Domestic Violence Is Often Underreported in Affluent Couples

Their house has gleaming marble floors. A pool is just beyond expansive sliding glass doors. They shop at high-end stores and dine in white-tablecloth restaurants. They can taste the difference between the dark fruit of a merlot and the wood notes of a cabernet sauvignon. They lead enviable lifestyles.

They also hide the undercurrent of domestic violence in their marriage.

Experts believe that statistics on spousal abuse don’t reflect a complete picture. The data behind the statistics usually come from domestic abuse shelters and police reports. Wealthier victims are less likely to seek help at either of those places.

The generalization that violence generally happens among the poor and less educated keeps victims of upscale abuse quiet, says psychotherapist Dr. Susan Weitzman. Weitzman studies the impact of domestic violence in middle- and upper-class relationships. She coined the terms upscale violence and upscale abuse in 2000.

Upscale violence often has the following characteristics:

  • Affluent
  • College Educated
  • Upwardly Mobile
  • White-Collar Career
  • Powerful

Weitzman has argued that the affluent compartmentalize and normalize their abuse because they do not see themselves as typical victims.

Trapped in a Golden Cage

Why wealthier victims stay silent about being battered or emotionally abused is complex. Some reasons are the same as any other victims while other rationales are more specific to the higher income level.

Those who experience upscale abuse don’t report the violence for many reasons:

  • They fear how it will affect their careers.
  • They worry that it will impact their children’s private school education.
  • They fear they could lose custody of their children.
  • They want to keep up the appearance of a perfect life.
  • Their spouse holds access to their financial resources.
  • They don’t think their friends will believe them.
  • They fear retaliation from the abuser.
  • They believe people will think of them as weak.
  • They are ashamed to tell family members or other loved ones.
  • Their confidence has been broken.

Victims aren’t only trapped in a pattern of abuse. They are also victims of the culture of affluence: competition, perfectionism, and maintenance of status. Their material status tends to make them believe they don’t have the right to feel depressed or deprived.

Why Abuse Happens

The stereotypical violent relationship is found in lower socioeconomic couples and is often paired with drug or alcohol abuse. The abuser keeps the abused fearful. The victim believes they lack the financial resources to break free even if they had the courage to do so. They save spare change should they get the nerve and the opportunity to escape. Certainly, there are people in that unfortunate and dangerous situation, but domestic violence knows no financial boundaries.

The need to have power and control over another person is found in all income brackets and genders.

Their need to control can stem from many different sources:

  • They feel inferior.
  • They have cultural beliefs that they can control their partner.
  • They have intense jealousy.
  • They cannot control their anger.
  • They have low self-esteem.
  • They could be part of a cycle of violence with their own upbringing.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse leaves them with a reduced ability to control their negative impulses.

Affluent abuse victims are less likely to feel the helplessness of poorer victims. Instead, their ego and image can keep them in the abuse cycle.

Prevalence of Domestic Violence in the U.S.

According to the National Institutes of Health, domestic violence affects about 10 million people every year in this country. One in four women and one in nine men are victims. The resulted pain is more than bruises and broken bones. Psychological health is also greatly harmed.

Abuse in an intimate relationship often takes many forms including the following:

  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Sexual

Despite the abuse, leaving a well-healed relationship is filled with the fears of losing their position in society, finding a new social circle, and living a completely new lifestyle. Their status is part of their identity.

Power to Move Forward from Abuse

Whether you are one-half of a high-net-worth couple or struggling to make ends meet, there can be a future beyond abuse. By coming forward with the abuse, you can make the turn toward empowerment. Being your own advocate is liberating.

At Samuelson Hause & Samuelson, LLP, we have worked with clients of all socioeconomic statuses to find their footing and begin a better life without fear. We also understand how difficult it is to leave a situation, knowing your lifestyle and everything you have known could change. Our firm can help you fight for everything that is important to you.

Whether you need to talk about divorce or filing an order of protection, our empathetic and skilled attorneys can help you.

If you are the victim of abuse in Long Island, reach out to us online or call (516) 584-4685.

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