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It's the men who need help now

Alberta Report  October 19, 1998, page 37
[This article was a side-bar to No justice yet for divorced dads]

When Erin Pizzey joined the men carrying placards in front of the Family Centre in Edmonton on September 28, she raised a few eyebrows.  The protesters were complaining about the centre's depiction of men in their pamphlets as the main perpetrators of domestic violence.  In a press conference at the protest, Ms. Pizzey stated that women are as capable of violence as men, and that too often women are convinced females never hit, only males.  She blames much of the problem on the women's shelters.  "Feminists have hijacked the women's shelter movement and are using them as bunkers in their war against men," she stated.
    The provincial coordinator of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, Arlene Chapman, called Ms. Pizzey's views ludicrous.  In a September 29 Edmonton Journal story, Ms. Chapman is quoted as saying, "She is obviously out of step with the sheltering movement.  It was the feminist movement that started the shelters, and thank God...Obviously, this woman needs to be educated." Erin Pizzey in Edmonton, 1998
    Apparently unbeknownst to Ms. Chapman is the fact that Ms. Pizzey, 59, is the substantive founder of the international shelter movement for battered women.  For the last 20 years, she has been touring the world lecturing on domestic violence.  A best-selling novelist, she has published books on family violence and produced a landmark film on the subject, Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear.  She was guest of honour at an international conference of Supreme Court Judges in Rome in 1994.
    All that does not mean she is universally liked.  "Oh, the feminists hate me," says Ms. Pizzey.  "'They say I need to be educated because I don't toe the party line."  In 1971, Ms. Pizzey founded a centre for victims of family violence in Chiswick, England, reputedly the first of its kind in the world.  The modem feminist movement, then experiencing an influx of baby boomers, was just picking up steam.  "They were looking for a cause, particularly one that came with funding, and the idea of shelters for battered women was perfect for them.
    "Most women, when they leave a violent relationship, are leaving the violence, not necessarily the man, and the violence more often than not is perpetrated by both partners," Ms. Pizzey says.  "Studies have shown that 60% of child abuse is perpetrated by women.  So the women going to these shelters are not getting the treatment they need, and children are not getting the parents they deserve.  Instead, women are convinced by people with a political agenda and a need for funding that they are victims."
    Ms. Pizzey says her views quickly made her a black sheep among radical feminists (a.k.a. redfems), and she was pushed out of the shelter movement in England.  "At one point,  I had to travel about with a police escort because of the threats of violence against me," she notes, savouring the irony.
    She came to Alberta at the invitation of the movement to Establish Real Gender Equality (MERGE), a national lobby group fighting gender bias in society and in the courts.  At late September meetings in Calgary and Edmonton, she addressed audiences of angry and frustrated non-custodial parents, mostly men.  "Here, it seems, more than elsewhere, the shelters are used by many women as a fast track to divorce," she says.  "Once a man is painted as an abuser, it sticks to him for life."
    Senator Anne Cools, an early women's-shelter advocate in Canada who was similarly read out of the movement, calls Ms. Pizzey her soul sister.  "Even though Erin Pizzey was brutally pushed out by the gender feminists, her contribution is enormous," Sen. Cools says, "Before she got it going, no one was willing to discuss domestic violence, and through her efforts it came out of the closet and was discussed."

                                                               —Kevin Steel

[Update 2008 10 22: Video on violent women]

2001 02 02 (format changes)