Erin Pizzey is best known for opening the world’s first refuge for battered women in 1971. That shelter was focused on removing victims of domestic abuse from their abusers.
This is what she had to say about those first days:
My work has always been based on the fact that the majority of women and children coming into a refuge are very badly damaged by family violence. But the violence is not always perpetrated by men. Of the first 100 women who came into my refuge, Chiswick Women’s Aid, which was the world’s first when it opened in 1971, 62 were as violent – and some more violent – than the partners they left behind.
Erin is no stranger to violence. She has since admitted that she grew up in an extraordinarily violent home.
In a Mail Online article, she outlines what her childhood was like. She says that her father was jealous, full of rage and verbally abusive to her mother.
I hated my father with all my childish heart – and was truly terrified by him. He was 6ft 4in tall, massively built and had a huge paunch that hung over his belt. He stared out of piggy, pale blue eyes and had a big sloppy mouth that slobbered over my lips when he kissed me.
But she also had this to say about her mother:
But despite his clumsy, predictable form of macho brutality – born out of his being the 17th child of a violent Irish father – it was my mother’s more emotional, verbal form of abuse that scarred me most deeply.
She indulged in a particular kind of soul murder – and it was her cruelty that, even 60 years on, still reduces me to tears and leaves me convinced that feminism is a cynical, misguided ploy.
She also describes how her mother was both emotionally abusive as well as physically abusive, which has since fueled her idea that domestic violence isn’t gender based:
Needless to say, my mother went berserk. She took me upstairs and beat me with an ironing cord until the blood ran down my legs. I showed my injuries to my teacher the next morning – but she just stared back impassively and did nothing.
Many years later, when feminists started demonising all fathers, these stark images continually reminded me of the truth – that domestic violence is not a gender issue
In the article she also describes how both of her abusive parents maintained a facade. To everyone around them, they were congenial, normal people – parents of three beautiful children, but behind closed doors, they were cruel and violent to each other as well as to their children.
Thirty years later, when feminism exploded onto the scene, I was often mistaken for a supporter of the movement. But I have never been a feminist, because, having experienced my mother’s violence, I always knew that women can be as vicious and irresponsible as men.
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the movement, which proclaimed that all men are potential rapists and batterers, was based on a lie that, if allowed to flourish, would result in the complete destruction of family life.
It would seem that statistics do in fact indicate that Pizzey was on to something.
In Canada, for example:
A similar proportion of men and women reported experiencing spousal violence
during the five years prior to the survey. Among men, 6.0% or about 585,000,
encountered spousal violence during this period, compared with 6.4% or
After Sweden put out a declaration that domestic violence was gender based, Feminist politician, Eva Solberg, challenged the assumption and as a result they found that the report was based on misinformation. They also realized that domestic violence isn’t a gender issue after all:
She concluded that her government’s report was based on misinformation about family violence and that, contrary to the report’s one-sided view of men as the only perpetrators, many children were experiencing a very different reality: “We must recognise the fact that domestic violence, in at least half of its occurrence, is carried out by female perpetrators.”
One of the key patterns that emerged from PASK, Solberg said, was that violence in the family was an inherited problem and children learned from watching the violence of both their parents.
Meanwhile, Pizzey has since written 8 non-fiction books based largely around domestic abuse and received 4 awards:
- International Order of Volunteers For Peace, Diploma of Honour (Italy) 1981
- Nancy Astor Award for Journalism
- World Congress of Victimology (San Francisco) 1987 – Distinguished Leadership Award
- St. Valentino Palm d’Oro International Award for Literature, 14 February 1994, Italy
She claims that she has been targeted by the radical feminist movement and has received several death threats as well as bomb threats. She also thinks that radical feminists may have shot her dog.
Pizzey’s honesty has attracted constant attacks — she was forced to flee her native England with her children after protests, threats and violence culminated in the shooting of her family dog.
“We must stop demonising men and start healing the rift that feminism has created between men and women,” says Pizzey, arguing that the “insidious and manipulative philosophy that women are always victims and men always oppressors can only continue this unspeakable cycle of violence”.
Personally, I agree with her on this particular issue. We have to stop treating domestic violence like it’s a gender issue, stop playing gender politics and do away with the insidious notion that men are oppressors whether they know it or not, and that women are perpetual victims beneath a blanket of patriarchy in first world countries.
We need to work together to solve the problem of domestic violence, as well as the other problems that affect both genders. Dividing ourselves along lines of arbitrary characteristics that we have no control over, such as race and gender, isn’t going to get the job done.
As feminist, Eva Solberg, said:
“We know through extensive practice and experience that attempts to solve the issue through this kind of analysis have failed. And they failed precisely because violence is not and never has been a gender issue.”