For the Uninitiated: Erin Pizzey

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This page is a little tribute to the courage and wisdom of Erin Pizzey a pioneer in the movement to expose and prevent domestic violence.

Pizzey was responsible for opening the world’s first woman’s refuge, Chiswick Women’s Aid in 1971 where abused women “were offered tea, sympathy and a safe place to stay” for them and their children.

She later opened a number of additional shelters and gained notoriety and publicity for setting up refuges by squatting, most notably in 1975 the Palm Court Hotel in Richmond. She has been a family care activist throughout her life and in 2007 opened the first Arab refuge for victims of domestic violence in Bahrain

By the mid-seventies, Pizzey found herself under bomb threat and picketed by feminists for allowing men to staff refuges.  This led to a long exile from the UK.  She moved to America opening shelters, lecturing on family violence and re-inventing herself as a best-selling writer.

Pizzey has been the subject of death threats and boycotts because of her research into the claim that most domestic violence is reciprocal, and that women are equally capable of violence as men. Pizzey has said that the threats were from militant feminists

In her 1982 book Prone to Violence, Pizzey expressed concern that so little attention was paid to identifying the causes of interpersonal and family violence.  The book looks at what appeared to be learned behaviour, often starting in childhood, linked to hormonal responses. Pizzey describes such behaviour as akin to addiction.

Her family suffered new harassment following the publication of the book. Whilst living in Santa Fe one of her dogs was shot and two others were stolen. Following this abuse and threats she moved first tothe Cayman Islands, then Italy, until she eventually returned to London in the late 1990s having been made homeless from debt and in increasingly poor health.

Her insights into domestic violence are still sought and she remains actively working to help victims of domestic violence. She has been a patron of the charity Mankind Initiative since 2004 and in 2013 she joined the editorial and advisory board of the men’s rights organization A Voice for Men.

In 2014 she launched whiteribbon.org which is dedicated to shedding light on the realities of domestic violence and the grievous harm it visits on its victims, in particular on children who grow up in homes where violence is normalized as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress and conflict.

The campaign highlights concerns defining domestic violence as a gendered problem. The site host scientific studies to support the view that domestic violence is a learned behavior by both sexes in dysfunctional, violent families that is also complicated by alcohol and substance abuse, poverty, lack of education, and a variety of other factors with no relationship at all to gender.

Pizzey has lamented that the movement she started had moved from the “personal to the political”.   She has said that militant feminists (in collusion with the Labour parties leading women) hijacked her cause and used it to try to demonise all men, not only in Britain, but internationally.   Pizzey said in 2009 that she has “never been a feminist, because, having experienced my mother’s violence, I always knew that women can be as vicious and irresponsible as men”.

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