The upscale houses of Carefree and Cave Creek are not immune to domestic violence that plagues other communities.
"I think there’s such a stereotype that it doesn’t happen in wealthier families," said Karen Altieri, a counselor for Domestic Violence Education and Assistance, a Carefreebased nonprofit organization. "That makes it even harder for those victims to come forward."
The organization offers counseling for victims and teaches anti-violence courses in Cave Creek schools, but its committee members often find themselves challenging the stereotype that abuse only happens among low-income families.
A study completed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2000 found that wealthy women were often more reluctant than their lower-income counterparts to call police and report domestic violence.
According to the report, some women said a patrol car in the driveway could damage their families’ reputations, and others doubted action would be taken against their abusers, who were influential members of their communities.
When an abused woman from a wealthy family comes forward, she is frequently not believed because her abuser is a respected man, writes Susan Weitzman, a nationally known psychotherapist and author of "Not to People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages."
Weitzman runs a Chicagobased center that provides resources for professionals who help wealthy victims of domestic violence.
"Too many times, she is met with the bias that she has so much advantage that she should be able to help herself," she wrote on her Web site.
A wealthy batterer also has the leverage and power to make good on threats he makes, such as getting full custody of children, according to the site.
Often the abuse is not physical, but emotional or financial, said Robin Kilbane, organization co-chairwoman.
"We heard from a lady at the food bank that someone who lives in a very affluent area who comes into the food bank every time because her husband won’t give her money for food," Kilbane said.
A major focus of the organization is to stop cycles of violence, so this fall, an antibullying program used in Cave Creek middle schools will be brought to elementary schools in the district.
Altieri said childhood bullying and domestic violence share many characteristics, and can be dealt with by teaching self-esteem and anger management.
"It’s hard for kids who grow up in a home where there is violence, because it’s such a secret thing, and generally they won’t talk about it," she said. "We’ll show them an alternative to that type of behavior. Hopefully it will register for them that there are choices."
Donation: Domestic Violence Education and Assistance collects used cellphones that are then reprogrammed and given to women threatened by domestic violence. To donate a phone, call the Desert Foothills Foundation at (480) 488-1090.
Online information: www.nottopeoplelikeus.com/