Women survivors of domestic violence have been users of dedicated, specialist services for thirty years in Britain. Yet, despite the burgeoning of policy, practice, and academic and political interest in user involvement in general and the long history of women's activism around violence, it appears that the voices of women survivors of domestic violence have been strangely silent in the context both of demands and of acknowledgement that service users should be consulted and involved. This chapter and the next will consider this contradiction from a theoretical perspective, explore how it has come about and what it implies, and, with an eye to the pros and cons, make suggestions for reconceptualising women as users of domestic violence services. Later chapters will look at practical ways of moving forward in giving abused women a more effective voice in service design and delivery than is presently available to them.
We begin by considering women's early organising in a wave of activism that has been seen as one of the first new social movements and a forerunner of service user movements.
Women's activism constituted one of the earliest of the 'protest movements' that originated in the latter half of the twentieth century. The Women's Liberation Movement (known popularly at the time as 'the women's movement' or some what derogatively as 'Women's Lib', and in scholarly literature nowadays as 'second-wave feminism' 1) flourished in almost every Western nation, and in many non-Western ones, in the 1960s and the 1970s (Coote and Campbell, 1987; Gelb, 1990). This coming together of women to make key demands for major changes in their roleand status in society occurred at a time of broader social unrest, when civil rights were being pursued by African Americans, when the antiVietnam War protests were at their height and when students and workers tookto the streets. Socialism, feminism and a broader struggle for democracyand social justice were in the air (see summaries, focused on women's