What is Upscale Violence?


Income: A combined marital income of at least $175,000 per year.
Residence: Marital residence in a neighborhood ranked in the top 25% of its statewide area, according to Census data; or in some cases, neighborhoods highly ranked by commonly held reputation.
Class Status: A self-perception of being upper-middle class or upperclass.
Education: A minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree.

An upscale abused woman typically has not had prior exposure or experience with domestic abuse and is often shamed when it occurs in her life. Buying into the myth that it doesn’t or shouldn’t happen “to people like us,” the woman isolates herself and keeps the abuses she is enduring a secret, trying to maintain her image within her community as well as personal and professional spheres. The shame leads to isolation, which increases as her efforts to effect change her abusive partner fails. Ironically, when an upscale abused woman does come forth, she is frequently disbelieved and has a terrible time trying to get the help she needs and deserves. Too often she is met with yet another bias —  with so many advantages,  she should be able to help herself.

Inadvertently, she often is re-victimized by various systems that exist to help a battered woman. Upscale violence is also marked by the fact that the upscale batterer actually has the means, leverage, and power to make good on his threats.  There are virtually thousands of women in the United States today who have lost custody of their children because of well-financed legal suits that wealthy partners are able to wage and win.

Not to People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages (Basic Books, 2000) explores this phenomenon in depth; explains how upscale battered women differ from the women who have been studied thus far; offers case examples; delineates a profile of an upscale batterer; looks at the failures in the legal system, as well as among medical and helping professionals; and describes the unique Path of the Upscale Abused Woman, with its idiosyncratic turning points and decision-making junctures.