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Erin Patria Margaret Pizzey (née Carney, born 19 February 1939, China, daughter of a diplomat) is a British family care activist and a best-selling novelist. She became internationally famous for having started one of the first[1] Women's refuges (called women's shelter in the U.S.) in the modern world in 1971. She was also the founder of the UK domestic violence charity Refuge. However, Pizzey reports that she has been the subject of death threats and boycotts due to her conclusion that most domestic violence is reciprocal, and that women are equally as capable of violence as men.


She began in Belmont Terrace, Chiswick, West London where abused women were offered tea, sympathy and a place to stay for them and their children. Pizzey later opened a number of additional shelters despite hostility from the authorities. Pizzey's crucial pioneering work and determined campaigning 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".[2]

Pizzey said that militant feminists - with the collusion of Labour's leading women - hijacked her cause and used it to try to demonise all men, not only in Britain, but internationally.[3] After the hijacking the demand for a service for women survivors of domestic violence grew and soon public funding became available. Today the movement has been rebranded as Women's Aid and garners millions of pounds a year from a variety of sources, the primary one of which is the state. Pizzey has lamented that the movement she started had moved from the "personal to the political".

Soon after establishing her first refuge, Pizzey realised that much domestic violence was reciprocal, with both partners abusing each other in roughly equal rates. She reached this conclusion when she asked the women in her refuge about their violence and she concluded that most of the women were equally as violent or more violent than their husbands. In her study "Comparative Study Of Battered Women And Violence-Prone Women,"[4] (co-researched with Dr. John Gayford of Warlingham Hospital), Pizzey distinguishes 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 reports that 62% of the sample population were more accurately described as "violence prone." Similar findings regarding the mutuality of most domestic violence have been confirmed in hundreds of subsequent studies.[5][6]

In her book Prone to Violence (full text available online) Pizzey has argued that many of the women who took refuge had a personality such that they sought abusive relationships. Pizzey describes such behaviour as akin to addiction. She speculates that high levels of hormones and neurochemicals associated with pervasive childhood trauma lead 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. The book contains numerous stories of disturbed families alongside a discussion of the reasons why the modern state care-taking agencies are largely ineffective.

Some internet sources make the claim that Prone to Violence was suppressed by feminists, citing a 1996 search of all libraries in the world that could be accessed from the US Library of Congress through the Inter-Library Network that allegedly revealed a total of only thirteen listings worldwide. A 2010 WorldCat search shows that at least 43 libraries in the world hold the book.[7]

Pizzey says it was after death threats against her, her children, her grandchildren, and the killing of her dog, all of which she states were perpetrated by feminist activists, [8][9] that she left England for North America. She returned to London in the 1990s where her insights were sought by politicians and family pressure groups.

Current work

Pizzey is still actively working to help victims of domestic violence. She is a patron of the charity Mankind Initiative.[10]

Libel case

In 2009 Pizzey successfully sued Macmillan Publishers for libel over content in the Andrew Marr book A History of Modern Britain. The publication had falsely claimed she had once been part of the militant group Angry Brigade that staged bomb attacks in the 1970s.[11] The publisher also recalled and destroyed the offending version of the book, and republished it with the error removed.[12] 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."[13]


  1. Haven House in California was founded in 1964, seven years earlier than Pizzey's shelter (see About Haven House).
  3. "How feminists tried to destroy the family". Daily Mail (London). 2007-01-22.
  4. [1]
  5. Fiebert, Martin S. References Examining Assaults by Women on Their Spouses or Male Partners: An Annotated Bibliography. First published in Sexuality and Culture, 1997, 1, 273-286; updated May 2009
  6. Malcolm J. George of the Department of Physiology, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, United Kingdom.Riding the Donkey Backwards: Men as the Unacceptable Victims of Marital Violence
  7. WorldCat search for Prone to Violence (accessed April 16, 2010).
  8. Fox News article on Erin Pizzey
  9. Erin Pizzey's March 20, 1999 article published in The Scotsman
  11. "Campaigner accepts libel damages". 2009-04-01. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
  12. Adams, Stephen (2009-04-01). "Andrew Marr's publisher pays 'significant' damages to women's campaigner The publisher of Andrew Marr's best-seller, a History of Modern Britain, has paid out a "significant sum" in damages to a women's campaigner after the book mistakenly linked her to the 1970s terror group the Angry Brigade.". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  13. Rabinovitch, Dina (26 November 2001). "Domestic violence can't be a gender issue". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-03-20.



  • Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear
  • Infernal Child (an early memoir)
  • Sluts' Cookbook
  • Erin Pizzey Collects
  • Prone to violence ISBN 0-600-20551-7 Out of print; full-text available online
  • Wild Child
  • The Emotional Terrorist and The Violence-prone ISBN 0-88970-103-2 (excerpt)


  • The Watershed
  • In the Shadow of the Castle
  • The Pleasure Palace (in manuscript)
  • First Lady
  • Counsul General’s Daughter
  • The Snow Leopard of Shanghai
  • Other Lovers
  • Swimming with Dolphins
  • For the Love of a Stranger
  • Kisses
  • The Wicked World of Women
  • The Fame Game (work in progress)
  • The Lifestyle of an International Best selling Author


  • International Order of Volunteers For Peace, Diploma Of Honour (Italy) 1981.
  • Nancy Astor Award for Journalism 1983.
  • World Congress of Victimology (San Francisco) 1987 - Distinguished Leadership Award.
  • St. Valentino Palm d’Oro International Award for Literature, February 14, 1994, Italy.

See also

External links

de:Erin Pizzey it:Erin Pizzey

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