[Dash of SAS] Women and upscale abuse
Ironically enough, on the same day, crossing different time zones, a wave of protest began. All around the world men and women took to the streets to dance as part of a global protest to put an end to violence against women, which is estimated to affect one in 3 women on the planet.
In a way, the two events mirrored the irony that also surrounds the whole concept of violence and abuse in a romantic relationship. On paper, it is jarring to read the words “romantic” (with its connotation of loving) and “violence” in one sentence.
But in reality, according to the National Demographic Health Survey, one in 5 women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence since age 15. One in 7 ever-married women experienced physical violence by their husbands while 8% experienced sexual violence by their husbands.
Leveling of women
There is another irony about abusive relationships that is rarely discussed.
Abuse in a romantic relationship has a leveling effect. It does not recognize social class, educational attainment or status in society, but it is an area where women of means are disproportionately at a disadvantage.
In her book, “Not to People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages,” Dr Susan Weitzman talks about the concept of “upscale violence,” which she defines as emotional and/or physical abuse within their marriage/relationship and also have met/meet at least 3 of following criteria:
- Income: A combined marital income of at least $100,000 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 according to commonly held reputation.
- Class Status: A self-perception of being upper-middle class or upper class.
- Education: A minimum of a Bachelor's Degree.
Reeva Steenkamp, Nicole Brown Simpson, and many other women in high-profile abuse cases certainly seem to fit this profile.
However, in the Philippine setting, where there is such a premium on what others will think and social standing is just as important as economic standing, Weitzman’s definition may be somewhat modified to include any educated, upper working class woman.
When privilege imprisons
Weitzman describes the impact of upscale violence on a woman by saying:
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/shouldn't happen "to people like us," the woman isolates and keeps secret the abuses she is enduring, 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 with her abusive partner fails.
Studying the many cases of the women she has counseled, Weitzman has concluded that a woman in an upscale abusive relationship will try to leave an average of 8 times, before finally gathering the courage to leave for good.
Adds Weitzman, despite her means, her education and her resources, an upscale abused woman will have difficulty getting the help that she deserves.
Because of the stereotype that the savagery of abuse only happens among marginalized groups, an upscale abused woman is often dismissed with the notion that her privileged lifestyle should enable her to help herself.
“She is inadvertently re-victimized by the various systems set up to help the battered woman,” writes Weitzman.
Another dynamic in an upscale abusive relationship is the power that abuser has over the victim, not just by virtue of the harm he inflicts on her, but also because of his similar stature and economic standing which allows him numerous ways to torment and threaten his partner.
A woman in an upscale abusive relationship stands to suffer the ramifications of losing one’s standing in society and a marred reputation. In a high profile case such as Pistorius,’ there is always the danger of the public turning against you and endorsements being ripped from under you. In the Philippine setting, our own version of “public” is our family and friends, and their approval of our culturally nuanced version of a commercial endorsement.
Gender equality and the female empowerment are spoken about with the notion that one suffering from misfortune needs to be given back their dignity with a sense of equality and power. Little is said about the woman whose life of privilege is the very thing that imprisons her and prevents her from breaking free.
Nicole Simpson Brown and her friend were murdered, and after an 8-month trial, OJ Simpson was acquitted. The way that Oscar Pistorius’ trial will be telling of just what we have accomplished in terms of equality. - Rappler.com