“Domestic Abuse: What You Need to Know”

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Heidi Brown, 03.13.09, 04:00 PM EDT

Even successful women in professional careers can get trapped in abusive relationships.

The grisly details of pop star Rihanna’s alleged beating by fellow singer Chris Brown have been shocking and disturbing. How can a talented, ambitious woman on the cusp of superstardom stay with a man who has allegedly demeaned and hurt her?

Movies like Urban Cowboy, which depicted John Travolta smacking Deborah Winger in their mobile home, reinforce the idea that poor women are the only ones who are victims.

They are not.

Reports of abuse against celebrities remind us that domestic violence affects women of all classes and races.

Domestic-violence prevention experts don’t quantify how many victims are middle-class, but there’s abundant anecdotal evidence that thousands of successful, professional women–celebrities and not–are suffering silently.

Just some of the celebrities who have gone public about the abuse they endured are Robin Givens, ex-wife of Mike Tyson; Tina Turner, formerly married to Ike Turner; and comedian Brett Butler, who established a career despite years in an abusive marriage.

“I see a variety of people from all backgrounds, including affluent victims,” says Candice Lopez, the outreach manager of Doorways for Women and Families, a domestic-violence and homeless shelter serving northern Virginia.

While charities and scholars across the country may devote more energy to the effects of abuse in low-income communities, the problem is far more widespread.

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