Shelters Used In War On Men

Journal Staff Writer

© Edmonton Journal, Canada, September 29, 1998

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.


 

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Shelters used in war on men, expert claims by Karen Unland

Women's shelters have become bunkers in a war against men, says a lecturer on family violence. Feminists have "hijacked the whole subject of domestic violence and made it their own," said Erin Pizzey, billed as the founder of the world's first refuge for battered women, in Chiswick, England in 1971. Men should be allowed to work in shelters to show abused women and children that not all men are violent, she said. "It's a human problem. It's not just a man problem," Pizzey told a news conference before joining a small protest Monday outside the Family Centre, a downtown counselling service. The protest and Pizzey's visit to Edmonton were organized by the Movement to Establish Real Gender Equality, an anti-feminist group founded by Ferrel Christensen, a University of Alberta philosophy professor.

Christensen is angry at the Family Centre for a pamphlet on family violence that he says promotes the idea that only men are abusive. "In five seconds, anyone can see that this is not fair literature," said Christensen, who has filed a complaint against the Family Centre with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. About a dozen men and women carried placards with such messages as "Stereotypes Hurt Everyone" and "Don't Fund Gender Bias." Officials from the Family Centre refused to comment.

Pizzey, who carried a sign reading "False Charges Are Also Abuse," said people have a responsibility to protest when social service organizations suggest that only men are violent. Most women who ended up at her shelter were "as violent as the men they left," she said. Reacting to abuse they suffered as children, these women often abuse their own children and tend to return again and again to dangerous relationships, she said. " It isn't a question of just saying it's only the man's fault. It's her responsibility as well," Pizzey said.

Arlene Chapman, provincial coordinator of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, said Pizzey's views are ludicrous. "She's obviously out of step with the sheltering movement...It was the feminist movement that started the shelters, and thank God," Chapman said. Last year, Alberta shelters housed 5,212 women and 6,232 children [ Note: According to shelter directors, 25% were not battered women, but women looking for hostels.].

Ms. Chapman said it is "absolutely preposterous" to suggest women and men are equally abusive. "There is a gross power imbalance between women and men," she said. An abused woman tends to go back to her partner at least three times before she leaves for good. But it's poverty, not a tendency to seek violent relationships, that sends the women back home, Ms. Chapman said of Pizzey: "This woman needs to be educated."


 

An open letter to women in the domestic violence movement by Erin Pizzey

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Originally published in Everything You Know is Wrong, 2001

2000 interview with journalist Philip W. Cook author of Abused Men — The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence.

When I first tried to open the refuge, the police, the charities, the social service agencies, the newspapers, all said it would stand empty. They said it wasn't a significant problem, that it happened only rarely, and when it did it was already being handled effectively by the existing agencies. Domestic violence against women was only a minor problem, and very few women were getting seriously hurt anyway. Of course, when we finally did open, and got a little support at last to make women aware of our existence, we were filled to overflowing and the phone was ringing off the hook.

It's the same exact thing now with attempts to have domestic violence resources for men. The same attitude exists. However, it's even more difficult now to open something for men, or raise awareness, than it was when I opened the first shelter for women.

There is now an established domestic violence industry which fears any acknowledgment of the well established scientific fact (through my own research and many, many others) that women can be as violent as men with their intimate partners and are not always the victim or acting only in self-defense. This fear is based on a false premise, that acknowledging this fact or speaking publicly about it, or offering services, will take away funding and hurt the established resources for women. That's nonsense. I proved and others can too, that offering help for abused men can be done within an existing system set up originally to help women, that is willing to deal with the totality and reality of domestic violence. There should of course, also be some support groups, shelter help, and crisis lines specifically aimed and publicized as such for men-what man for example, would even think to call a crisis line that called itself a "woman's crisis line." Of course, he's automatically excluded.

The charities and the social service system and government told me when I opened the first refuge for women that there wasn't enough money, that resources were stretched too thin, that police have to focus on where the majority of the crime is, and so on. Nonsense. Where there's a will, there's a way. The trouble is, there's no will. But there should be, and women should take the lead, not men. After all, not only is it our brothers, fathers, and friends who are being abused, by not helping men, we're not helping women who are having trouble dealing with their own violence against their partners and against their children. Because we too easily accept such violence against men, we are not dealing as effectively as we could with child abuse, where women constitute the primary perpetrators. Our acceptance of women's violence against men increase [s] the chances of both boys and girls being involved with domestic violence in their later adult lives. I've seen that scenario happen time and time again.

Women have the power in the established domestic violence movement now. We should take the lead in taking the movement to the next step. Economic circumstances for many women have changed, so that while it was important to focus first on women when I started things more than twenty years ago, women now have more economic opportunities and more government support as well as refuge resources to get help. Besides, we should now be ready to accept what the researchers are all telling us — there are many, many violent women. As women, we can not claim perfection and ask to be put on a pedestal any longer, and most women no longer desire that, but to make that change, we must also accept responsibility for our own actions or lack of action.

Because of these views, and daring to speak out, I've been vilified, and physically threatened many times by women in the domestic violence movement. Don't tell me that women can't be violent! Now a days, you won't even find my name or my domestic violence books mentioned in the established domestic violence literature...I've been erased because of heresy, or daring to speak to the truth. But when I can, I still take the opportunity to speak out, because we'll never break the chain of domestic violence until we accept the truth, domestic violence is a complex issue, there are many elements involved in intimate partner relationships, it takes hard work and investigation to deal with it in a truly effective manner, and finally, no one sex, just because of their sex, is less capable of it.

 

Erin Pizzey is the author of Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear and founder of the world's first shelter and crisis line for battered women, Chiswick Women's Refuge in London, England, among many other outstanding accomplishments.

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