A Man Running for Governor Tried to Argue That Women in This Demographic Cannot Experience Abuse

October 7th 2016

Laura Donovan

Bud Pierce, an oncologist and Republican politician running for governor in Oregon, recently came under fire for claiming that women of higher education and socioeconomic levels cannot experience partner abuse. Though he has since apologized for his remarks, he faced backlash for spreading a dangerous myth about who does and does not experience abuse.

During a debate last week, Democratic governor Kate Brown and Pierce were asked about a recent report from the Women's Foundation of Oregon, which found that more than half of women and girls in the state have experienced sexual or domestic abuse, local news station KGW reported. Brown responded by revealing that she has experienced domestic abuse before. Pierce expressed doubt that women in certain education and wealth brackets can really experience abuse, garnering a lot of boos from the audience.

"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," he said. "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. 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.”

Pierce was widely criticized for dismissing the fact that any woman — regardless of employment or education — can face abuse:

Pierce issued an apology following the criticism, and said he is currently speaking with victims of domestic abuse to learn more about it:

The World Health Organization states that low education levels can increase a person's chances of experiencing abuse, and it's true that low-income women may lack the resources to get out of abusive relationships, but this does not change the fact that all women can face abuse.

"People of all races, education levels, and ages experience domestic abuse," the Office of Women's Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states on its website. "In the United States, more than 5 million women are abused by an intimate partner each year."

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, nearly a quarter of undergraduate college students "experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation."

Two years ago, Ph.D. student and sociologist Heidi Fischer Bjelland surveyed around 3,400 people living with their partners and found that educated women, who make more than their male partners face a significantly higher risk of experiencing domestic abuse, The Telegraph reported.

“Violence or control is used as a compensation for the partner’s weak position in the relationship, and may thus be regarded as an attempt to balance what is perceived as an uneven division of power,” Bjelland told the publication. “My study shows that high income or education works as protection against acts of violence only as far as the income and education does not exceed that of the partner."

Sandra Horley, the chief executive of the domestic violence charity Refuge, told The Telegraph that this study shows domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of how much money they make or how educated they are:

"The truth is no woman is immune to abuse - whether she is a member of the aristocracy or earning the minimum wage. Domestic violence affects women of all ages, classes and backgrounds - and abusive men are just as likely to be lawyers, accountants and judges as they are cleaners or unemployed.”

You can watch the full video of Pierce's argument below: