Republican candidate for Oregon governor Bud Pierce has apologized for stating that educated women with good jobs are not “susceptible” to abuse.
“A woman that has great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone,” Pierce said at a Friday debate with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) in Portland.
The comment was particularly clueless, considering that it came just moments after Brown noted that she was a domestic violence survivor, KGW reports. (Her campaign later clarified that her husband, Dan Little, was not involved.)
An audience member had asked the two of them about a recent report finding that more than half of the state’s female population has experienced sexual or domestic violence.
As the crowd booed, Pierce attempted to clarify his comments.
“OK, so, powerful women have access to lawyers and courts and go at it. But the women who are most vulnerable are poor women who don’t have a place to turn, because they don’t have shelter, they don’t have family around them,” he said. “So I would argue that in addition to strong laws and going after every sexual predator and every abuser, that the way we can make women have a better existence and be less susceptible to being harmed is to make them powerful in terms of their job and their opportunity.”
Brown appeared taken aback. “I’m honestly not sure where to start,” she said. “I grew up in a middle-class family. I went to law school. I know what it feels like to be paid less — substantially less — than the male lawyer in the office next to me. This is not just about power; it’s about making sure that people are not discriminated against because of their gender, because of their race and because of their sexual orientation.”
Pierce released an apology later Friday, acknowledging that “any women, regardless of economic status, can be subject to domestic violence and sexual abuse.”
Poverty and lack of resources can, of course, make it more difficult to seek help in an abusive situation, and a 2013 Department of Justice report found that women in “economically disadvantaged neighborhoods” were more likely to experience intimate partner violence.
But the premise that people with good jobs or high levels of education aren’t susceptible to abuse is — as Brown demonstrates — just flat-out wrong.
And the stereotype that domestic violence only happens to poor or uneducated women could prevent people from seeking help.
“Because, as an educated or professional person, the victim will say, ‘These things shouldn’t be happening to me,” Nanci Kreidman, CEO of the Domestic Violence Action Center, told Hawaii Business in 2012. “And so they have a greater interest in protecting the secret because they’re embarrassed. There’s less sympathy from others and more judgment involved.”