Why it matters that Oregon's governor revealed she had experienced domestic violence.

When asked about her plans to seek pay equity for women and combat domestic violence against them, in a debate in Portland on Sept. 30, Oregon Governor Kate Brown defended her record, revealing a painful, personal detail in the process:

"I know what it feels like to be a victim of domestic violence," Brown said. "I know what it feels like to represent clients that can't get restraining orders on abusive partners. That's why I spent a number of years in the Oregon legislature strengthening Oregon's domestic violence and sexual assault laws, including increasing penalties for domestic violence when a child was present."

Governor Kate Brown holds a press conference after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.


According to a KGW News, Portland, report, it was the first time the governor had publicly discussed her history of abuse at the hands of a former partner — which the governor's office clarified was not her current husband.

Brown's opponent, physician Bud Pierce, issued a baffling response during the debate, ignoring Brown's disclosure while claiming that educated, employed women don't have to worry about violence at the hands of a significant other.

"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. Powerful women have access to lawyers and courts and go at it," Pierce said.

Domestic violence, he argued, could only be reduced by improving economic conditions for poor women.

His answer drew a chorus of boos from the crowd and Brown, stunned and clearly emotional, reaffirmed her commitment to pay equity.

Pierce, to his credit, apologized after the debate.

"As a physician who began medical school almost 40 years ago, and has seen many patients including women of domestic violence, I know that any women, regardless of economic status, can be subject to domestic violence and sexual abuse," he wrote in a statement. "Sexual and physical abuse is morally wrong, is against the law, and must be opposed with all efforts."

There's no type of person who isn't vulnerable to domestic violence.

Partner and familial abuse is indifferent to color and class, and no one, rich, poor, white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American, female, or male, is immune. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience some form of violent partner abuse in their lifetime. Poor women do face specific challenges — lack of paid sick days to seek treatment, spotty access to medical and child care, and limited funds to put distance between themselves and their abusers — but it's not just poor women who feel compelled to remain in an abusive relationship for economic reasons.

According to a 2013 Daily Beast report, domestic violence victims who are upper-middle-class or wealthy frequently face economic and legal abuse, as well as threats of financial ruin from their abusers, who frequently are similarly advantaged. Indeed, the list of rich and famous women who have reportedly been victimized — Nicole Brown Simpson, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Halle Berry — is long and continues to grow.

Singer Rihanna was assaulted by boyfriend Chris Brown in 2009. Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.

Implying that being educated and having means is all it takes to "escape" an abusive relationship reinforces the notion that, for the women who cannot escape, continuing to subject themselves to abuse must be their fault. Meanwhile, countless anonymous women and men — poor, middle class, and wealthy — suffer in silence.

Solving this problem requires more than an either/or approach.

Improving economic conditions for poor women — and expanding access to shelters, counseling, and family services — is a necessary component. So too is acknowledging that domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Helping victims overcome the notion that abuse "shouldn't, couldn't happen to me" empowers them to take most important step — seeking a way out.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

No single solution will end domestic violence permanently and for everyone. But by opening up about her past, Governor Brown took an early step, sending a critical message to victims from all walks of life — rich or poor, white or non-white, female or male:

You're not alone, and it's not your fault.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

Keep Reading Show less