The purpose of this paper is to recount the author's experience of developing the first ever refuges for domestic violence, and the lessons learned about working with “violence-prone” people.
This is a first hand, narrative account, interspersed with observations and commentary on the lessons learned.
The author first identifies the author's own experience, as the child of several generations of violent parents, as central to the author's ability to empathise and work with women with similar histories. Learning together, and refusing to take responsibility away from the mothers, becomes central to the approach. Recognising the roots of violence requires in-depth, long-term relationship building with peers. The concept of “therapeutic chaos” sums up the way the spontaneous turmoil of the households seems to match and manage the cathartic expression of the residents’ world.
As a first hand account, this reportage challenges the assumption that constructive practice must all be based on someone else's prior, “evidence based”, practice.
The refuge and network that arose from the work at Chiswick Women's aid was a pioneer in addressing domestic violence. This is a unique voice, and an opportunity to place this personal account in the record for future work on inter-generational emotional damage, addictive violence and social-environmental therapeutic treatments.
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