Royal Gazette

Article published Nov 14, 2002

British pioneer sheds insight on dynamics of domestic abuse

Royal Gazette (Bermuda)

Men are not the enemy and sometimes women are also the abusers said Erin Pizzey, founder of Britain's first shelter for battered women.

Mrs. Pizzey ran the shelter based in west London from 1971 to 1982. She had an open-door policy allowing any abused woman to come with her children. In doing this she discovered that men were also being abused also.

Yesterday, she told the Hamilton Lions weekly luncheon: "People who abuse have a deep-seated anger, and the anger needs to be released. It makes no sense to lock a man up for beating his partner, because when he comes out he will only be angrier. Abusers need to be counselled to find out what is the cause of their anger so that it can be released."

Mrs. Pizzey said: "For women, we have mental institutions and we have prisons full of men from dysfunctional families.

She began a shelter for bettered men in Britain, receiving funds from the now defunct, Greater London Council (GLC). She said: "This was difficult because it was also during a time when the radical feminist movement was taking off. But many people do not realise that both men and women can be the abuser.

"Many men find themselves with the narcissistic woman who needs to be at the centre of attention, full of self-love, who has lacked the love of her mother in very early childhood and this woman is often very abusive."

She added: "Half the time when people say that they fell in love with someone, is it really love or is it set psychological pattern of instincts."

Out of her first 100 women, 38 were the type of women who had a relationship with a man who then became victims of abuse and the other 62 were just as abusive as the men they had left.

All was going well until the radical feminist movement came on board with its own agenda that all men are the enemy, which has in turn undermined the family structure.

"Domestic violence is unacceptable, but it is also unacceptable to hate all men," she said.

Initially shelters including hers were impoverished, often overcrowded and run with a volunteer staff. She came under a lot of criticism because of the number of children, the overcrowding and sanitation problems and was often taken to court, until Queen Elizabeth II intervened directly to settle the matter.

Said Mrs. Pizzey: "It is sad to see so many people being turned away from shelters around in America. In some cases, boy children over the age of nine are not allowed in, thus suggesting that all men are potential rapists and abusers."

She also told the Lions that in many instances, child abuse happens at the hands of mothers, as well as fathers.

The other form of abuse that no one wants to discuss is where you have the mother's lover abusing the children."

In her study of why abuse occurs, she found that domestic violence is more common in homes where there is just the nuclear family, unlike countries such as Italy where there is an extended family.

She said: "Violence is not a gender issue, it is not class based, it happens in every echelon of society. We need to put down our weapons and find out why people are abusive."

Mrs. Pizzey is the author of 'Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear', a book that she wrote in 1974 after running the shelter for three years. The book was successful in bringing the problem of battered women to the world's attention and shelters began springing up all over the world.

She is speaking this week at the conference Fathers for Families, being held at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess.

Copyright 20©01 The Royal Gazette Ltd.