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What is upscale violence?

Posted on August 16, 2011

Upscale violence, a term coined by Dr. Susan Weitzman, is applied to women who have endured/ are enduring multiple or continued episodes of emotional and/or physical abuse within their marriage/relationship and also have met/meet at least three of following criteria:

  1. Income: A combined marital income of at least $100,000 per year.
  2. 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.
  3. Class Status: A self-perception of being upper-middle class or upper class.
  4. 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/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. Ironically when the upscale abused woman does come forth, she is frequently disbelieved and meets a terrible time in trying to get the help she needs and deserves. Too many times, she is met with the bias that she has so much advantage that she should be able to help herself. She is inadvertently re-victimized by the various systems set up to help the 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 any threats he makes toward his partner. There are virtually thousands of women in the United States today who have lost custody of their children due to the well-financed type of legal suits their wealthy partners were able to wage and win.

Not to People like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages Dr. Susan Weitzman (Basic Books, 2000) explores this phenomenon in depth; explains how the upscale battered woman differs from the women who have been studied thus far; offers case examples; delineates the profile of the upscale batterer; looks at the failures in the legal justice 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.