Friday, January 18, 2008

Defender of abused women finds a new cause: male victims

Independent, 17 January 2008 - By Emily Dugan

Erin Pizzey, the campaigner who pioneered
treatment for abused women by setting up
Britain's first refuge centre for victims of
domestic violence in the 1970s, is now

turning her attention to another group of often
overlooked victims: men.

Launching an online campaign and research project
aimed at bringing the issue out in the open, Ms Pizzey
is hoping to raise awareness of abuse perpetrated by
women against men – a subject she describes as "one
of the last taboos". She has put a questionnaire on the
website that allows women to answer
questions anonymously about how they treat men.

As many as one in six men are thought to suffer physical
and mental abuse at the hands of women, yet the topic
is widely seen as insignificant or implausible.

"I feel that this kind of violence is one of the last taboos
– men are reluctant to talk about it, and so are the women
who are doing it," said Ms Pizzey, whose father was
abused by her mother. "Much is known and studied
about male violence, but very little is written about women,
and any attempt to discuss female violence is met with
rabid attacks and howls of 'blaming the victim'."

During the 1970s, Ms Pizzey created safe havens
for hundreds of abused women, but she found it increasingly
frustrating that people could only see females as victims.
As she tried to create similar sanctuaries for men, she
discovered that even those who had been generous
towards her women's centres would not consider
giving funding.

"I imagined people who had given money to my
women's projects would also give it over for the men,
but not one gave money," she said. "It's shocking
that across the world there are no facilities giving sanctuary
for men, and no sympathy. I think it's a deeply held taboo
that if a man is assaulted by a woman he is weak, but if
a woman is assaulted by a man she is a victim.
It's social conditioning."

Samantha Wilson, a therapist working in London and
Manchester who specialises in domestic abuse, says
she often sees men who were injured by women. "I've
]been working with cases of violence for 20 years, and
many of them have been women abusing men," she said.
"This could be happening to people you know and you simply
wouldn't realise."

According to Ms Pizzey, the issue is greeted with scepticism
by police and social services who, she says, often "refuse to
believe" it. She hopes that by discussing violent women in the
open she may be able to bring about change.

Next month, she is travelling to Sacramento, California,
to attend the first conference on domestic abuse to deal
with men and women as perpetrators.

Boyfriend became punch-bag

Anna, 35, appeared to have everything, but beneath the
respectable facade, she was living a secret life of violence.
Abused as a child, she found herself repeating the abuse.
After just a few months with her boyfriend, Paul, arguments
started by her became regular, and after a while she became
violent. Sometimes it was a kick or a punch, but on other
occasions she would throw heavy objects at him, until finally
she threatened him with a knife. Anna knew she needed help
and sought out a hypnotist. After several sessions she began to
control her anger, and now she and Paul plan to marry.

Check Erin Pizzey's Blog which has some great articles.

No comments: