Dr. Susan Weitzman Answers FAQs

What is domestic abuse?

Abuse is a continuum, starting with emotional abuse, running the gamut to physical abuse, and ultimately to homicide.  Abuse can be physical as well as emotional.  It includes any kind of behavior that is geared to diminish, bully or control another person, and is oftentimes associated with inflicting pain, emotional or physical.

Which is worse — physical or emotional abuse? 

Actually, emotional and psychological abuse can be worse than physical abuse. While physical scars may remain, most of the damage heals. Bones mend, skin regenerates, teeth can be replaced. Not that any of this is good. But when a person suffers a systematic attack on her sense of self, self-esteem, her very identity as a person – that sticks for a very, very long time. Most of the women I have interviewed and worked with (we’re talking about hundreds of women) remember lucidly, as if it happened yesterday, remarks from their abusers about their abilities as a mother, as a wife, as a woman — even years after their divorce.  Most of the women I’ve worked with still remain fearful – long after the marriage has ended. As has been said, “Betrayal is worst where trust is greatest.”

We normally associate crimes of violence with the stresses of poverty. Why would otherwise successful men abuse their wives?

Typically we don’t expect an abuser to be someone who’s well-off, wears an Armani suit, is chairman of the board of a major organization. Why? Because most of the research done to date has focused on lower-income individuals who do deal with the stresses of poverty, urban living, unemployment, etc.  Such stressors are not present for the upscale batterer. What I found in my research was that the upper-income batterer tends to suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder; his rage is derived from the internal dynamics representative of that disorder.

The women you discuss in Not to People Like Us are fairly bright and educated. Why didn’t they see what was happening early on?

It’s not unusual for women dealing with upscale violence to pick up early warning signs, and either doubt or ignore or minimize them. And of course we all want to think the best of our partners.

How do I know if I am an upscale abused spouse?

Take our test. It’s a good introductory screening. Usually women have a sense that something is wrong but may not think of it as abuse.  They may get feedback from significant people in their lives — feedback which may be hard to hear. Ultimately, the sooner you come to grips with the reality you are living, the better your chances for change. Take our test.

I think I may be an upscale abused spouse. Where can I get help?

First, you must assess whether you and your children are in any danger. If you think you may be in danger, you must create what is known as a safety plan — a bag packed with enough clothes for a week, any meds, duplicates of important documents, and money.  Before you leave, arrange for someone to call and check on your safety.  Identify a place to go if you need a speedy exit. Regarding actual counseling, while not all therapists and counselors are trained to understand domestic violence patterns or possess awareness of upscale violence, try to find a professional who is sympathetic to your situation.  It is most important to find someone who believes that domestic violence is criminal and much more than just marital discord or a difficult communications issue. You may also find the free Care Kit, developed by The Weitzman Center, extremely useful.

Is there a way to reach you directly?

I welcome e-letters addressed to DrSusanWeitzman@aol.com. Expect a wait of two weeks for a response.  Depending on the urgency of your situation, you may request a phone call via email.  Make sure to leave your phone number and various ways and times to reach you.  Calls can usually be arranged within 72 hours.

Do you offer any programs for upscale abuse victims/survivors?

Yes. I offer Healing Retreat Weekends. For more info contact me directly at DrSusanWeitzman@aol.com.


Take care. You are important.