Not to People like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages

Not to People like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages

Not to People like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages

Not to People like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages


How is it possible for a highly educated woman with a career and resources of her own to stay in a marriage with an abusive husband? How can a man be considered a pillar of his community, run a successful business, yet regularly give his wife a black eye? The very nature of these questions proves our unarticulated assumption that domestic violence is restricted to the lower classes. When we do hear stories of high-profile victims, we regard them as exceptional cases and still believe abuse doesn't happen to "people like us". Now Susan Weitzman counters this assumption by exploring a heretofore overlooked population of battered wives -- the well-educated, upper-income women who rarely report abuse and remain trapped by their own silence.

With keen insight and sensitivity, Weitzman, a psychotherapist and educator, traces common patterns of behavior among this group -- their internal dilemmas and decisions, their dangerous desire to cover up abuse and maintain appearances. She shows how their abusive relationships follow a different course from those in other socioeconomic groups, and how these distinctions have profound implications for understanding the true nature of this behavior. Delving into the stories of these women -- wives of CEOs and attorneys, of physicians and professors, the women often professionals themselves -- Weitzman builds harrowing psychological profiles of both the abused and the abuser.


Sally, a pretty, educated, forty-eight-year-old homemaker, had told no one about the violence that existed within her seemingly happy marriage. When I first met her, she was stylishly dressed in a tailored navy pantsuit and white silk blouse, with spectator pumps and handbag to match. Tiny diamond earrings glinted beneath her flowing blond hair. A heavy gold bracelet and a remarkable string of black pearls completed the picture of a woman of substantial means.

But all was not well in Sally's world. Married to Ray, a highly successful businessman, she gave elegant dinner parties only to be brutally beaten afterwards for offering some of her husband's favorite dessert for admiring guests to take home. Known for her culinary skills and ability to entertain graciously, she wryly commented on her husband's post-party attack: "This is not what Martha Stewart would have had in mind."

When I met and interviewed Sally during her divorce, the facade of civility and upper-class life behind which she had been hiding had already begun to crumble. Her blue eyes brimmed with tears as she told me that she had sustained a broken jaw and severe and permanent hearing damage as a result of her husband's rages during twenty years of marriage. A large man, he would throw her to the ground and lie on top of her, screaming obscenities directly into her ear when he was displeased with her--which seemed to be much of the time--and that was just part of her "punishment." At various times during their marriage, he had dragged her by the hair, thrown furniture at her, choked her to within moments of her life, banged her head against the walls and floor, and punched her. With a trembling hand, Sally pulled back her carefully arranged coif to show me a misshapen lower jaw, the remnants of a beating she had sustained several months before. Her sad face was no longer symmetrical.

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