The wives and girlfriends of Hollywood royalty may seem to lead privileged lives — but they may also be especially vulnerable to abuse.
Writing in the Daily Beast, Gina Piccalo describes the problem of "upscale abuse" as suffered by women like Mel Gibson's ex Oksana Grigorieva and Charlie Sheen's wife Brooke Mueller. According to Dr. Susan Weitzman, who's written a book about the topic, powerful Hollywood stars may find it all too easy to abuse their partners: "No one can hear your screams on a two-acre lot. Most of the men really have the power to act on their threats and get away with it." Piccalo writes that "wealthy and powerful men have access to private security and discreet doctors, to publicists and managers, so the abuse rarely surfaces and the police are rarely summoned," and "sometimes the woman feels obligated to stay for the money because her abuser supports her extended family or threatens to bring in the high-powered lawyers to take custody of the children."
Having money doesn't necessarily make it easier for a woman to leave an abusive relationship — especially if her partner's the one who controls all the wealth. And Piccalo cites a study showing that "couples with income, educational, or job-status disparities have a higher risk or likelihood of intimate partner violence." People may be more likely to abuse their partners if they hold all the power in the relationship — and being a celebrity brings with it a lot of power.
Obviously most celebrity relationships — including those where the woman is much less famous than her partner — aren't abusive. But Weitzman's observations do show that being with a much wealthier man can make women vulnerable. And given that many young women today hope that a man will bring them financial security, this is pretty troubling. Piccalo's examples of "upscale abuse" show that women should consider maintaining their own forms of security, both by controlling some of their own finances and by maintaining social support systems outside the relationship. But these examples also illustrate that while fame may bring exposure, it can also help celebs create extreme privacy — Weitzman calls it "the veil of silence." And we need to distinguish between stars' right to protect themselves and their families from paparazzi and their ability to shield themselves from justice.