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The Need for Support for Middle-Class Women Affected by Domestic Violence

Do you know what the problem is with being a self-sufficient, middle-class woman with a restraining order in her hand? 

You're on your own. 

That is the problem.

Photo by Ron Lach

Domestic violence affects women of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Unfortunately, however, many middle-class women are not getting the financial support they need when it comes to domestic violence. People often don’t think of middle and upper class women as being victims of abuse because they are the women who appear to have it all together. These are the women who may have gone to college and have a career. They are also the SAHM, with the beautiful house and the lovely family; the hard-working husband. You see them out in the world and they look like they are thriving. But, whatever the narrative, assuming people's picture perfect lives means that they can't be domestic violence victims is simply unfair. There are different types of abuse and many women that are in a higher income bracket are forced to suffer in silence because of the lack of financial support available to them. They do not qualify for the same programs and resources that are made available to lower income women.  Most of the support is based on income, not circumstance. It is time for us to change this and provide more assistance for these women in need.

Types of Abuse

It is important to understand difference types of abuse.  Financial abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse are all common forms of domestic violence that affect people regardless of their income or social class. Financial abuse can take the form of controlling access to money or using financial resources as a way to control behavior. Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, shoving, or other forms of physical aggression. Emotional abuse can be verbal insults, threats, manipulation tactics, gaslighting, or any other type of abusive behavior aimed at controlling someone else’s emotions or feelings.

The Reality for Middle-Class Women

Middle class is the USA are those households who earn between $53,413 and $106,827. The average number of children per household in the USA is 2.35. Let's use a hypothetical of a woman with two children. She was the "bread winner" of the relationship with a career earning $69,000 annually. She gets a restraining order and her spouse is evicted from the home. She now has a one income household with the same household bills, car maintenance, gas money, insurance, food, household products, the children's extra curricular activities, childcare and whatever trips or extra things come up at the kid's school. Money is running low, and things are tight. She applies for food stamps. The maximum income to qualify for SNAP benefits for a family of three is $29,939. She does not qualify. She also does not qualify for TANF, Medicaid, Liheap, or any other government assisted program to make life more financially feasible. She's on her own. Society tells her to roll up her sleeves and get to working, harder. But how? It's more likely than not, that this woman would be dealing with her own trauma and her children's trauma. At the same time, she has to maintain her career and keep her home from being taken from under her. The reality is that women like this do not get the support they need because people don’t believe they need it. This isn’t true; financial support is needed for all victims of domestic abusers regardless of their income level or social class. While there are shelters and counseling available for all domestic violence victims, many women still feel like they have nowhere to turn when they don't qualify for any financial support. This is because not all women have to leave their home, or their job. I remember sitting with my therapist looking up programs and assistance and not finding anything that I qualified for. From food stamps to programs that help you get Christmas gifts for your children. I did not qualify for a single thing. We both realized I would have to find a second job. The kicker is, I had used all of my free therapy sessions and was now on paid sessions. I was extremely frustrated. I did not know how I would have time for a second job when I was already working 40 hours a week and getting home 3 hours after my children got home from school. I remember thinking at one point that I'd made a mistake by leaving my husband. I did not go back to him, but do you know what a sinking feeling it is to have that thought? I don't give up easily. I did Uber when I could. I sold health products. I blogged. I worked retail. My kids and I lived in a hotel for a month while we were in between houses. And I felt like no one understood what I was dealing with. I was alone. No domestic violence victim should have to go through that. This is why we need more help for all women.

Domestic violence is an issue that affects people from all walks of life—not just low-income individuals or those living in poverty. We must recognize this fact and provide more financial support and resources for middle-class women who are victims of domestic violence so they don't feel like they've made a mistake in leaving their abuser. Awareness around this issue needs to be raised so that more people are aware that anyone at any income level could potentially be experiencing some form of abuse in their own home. And so that middle-class women will seek out the help they deserve without feeling ashamed and embarrassed, or like they can't survive on their own.


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