Until 1971, female victims of domestic violence were expected to ‘kiss and make up’ with their husbands, hide their black eyes and bruises, and bear the shame that somehow their partners’ brutality was their fault. Chiswick Women’s Aid was Europe’s first ever refuge for what were then called ‘battered women’, and Jenny Smith was one of the first females who bravely made their way to this much-needed safe house. Desperate, and in fear for her life and the welfare of her two small children, Jenny had fled her dangerously schizophrenic partner, carrying only a few possessions.
In the Chiswick shelter, founded by famous women’s rights campaigner Erin Pizzey, Jenny found other women in the same position, all with harrowing, extraordinary stories to tell. Amenities were basic, but the respect, kindness and humanity of the community would help to give Jenny a new lease of life and strength. When the safe house came under threat of closure, she lobbied parliament and drove across Europe in a convoy of women in camper vans to raise awareness of their plight.
Jenny’s story is a slice of social history that begins in a Derbyshire mining village in the 1950s and takes the reader to inner city of Hackney in the 1960s, and Jenny’s heart-breaking journey to the refuge. The house was the subject of a famous documentary, Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear, which, when first broadcast in 1974, sent shockwaves through the UK. Jenny was one of the first women to break a taboo by speaking publicly about domestic abuse. With the new start afforded her by the refuge, Jenny went on to find love, have another child and work as a foster carer.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, April 2014