Pizzey makes a stand for the battered man

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The Independent Online
ERIN PIZZEY, pioneer of the battered wives refuge, has launched a blistering attack on the feminists who so enthusiastically endorsed her crusade against domestic violence. The "sisters'' she says, have suppressed evidence that men are also "victims".

In her new role as a champion of the abused male she has singled out Prince Charles as the prototype "battered husband".

Women, she claims, are as violent in the home as men and many get a "sexual thrill" from beating their partners. On BBC2's Counterblast on Tuesday night, she will blame many of the ills of today's society on the feminists of the Sixties and Seventies. Prominent feminists, in turn, say she is talking nonsense.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Ms Pizzey elaborated on her views. She claims violent women have often been abused themselves and they continue this destructive cycle in their own relationships.

The Princess of Wales was a typical example in that she was physically attacked by her own father, said Ms Pizzey, who used the Spencer family as the inspiration for her novel of aristocratic violence, King of the Castle.

"I wept the day Diana married Charles because she should have got therapy. She was physically abused by her father who was very violent and she followed that pattern in her own relationship.

"My understanding is that Diana threw Raine Spencer down a flight of stairs. If Charles had attacked her it would have been national news. The Princess of Wales never had a chance."

In denying the dark side of women, the problem will continue unabated. "The women I met in the hostels had often chosen to be prostitutes and there was a pattern of violence. They were physically or sexually abused as children. They are addicted to rollercoaster relationships with men and physical damage is a form of sexual intercourse. A woman achieves a great deal of sexual satisfaction this way, but this is too dark for women to talk about."

To support her views, Ms Pizzey has engaged the help of male academics including Professor John Archer, who claims a third of domestic violence cases referred to in academic literature show men need medical attention after attacks by women.

She may find further support in new research by sociologist Dr Michele Burman of the University of Glasgow into teenage girls' attitudes to violence, which reveals a widespread belief that fighting, particularly with boys, is "entirely appropriate" and "useful" for girls.

The women's movement has a lot to answer for, said Ms Pizzey: by labelling men as aggressors, it has helped to destroy family life. But such controversy has long been her soulmate. After setting up the first women's refuge in Chiswick, west London, in 1971, she said that women were not always blameless. Death threats followed and she was ostracised by many feminists. She pours scorn on such women and the causes they espoused.

"We are going to look on the feminist movement as a tragedy," she said. "Women have become career slaves and a whole generation will never marry or have children. Marriage protects women. All the pill has done is liberate men because it allows them to have casual sex. I saw the feminist movement as sisterhood and family but it wasn't."

Of the first feminist wave she singles out Germaine Greer, whom she calls a "brilliant woman" who got it wrong when she said women were exactly like men. She attacks Bea Campbell and Andrea Dworkin as man-hating "gender" feminists.

The response to Ms Pizzey's outburst is scathing in return. "You would have to be mad to think this," said writer and broadcaster Ms Campbell, now visiting professor of women's studies at Newcastle University.

"She is saying feminism is mad, bad and dangerous. This attitude is disrespectful to women who have been abused and will divert attention away from the more important issues."

Sheila Rowbotham, a research fellow at Manchester University and another early feminist, is equally dismissive. "Sometimes women like casual sex, too.

"It is ridiculous to say that the women's movement is a tragedy - it has been incredibly important. She had a husband who worked in the media so had a lot of attention focused on her when there were a lot of other unsung women who also set up refuges. It's dangerous to overstate the fact that women commit domestic violence. She's talking nonsense."

Anna Coote , a former adviser to Harriet Harman and prolific writer on women's issues, was equally dismissive. "She demonstrates her own ignorance by simplifying the feminist movement," Ms Coote said. "She falls into the trap of so many people of saying feminism is one thing when in fact it is very diverse and has many strengths and weaknesses.

"The statistics speak for themselves in that men are the main perpetrators of domestic violence. I don't think anyone takes her seriously."