to women and children … has caused men to become outcasts and a source of ridicule in their children’s eyes.

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