To the innocent or uninitiated, it may seem that women in middle-to-upper income areas do not need help, even if they are experiencing abuse. After all, they have money, connections and resources. They also live in nice neighborhoods. They should be able to handle it themselves right?
“Why would I want to help those women when there are so many other people who really need help?”
Quite the contrary, abuse is devastating to every woman and child, regardless of income level. Pain, terror, suffering and lethality risk are the same no matter what neighborhood we come from. The more money, status and power an abuser has, the more tools he has at his disposal to coerce and control, the harder it becomes to leave and the easier it becomes to hide the abuse.Beautiful homes on big properties are idyllic with a partner who loves and respects you. But they take on a different character when there is abuse. As a number of WomenSV survivors have said, “There are places that don’t have cell phone coverage. “There is no one there to hear you scream.” Children become the ultimate hidden victims of abuse in every neighborhood, rich or poor–doomed to bear silent witness and at risk for repeating what they have seen.
Who speaks for them?
In terms of financial resources, women’s abusive partners have very often taken total control of the joint finances, forcing them to sign restrictive pre-and-post-nups. Effective measures are taken to destroy their credit, career, social network and reputation. Most survivors have had their lives threatened. Some have had their children taken away by partners who are doctors, lawyers, engineers or CEO’s. They use their public image and professional credentials to disguise a darker side that is much more threatening and frightening. With so much at stake, so much to lose, it often becomes the lesser of two evils to stay.
Many survivors in our community once lived in nice homes and have since ended up penniless, homeless or reduced to living out of their cars. These women move amongst us every day and we would never guess, because in affluent areas, that sort of thing is not supposed to happen. And if it ever does happen, it’s certainly not talked about in polite society. This is how the abuser gets away with it. Because abuse thrives in secrecy, silence and isolation. It could be your own sister, daughter, best friend, and you may not even know because the secret is too painful, too shameful and too risky to reveal.
As difficult as it is to live with an abuser, no matter how much money she has, it is virtually impossible to leave without outside help and support. She is often isolated, terrorized, made to believe there is no way out. Shame and fear keep many women silent. They are afraid to reach out and share the truth of their partner’s darker side–especially if he is prominent and well-liked in the community. No one could ever guess there was a dark side revealed only behind closed doors.
What does WomenSV do?
WomenSV is the only program in the state, and one of only a handful in the country, designed to help this invisible population. In the past 6 years, WomenSV has helped over 800 women and done trainings for thousands of providers to help them deliver more domestic violence and trauma-informed services.
At WomenSV, women find solace and encouragement in the stories of women who have come before them. They find resources, connection and validation for their experiences. Some end up working for one another–doing house sitting, childcare, starting businesses together, rebuilding their credit, their careers, their lives, creating a sisterhood of survivors–strong, powerful, courageous in their determination to free themselves from abuse–for their own sake, and for the sake of their children. They learn they are not alone. They find friends, allies, connection and most importantly, hope.