London, England–In my recent blog post Ironic Twist in Lesbian Domestic Violence Case, I discussed the case of Claudia, a lesbian victim of domestic violence. At the time she was abused, a couple of her children were teenage boys. She wanted to get away from her lesbian abuser but it was difficult, in part because the domestic violence shelters wouldn’t allow her teen boys to come with her.
A couple months ago we had a debate of sorts on this issue on my blog between Erin Pizzey, the founder of the battered women’s shelter movement in England in the 1970s and feminist DV expert Evan Stark. (The debate followed the February conference “From Ideology to Inclusion: Evidence-Based Policy and Intervention in Domestic Violence” in Sacramento, which featured leading domestic violence authorities from around the world–to learn more, click here.)
One morning during the conference I had breakfast with two remarkable ladies, Erin Pizzey and Patricia Overberg. Pizzey founded the first battered women’s shelter in the world in 1971, and Overberg was the first battered women’s shelter director in California to admit male victims of domestic violence to a shelter. As bad as things are, both of them told me things which were amazing and horrifying. Pizzey told the following story:
A woman was being abused by her violent husband and sought shelter. She had three children, two young ones and a 12-year-old boy. She wanted to go to a battered women’s shelter and, of course, take her children with her. However, the feminists who run the battered women’s shelters in England have a policy that no boys aged 12 or older are allowed into the shelters.
The woman was presented with the equivalent of Sophie’s Choice. Either she could return to her violent husband, and risk both herself and her children, or she could submit to the feminist policy. She chose the latter. Rather than allow the boy to stay with his mother and his siblings in the battered women’s shelter, the boy instead had to wait in the police station, while his mother and siblings went off to the shelter. The English equivalent of child protective services was called, and the boy was picked up and placed in foster care!
Overberg told me the same thing happens in California and in much of the United States.
I gave Stark the chance to respond here. This was followed by Erin Pizzey Angrily Responds to Feminist Evan Stark on Exclusion of Boys from Shelters, and then Stark again at Feminist DV Expert Criticizes Pizzey, Defends Excluding Teen Boys from Shelters.