In 2016, Sagesse identified a gap in services and supports for affluent women who are experiencing domestic abuse. This gap is not unique to Calgary; upscale violence is often overlooked by service providers and researchers in other jurisdictions.

The experiences of affluent survivors are rarely studied or acknowledged in the domestic abuse literature, and service providers often fail to see the vulnerability of this population because they are not accustomed to associating risk or helplessness with privileged populations. While upscale violence shares many characteristics with domestic abuse among less affluent populations, some barriers, circumstances and cultural influences are unique to affluent women. Because these factors can have a powerful impact on the needs and help-seeking behaviours of affluent survivors, they must be considered in the design and delivery of services and supports.

“Although women of affluence experience domestic abuse at the same rates as the rest of the population, this population is rarely studied, and few services exist to meet the needs of survivors with higher socioeconomic status”.

-Andrea Silverstone, CEO Sagesse

One of the ways in which violence in affluent communities distinguishes itself is the level of sophistication. Because affluent perpetrators have higher levels of power, resources and education on which to draw, their weapons can be all the more subtle and powerful.

“We need to recognize the culture of affluence as a distinct culture, and understand the ways in which it impacts disclosure, help-seeking, and the capacity to escape a violent relationship for women of affluence who are experiencing domestic abuse. We need to let women of affluence know that abuse does happen to women like them and they are not alone”.

-Andrea Silverstone, CEO

The Culture of Affluence:

The culture of affluence refers to the set of explicit and implicit beliefs and values in affluent communities that affect the ways in which children are socialized and family and community members interact as well as how society views affluence.

Challenges and Barriers specific to Affluent Violence:

Key challenges that affluent survivors are likely to face, including challenges related to:

  • Cognitive dissonance (e.g., that a highly capable woman could have married an abusive man, or that domestic violence doesn’t happen to ‘people like us’)
  • Not being believed because of the status of the abuser
  • Cultural norms and values related to discretion and keeping up appearances
  • Risks to one’s career or lifestyle
  • Issues related to eligibility criteria (i.e., the survivor has no access to financial resources but because she has money on paper, she is not eligible for low- or no-cost services)
  • Risks associated with lack of empathy, discrimination and misguided assumptions on the part of service providers

All of these findings have significant implications for the domestic violence sector in Calgary, suggesting the need for specialized outreach, training and capacity building (within and beyond the domestic violence sector), awareness raising campaigns, and advocacy.

Moving Forward:

Sagesse is committed to implementing a new program to address the specific issues and barriers women of affluence face when disclosing or seeking help for the abuse they suffer. We will also develop training for service providers and communities to empower them to appropriately address domestic violence within the context of the culture of affluence.

To read the full report, please click here

Watch Andrea Silverstone discuss the report

Cyndy Morin, Founder of Resolve Legal Group discusses her experience with domestic violence as an affluent woman