When a wealthy women experiences domestic violence

Elizabeth Taylor, Rihanna and Nigella Lawson.

Elizabeth Taylor, Rihanna, Ulrika Jonsson, Nigella Lawson — these women may be quite different, but they share one thing in common. All have experienced abusive relationships, and as successful public figures have had this detail of their private lives exposed to the media.  

According to Women’s Aid, one in four women in the UK will experience violence in their lifetime. We know the rich aren’t immune and yet women like Nigella Lawson don’t fit into our quite narrow stereotype of the "victim" of domestic violence. I’ve spent the past few weeks speaking to confident, high-flying, professional women, including an investment banker and a lawyer, who have experienced abuse at home, to try and develop a broader picture of domestic violence in the UK.

One important discovery was the extent to which wealthy, successful women (and men) experiencing domestic violence at home are treated differently by support services. This can sometimes be advantageous — the police may be more sympathetic to a woman they’re less likely to see as a troublemaker, and wealthy families have ready access to expensive private clinics offering anger management courses, counselling and medical assistance. 

Yet at other times popular stereotyping can put abuse survivors at risk: private schools are sometimes reluctant to report suspected cases of violence or negligence to social services for fear of reputational damage, while policemen sometimes labour under the misguided belief that wealthy women can "just leave" if they want to. 

The myth that wealthy abused wives have the means to walk out the door if they want too is very attractive, but it is a myth. Ostensibly wealthy women in abusive relationships are often robbed of their financial independence, and the decision to leave an abusive relationship is rarely based on finances alone. 

It’s also a dangerous myth — because it makes it harder for confident, professional, high-flying abuse survivors to speak out. And if we’re serious about reducing the UK’s alarming rates of domestic violence we need to understand that it’s something that can take place in any home, in any postcode, in any part of the country and in many different forms.

This article first appeared on Spear's.

Rhianna and Chris Brown. Photograph: Getty Images

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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Beware, hard Brexiteers - Ruth Davidson is coming for you

The Scottish Conservative leader is well-positioned to fight. 

Wanted: Charismatic leader with working-class roots and a populist touch who can take on the Brexiteers, including some in the government, and do so convincingly.

Enter Ruth Davidson. 

While many Tory MPs quietly share her opposition to a hard Brexit, those who dare to be loud tend to be backbenchers like Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. 

By contrast, the Scottish Conservative leader already has huge credibility for rebuilding her party north of the border. Her appearances in the last days of the EU referendum campaign made her a star in the south as well. And she has no qualms about making a joke at Boris Johnson’s expense

Speaking at the Institute of Directors on Monday, Davidson said Brexiteers like Nigel Farage should stop “needling” European leaders.

“I say to the Ukip politicians, when they chuckle and bray about the result in June, grow up,” she declared. “Let us show a bit more respect for these European neighbours and allies.”

Davidson is particularly concerned that Brexiteers underestimate the deeply emotional and political response of other EU nations. 

The negotiations will be 27 to 1, she pointed out: “I would suggest that macho, beer swilling, posturing at the golf club bar isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

At a time when free trade is increasingly a dirty word, Davidson is also striking in her defence of the single market. As a child, she recalls, every plate of food on the table was there because her father, a self-made businessman, had "made stuff and sold it abroad". 

She attacked the Daily Mail for its front cover branding the judges who ruled against the government’s bid to trigger Article 50 “enemies of the people”. 

When the headline was published, Theresa May and Cabinet ministers stressed the freedom of the press. By contrast, Davidson, a former journalist, said that to undermine “the guardians of our democracy” in this way was “an utter disgrace”. 

Davidson might have chosen Ukip and the Daily Mail to skewer, but her attacks could apply to certain Brexiteers in her party as well. 

When The Staggers enquired whether this included the Italy-baiting Foreign Secretary Johnson, she launched a somewhat muted defence.

Saying she was “surprised by the way Boris has taken to the job”, she added: “To be honest, when you have got such a big thing happening and when you have a team in place that has been doing the preparatory work, it doesn’t make sense to reshuffle the benches."

Nevertheless, despite her outsider role, the team matters to Davidson. Part of her electoral success in Scotland is down the way she has capitalised on the anti-independence feeling after the Scottish referendum. If the UK heads for a hard Brexit, she too will have to fend off accusations that her party is the party of division. 

Indeed, for all her jibes at the Brexiteers, Davidson has a serious message. Since the EU referendum, she is “beginning to see embryos of where Scotland has gone post-referendum”. And, she warned: “I do not think we want that division.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.