Erin Pizzey interviewed in 2016
Erin Patria Margaret Carney
19 February 1939
|Alma mater||Cheikh Anta Diop University|
|Organization||Chiswick Women's Aid|
|Known for||Establishing the world's first domestic violence shelters, founding the charity Refuge|
|Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear, |
Prone to Violence
(m. 1959; div. 1976)
(m. 1980; div. 1994)
|Children||2, Cleo and Amos Pizzey|
Erin Patria Margaret Pizzey (; born 19 February 1939) is an English family care activist[clarification needed] and a novelist. She is known for having started the first domestic violence shelter in the modern world, Chiswick Women's Aid, in 1971; the organization is known today as Refuge.
Haven House in California, founded in 1964, is often cited as the first women's refuge (called women's shelters in Canada and the U.S.) in the modern world, but at the time of their founding they only worked to help the mentally ill transition from committed life in a hospital to life in the outside world. By contrast the refuge started by Erin Pizzey was focused on removing victims of domestic abuse from their abusers, in an attempt to break the cycle.
Pizzey has been the subject of death threats and boycotts because her experience and research into the issue led her to conclude that most domestic violence is reciprocal, and that women are equally as capable of violence as men are. Pizzey has said that the threats were from militant feminists. She has also said that she is banned from the refuge she started.
She was born Erin Carney in Qingdao, China in 1939, along with her twin sister Rosaleen. Her father was a diplomat and one of 17 children from a poor Irish family. In 1942, the family moved to Shanghai; shortly thereafter, they were captured by the invading Japanese Army and exchanged for Japanese prisoners of war. She is the sister of writer Daniel Carney, known for his novel The Wild Geese.
Pizzey moved to Kokstad in South Africa, then at the age of five, to Beirut. At the end of the war the family went to Toronto. She then moved to Tehran and finally settled in England in 1948. Pizzey attended St Antony's junior school and then Leweston School at age 11, gaining four O-levels. Her parents were then posted to Africa where she attended Dakar University, studying French and English.
In 1959, Pizzey attended her first meeting at the UK's Women's Liberation Movement (WLM) at the Chiswick house of a local organiser, Artemis[who?]:22 At Artemis' urging, Pizzey agreed to convene a 'consciousness-raising group' at her home in Goldhawk Road.:23 This collective became the Goldhawk Road Group.:24
The head office of the Women's Liberation Workshop (a women's workshop within the WLM) was in Little Newport Street,:24 in Chinatown, Covent Garden, straddling the City of Westminster and Borough of Camden. Along with her friend, Alison, and other members of the Goldhawk Road Group, Pizzey found herself at odds with Artemis and Gladiator[who?], who led a clique of younger women within the WLM Workshop head office.:27 Pizzey distanced herself from this clique when she witnessed what she described as "irregular and disrespectful behaviour" towards the money donated by desperate women across the UK.:39 Pizzey confronted them over this behaviour,:45 which according to Pizzey included claiming that telephones were tapped and labelling people they did not like as MI5, police and CIA informers or agents.:39 She also was concerned about overhearing discussion of plans to bomb the London store Biba; she reported on this to the police after warning the people involved. Subsequently, Pizzey became aware that the police had the group and offices under surveillance.:43 Pizzey says that she and her fellow members of the Goldhawk Road group were seen as troublesome, because they did not accept others' behaviours and views. Pizzey was told she was to be watched.:34
Pizzey set up a women's refuge in Belmont Terrace, Chiswick, London in 1971. She later opened a number of additional shelters, despite hostility from the authorities. She gained notoriety and publicity for setting up refuges by squatting, most notably in 1975 at the Palm Court Hotel in Richmond. The original refuge in Chiswick has since been rebranded as the charity "Refuge".
Pizzey's work was widely praised at the time. In 1975, MP Jack Ashley stated in the House of Commons that "The work of Mrs. Pizzey was pioneering work of the first order. It was she who first identified the problem, who first recognised the seriousness of the situation and who first did something practical by establishing the Chiswick aid centre. As a result of that magnificent pioneering work, the whole nation has now come to appreciate the significance of the problem". Even whilst being prosecuted by local authorities (Simmons v. Pizzey) and appealing matters to the House of Lords, Pizzey was recognised for her work. Lord Hailsham stated, "This appellant, and the registered charity of which she is the agent, is providing a service ... which is in fact provided by no other organ of our much vaunted system of public welfare ... When people come to her door ... in desperate straits and at all hours ... the appellant does not turn them away ... but takes them in and gives them shelter ... And what happens to her when she does so? She finds herself the defendant in criminal proceedings at the suit of the local authority..."
Soon after establishing her first refuge, Pizzey asserted that much domestic violence was reciprocal,:82 with both partners abusing each other in roughly equal measure. She reached this conclusion when she asked the women in her refuge about their violence, only to discover most of the women were equally violent or more violent than their husbands. In her study "Comparative Study of Battered Women And Violence-Prone Women," (co-researched with John Gayford of Warlingham Hospital), Pizzey distinguished between "genuine battered women" and "violence-prone women"; the former defined as "the unwilling and innocent victim of his or her partner's violence" and the latter defined as "the unwilling victim of his or her own violence." This study reported that 62% of the sample population were more accurately described as "violence prone." Similar findings regarding the mutuality of domestic violence have been confirmed in subsequent studies.
