Important dates in domestic abuse

Movements in against marital violence in the 80’s and late 70's.

A retrospective research piece for the Dramasoc production of Two, by Jim Cartwright.

If the characters Roy and Leslie can tell us anything about couples in the 80’s, it’s the sad inescapability of abusive relationships. Here are some important movements and events around the time of writing that give context for the characters.

Support networks

1971: First abused women’s refuge opened

In Chiswick, London, Erin Prizzey sets up the nation’s first refuge for victims of abusive relationships.

1987: the West Lancashire Women’s Refuge

Eleanor Maddocks escaped a violent husband with her six children and set up the West Lancashire Women’s Refuge after seeing the area had no domestic violent support centres. By this time over 40 refuge centres nation wide had formed a network under the banner of Women’s Aid.

Legal and police attention

1976: the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act

This legislation allowed married women to file court orders against violent husbands. The court could then order the aggressor out of the home (even if he owned it) to ensure the safety of the woman, and could do all this without the pair divorcing. The only issue, of course, was that this did nothing to protect unmarried women.

1986: Home Office circular: Violence against women

This police circular discussed the warning signs around abused women and children and outlined practices to ensure their safety. Unfortunately, domestic violence prosecution only began increasing after a second circular in 1990. Previous to this it seems police didn’t take abuse cases seriously: they saw them as personal problems, to be decided either within the home or by social services. Throughout the 1980’s law enforcement was unlikely to see marital abuse as a crime to be punished.


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