Women’s refuges, fifty years on

Nationwide network aids victims of violence

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The heroic women who opened the first refuge for domestic violence victims 50 years ago could never have envisaged it would lead to a nationwide network of secret locations that annually help thousands of women seeking to rebuild their lives free of their abusers. 

It was on 3 November 1971 that the first refuge opened. Its spokeswoman was Erin Pizzey, who had opened a social centre near her home in Chiswick. This changed dramatically when a badly bruised woman arrived with her children saying no one could help her. Chiswick Women’s Aid, now known as Refuge, was born. Discreet notices were put in newspapers telling victims they and their children could receive help. Many did. 

Eighteen women and 46 children began living in the house in Chiswick, sleeping on shared mattresses. The lack of personal space was overlooked because everyone felt safe. The premises though were too small. 

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Interact: Responses to Women’s refuges, fifty years on

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