Success does not come cheap. For many, the price is much too high. When it comes to domestic violence, there is no amount of money that can erase the pain. Money does not make an abused person stay, nor does it convince an abused person to leave. High profile and upscale individuals who experience abuse, live the same pain as others in many ways. However, there are some very unique facets. The abuse is the same, the experience is different.
Dr. Susan Weitzman is nationally known as the leading expert on domestic violence among affluent people, and author of Not To People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages coined the term “upscale violence” in 2001. Upscale violence encompasses victims and surviving victims of domestic violence who society considers high profile, well-educated, extremely successful, celebrity, or any combination thereof.
Upscale violence survivor, Connie Elders, author of My Style, My Way, is a recognizable and popular spokesperson on the QVC shopping channel for a decade. She has become a style icon living a very public image which in no way reveals the pain and abuse she endured at the hand and mouth of her prior husband. When asked, “Being such a public figure, where image is thought to be everything, how did you reconcile the image people saw and the life you were living behind closed doors?” Connie replied, “I had to remove myself from being a victim and focus on becoming a survivor. In my opinion this is the only way this can be done. I am no longer worried about anyone seeing what goes on behind closed doors in my home, because it is free from abuse.” It was a long terrorizing road from abuse to the freedom she now feels in her home.
Connie lived under what Dr. Weitzman calls the “veil of silence”. While Connie had some who were supportive in her inner circle, she inherently knew what went on in her home was best left behind closed doors. Dr. Weitzman speaks of “self shaming” which is the belief that “this should not happen to me.” As Connie tells her story, that is a theme which resonates throughout the experience.
Connie could not come to terms with a well-educate, well known, highly respected person such as herself being beaten by her husband and being terrorized in her own home. Then, a moment came, a moment of strength and courage. Connie said, “One night I was punching the code on my alarm system before bed and at that moment realized the person I was most afraid of was in the house with me. He was sleeping in my bed. I was not afraid of the people on the outside. I knew at that moment this was all wrong and I had to make a change.” Every survivor probably has that moment of realization. Connie had two. She said, “Another moment was when I was attending a women’s convention. I picked up a brochure with warning signs of domestic abuse. As I read through the list of 10 things, I recognized 8 out of 10 from the list applied to my husband at the time, and his behavior toward me and others.” Awareness confirmed her emotional and physical survival was on the other side of the door.
In the phone interview, Connie offered a word of encouragement to the upscale, educated, successful, high profile person, living through an abusive relationship asking, “How do I live through the pain of others finding out?” She said, “Domestic abuse is like breast cancer it has no boundaries. It does not discriminate. It does not care what your zip code is, what your pay check reveals, how much education you have or don’t have, what color your skin is, or what job you have. Others will be proud of you for recognizing that you and others do not deserve to live with abuse and everyone deserves a better life. As a high profile person, you can become an advocate and help others overcome the same fear of people finding out and helping them to understand their choices.”
More Connie Elder: Connie Elder is a key innovator in the modern shapewear industry who’s also created skin and hair care products and a line of intimates. Her Lipo in a Box shapewear has been featured on Oprah and countless national shows and women’s magazines. Listen to the full phone interview.
More stories in the series:
Terror in the home: Story of child abuse survivor, Hanz Medina
Children who experience and witness domestic violence
Gay man recounts story of child abuse, rape, bullying, and abuse