In her book Prone to Violence, Pizzey expressed concern that so little attention was paid to the causes of interpersonal and family violence, stating, "to my amazement, nobody seemed to genuinely want to find out why violent people treat each other the way they do". She also expressed concern for the view expressed by government officials that solutions to the issue of domestic abuse and violence could be found in socialist or communist countries. Pizzey pointed out that marital violence was a great problem in Russia, and China addressed the issue by proclaiming wife-beating a crime punishable by death sentence. 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.
She speculates that high levels of hormones and neurochemicals associated with pervasive childhood trauma led to adults who repeatedly engage in violent altercations with intimate partners despite the physical, emotional, legal and financial costs, in unwitting attempts to simulate the emotional impact of traumatic childhood experiences and manifest the learned biochemical state linked to pleasure. The book contains numerous stories of disturbed families, alongside a discussion of the reasons why the modern state care-taking agencies are largely ineffective. Promotional events for the book were met with protest, and Pizzey reports that she herself and co-author Jeff Shapiro needed police protection during the promotional events for the book.
In 1981, Pizzey moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, while targeted by harassment, death threats, bomb threats and defamation campaigns, and dealing with overwork, near collapse, cardiac disease and mental strain.:275 In particular, according to Pizzey, the charity Scottish Women's Aid "made it their business to hand out leaflets claiming that [she] believed that women 'invited violence' and 'provoked male violence'". She states that the turning point was the intervention of the bomb squad, who required all of her mail to be processed by them before she could receive it, as a "controversial public figure".:282
Having moved to Santa Fe to write, Pizzey promptly became involved in running a refuge in New Mexico, as well as dealing with sexual abusers and paedophiles. Pizzey said of this work, "I discovered that there were just as many women paedophiles as there were men. Women go undetected, as usual. Working against paedophiles is a very dangerous business." Whilst living in Santa Fe, one of her dogs was shot and two others were stolen, which she claims was a result of racist neighbors. Her family suffered new harassment following the publication of her 1982 book Prone to Violence. Pizzey links much of the harassment to militant feminists and their objections to her research, findings and work. Describing the harassment, Deborah Ross of The Independent wrote that "the feminist sisterhood went bonkers".
Following the abuse and threats in Santa Fe she moved to Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands where she wrote with her husband, Jeff Shapiro. Subsequently, she moved to Siena, Italy where her writing and advocacy work continued. She returned to London in the late 1990s, homeless due to debt and in increasingly poor health. Her insights are still sought by politicians and family pressure groups.
Pizzey is still actively working to help victims of domestic violence. She has been a patron of the charity ManKind Initiative since 2004, when she received a Roger Witcomb Award. In March 2007, as a guest, she attended the ceremony of opening the first Arab refuge for victims of domestic violence in Bahrain.
In 2013, Pizzey joined the editorial and advisory board of the men's rights organization A Voice for Men, serving as an Editor and DV Policy Advisor) and from January to August wrote thirteen articles for the group's web site.
Her two April articles pertained to two interviews she gave on the Reddit community "IAmA", where she promoted her Facebook page and the "AVFM Online Radio" podcast on BlogTalkRadio. She announced her first interview a week prior on /r/MensRights.
In November 2014, Pizzey became owner/manager of the AVFM WhiteRibbon.org website (since renamed Honest-Ribbon.org), which has been criticised by the original White Ribbon Campaign as "a copycat campaign articulating ... archaic views and denials about the realities of gender-based violence."
Pizzey is a patron of registered charity Compassion In Care which works to "break the chain of elderly abuse" and she wrote an introduction for the book Beyond The Facade by founder Eileen Chubb.
In 2009 Pizzey was successful in a libel case against Macmillan Publishers over content in the Andrew Marr book A History of Modern Britain. The publication had falsely claimed she had once been part of a militant group, The Angry Brigade, that staged bomb attacks in the 1970s. The publisher also recalled and destroyed the offending version of the book, and republished it with the error removed. The link to the Angry Brigade was made in 2001, in an interview with The Guardian, in which the article states that she was "thrown out" of the feminist movement after threatening to inform police about a planned bombing by the Angry Brigade of the clothes shop Biba. "I said that if you go on with this - they were discussing bombing Biba [the legendary department store in Kensington] - I'm going to call the police in, because I really don't believe in this."
Pizzey married Jack Pizzey in 1959. Jack Pizzey was a naval lieutenant whom she first met in Hong Kong. They had two children, a girl, Cleo and a boy, Amos. She divorced him in 1976, and divorced her second husband, Jeff Scott Shapiro, in 1994. Pizzey lives in Twickenham, southwest London. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2000.
In 2000, Pizzey's grandson Keita Craig, who had schizophrenia, hanged himself in a prison cell. Pizzey and her family campaigned against the coroner's verdict of death by hanging and in 2001 a jury at a second inquest unanimously found that Keita's death was contributed to by the neglect of prison staff. The case was the first to reach a verdict of neglect in a suicide case.
In 1972 the center was visited by U.S. feminists, who set up similar ventures in the United States ...
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