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Dads on the Air: the Erin Pizzey interview

Domestic violence is not a gender issue, says the founder of the world’s first refuge for battered women. Back in the UK from Bahrain where she recently opened the first purpose-built shelter for women and children in the Arab world, Erin Pizzey spoke today with the Dads on the Air radio program on radio 2GLF, Liverpool.

Ms Pizzey said that domestic violence treatment has to move out of the courts into the mental health arena, “because most domestic violence is [mutual] - both parties are violent. One party may not be physically violent to the other but in those relationship addiction situations they don’t leave each other. The violence is perpetual. It’s quite simple: if children are born into violent families, both boys and girls will be infected.” She believes eventually we will have to concentrate on an alternative strategy of love and hope for these problem families. We will have to abandon the model of idealising the “victim”, demonising the “perpetrator” and politicising the issues.

Asked what she thinks of current domestic violence treatment programs, Ms Pizzey replied, “They basically miss because they’re politically based. The programs are there to punish men better. Well, you can’t do that. There’s no recognition that women can be equally complicit in the violence. All women going into refuges, which are largely feminist, are told they’re victims. It doesn’t matter what happens: if she murders a man she’s a victim, if she batters and abuses him, she’s still a victim. And that is getting us nowhere.”

Ms Pizzey also talked about the “Violence Against Women – Australia Says No” campaign that portrays perpetrators as male and victims as female. Asked whether the campaign does more harm than good, she said, “Absolutely, because it’s a lie apart from anything else.” She went on to talk about the problems male victims face in society. “You can wake up one morning and find out you’re involved with a nightmare, and then there’s the nightmare of trying to get out of it. A woman waking up with a nightmare next to her has all sorts of avenues for escape, and immediate sympathy and protection. But just as likely it’s going to be a man, and he is going to get ridiculed and laughed at. Just like my father [who] was six-foot-four and my mother was a traditional four-footnine. No one would ever believe what my mother got up to behind the front door.”

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