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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The murder of fearless journalist Pavel Sheremet must be solved - but Ukraine needs more

Sheremet was blown up as he drove to host a morning radio programme

On 20th of July Kiev was shaken by the news of the assassination of the respected Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet. Outside the ex-Soviet republics he was hardly known. Yet the murder is one that the West should reflect on, as it could do much to aggravate the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. 

Sheremet was one of the most significant and high profile investigative journalists of his generation. His career as an archetypal  examiner of the post-Soviet regimes in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia bought him fame and notoriety in the region. From 1997 onwards Sheremet became a name for fearless and non-partisan interrogation, both in print and as also as TV presenter. He paid the price early on when he was incarcerated by the Belarus government, then stripped of his Belarusian nationality and deported. Such is the way of things in the region.

Taking up residence in Kiev, Sheremet became immersed in interrogating the political life of Ukraine. He wrote for the Ukrayinska Pravda publication and also helped to develop a journalism school. Under these auspices he was a participant of a congress, "The dialogue between Ukraine and Russia", in April 2014. He reported on beginnings of the Euromaidan uprising. He warned of the rise of the concept  of "Novorossia" and suggested that Ukraine needed to reset its current status and stand up to Russian pressure. After the Russian occupation of Crimea his blame for the Ukrainian government was ferocious. He alleged that that they "left their soldiers face to face the [Russian] aggressor and had given up the Crimean peninsula with no attempt to defend it." These, he said "are going to be the most disgraceful pages of Ukrainian history."

Sheremet was blown up at 7.45am on 20 July as he drove to host a morning radio programme.

Ukraine is a dangerous place for journalists. Fifty of them have been murdered since Ukraine achieved independence. However, this murder is different from the others. Firstly, both the Ukrainian President and the Interior minister immediately sought assistance from FBI and EU investigators. For once it seems that the Ukrainian government is serious about solving this crime. Secondly, this IED type assassination had all the trappings of a professional operation. To blow a car up in rush hour Kiev needs a surveillance team and sophisticated explosive expertise. 

Where to lay the blame? Pavel Sheremet had plenty of enemies, including those in power in Belarus, Russia and the militias in Ukraine (his last blog warned of a possible coup by the militias). But Ukraine needs assistance beyond investigators from the FBI and the EU. It needs more financial help to support credible investigative journalism.   

The murder of Pavel Sheremet was an attack on the already fragile Ukrainian civil society, a country on the doorstep of the EU. The fear is that the latest murder might well be the beginning of worse to come.

Mohammad Zahoor is the publisher of Ukrainian newspaper The Kyiv Post.