The UK is celebrating – or maybe commemorating would be the best word! – National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month which means this is the perfect time to start thinking about all those victim-blaming myths which the Depp/Heard trial revealed are so deeply engrained in our culture. Share this article with teenagers you know, housewives you respect – and the Milani cosmetics and Lidl PR departments.
She lied to advance her career!” “Women lie about rape and abuse because they benefit financially from doing so! “She lied because she wanted more money in the divorce!”
Johnny Depp’s PR team certainly weren’t the ones who invented this myth – Jörg Kachelmann talked about an “Opferabo” and whether it’s the chambermaid in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case or the very young accuser in the Ched Evans case, women are always being accused of lying about rape for attention or financial gain.
As always, this is a misogynist myth. Heard was entitled to far, far more money in the divorce proceedings than she actually claimed – and she wasn’t awarded more due to Depp’s violence. She also didn’t write the op-ed to increase the profits of Aquaman. The truth is, talking about rape and domestic violence is very, very damaging for survivors. We’ve seen what has happened to Heard. We’ve watched the whole world attack her and abuse her for daring to speak up about abuse.
The truth is, most women and victims don’t lie about abuse. This is because we still treat victims with a kind of contempt for daring to speak out about what has happened to them. Why would anyone lie about such a thing, when we punish women like Heard, who are obviously telling the truth, so disgustingly? It’s a very small number of cases which turn out to be lies – the official figure is 2% – and with the police, the courts and the general public so full of hatred and contempt for victims who speak out, I would actually take that figure with a HUGE pinch of salt! Furthermore, that 2% figure will include people who have suffered abuse and are very traumatized and damaged people. However, as we see in the Depp/Heard case, just because the world thinks a victim is a liar does not mean they are one.
“Where’s the bruises?” “Did you see how Rihanna looked after she was beaten up?” “Her skin looks flawless! She must be lying” “Her scars aren’t bad enough for the abuse to be real!”
Well, actually, it’s a big myth that only physical abuse counts as abuse. All the emotional and verbal abuse Depp used to humiliate and control Heard are also abuse. But, in fact, just because you don’t think Heard’s injuries are bad enough to be called abuse doesn’t mean you’re right.
Abusers abuse in private. They project a different image to the public. It’s important to them that the abuse stays private. Many abusers are, just like Depp, skilled at hitting in such a way that the marks are easy to hide. They need and want the domestic abuse to stay hidden.
In fact, Amber has many, many photographs documenting years of abuse, there are photos of bruises and her hair being ripped out. But just because you don’t think the bruises are bad enough to be called abuse, doesn’t make it so. It’s true that Rihanna’s injuries are worse. It is a dangerous myth to say that Heard should have stayed with Depp until her injuries were as bad as Rihanna’s. This is the kind of myth that gets women killed – cut it out.
“Why didn’t she go to the doctor after being raped?” “She didn’t go to the doctor after being raped?” “If a rape victim doesn’t go to the doctor, she is a liar!”
Most rape victims, especially in partner rapes, don’t go the doctor. If Amber is lying for this reason, then 80% of rape victims are liars too.
“She would have bled to death after being raped from a bottle!”
Amber never said the bottle was broken, she worried it was. Vaginas are elastic. They are designed to give birth. They can survive being raped from a bottle. Many women get raped and their vaginas survive the trauma. It’s the women who are damaged afterwards – just like Amber so obviously was.
“She wanted to meet up with him afterwards, so she is the abuser!”
Many victims still love their abusers, and want to meet up with them afterwards. This is one of the things that makes it so hard for women to get away.
“She said she used a Milani concealer kit to cover up her bruises. But the palette she said she used hadn’t been created yet! So she is lying!”
Actually, she never said that at all. The Milani palette in question was used as a prop, so that male jurors could get an idea of how Amber covered up her bruises. However, if she had got a tiny detail wrong like that, that actually wouldn’t have meant she was lying at all. It’s often so that victims get tiny details wrong after a traumatic event because the human brain tries to suppress memories. Also, focusing on tiny details is something the human brain does to try and protect you from traumatic memories too.
Amber’s behaviour is absolutely consistent with that of a survivor. And if people were more educated about domestic abuse, they would recognize that, too.
“He couldn’t look her in the eye, so she must be the abuser!” “She was confident enough to give evidence, she can’t be a true victim!” “She didn’t cry enough, so she is lying!”
Actually, there is no “perfect way” for the perfect victim to behave. Depp avoiding her gaze doesn’t prove much (his aggressive behaviour towards her and her lawyer in court does seem consistent with an abuser, though)
“He seems so sympathetic” “He is so likeable!” “He is such a charismatic guy, how can he be an abuser?” “She is so cold, she can’t be a victim!” “He is more popular than her, so he must be innocent.”
Many abusers seem charismatic, and many victims, due to the trauma they have undergone, lose friends. Being in an abusive relationship can be very very strenuous on your mental health. Many abusers, including those who go on to kill their victims, are popular, charming and charismatic.
Male victims of abuse are always accused of abuse first and suing people for defamation is a great way for male victims to get closure
This is simply not true. Had Depp truly been a victim of domestic abuse, the best thing he could have done is get distance between them and let Amber get on with her life. Most male victims of abuse are not accused of abuse first. However, more and more abusers are claiming they are really the victims to cause confusion in court. And more and more men are suing their exes for talking about their abuse. A world in which victims cannot get restraining orders or campaign for greater protection of victims rights is a bad world for everyone. It’s a bad world for female victims, for male victims, and even, let’s be honest, the perpetrators themselves, who, if it’s made impossible for their victims to get restraining orders, are more likely to end up in jail.
“Her own family were on his side!”
Amber Heard, sadly, like so many victims , came from an abusive family herself. This is what led her to rationalize Depp’s abusive behaviour and also made it harder for her to set boundaries. While it isn’t exactly true that her mother, Paige, was on Depp’s side, it is true that she tried to appease her daughter’s abuser. This is typical behaviour for victims’ families and in fact, had Paige been openly on his side, and implored Amber to return to her violent relationship, this would not prove Amber was lying at all. Because, sadly, the truth is, it’s all too common for the victim’s family to side with their abuser.
She gave him a knife so she must be the real abuser
Collecting knives is not in of itself a red flag (combined with everything else we know about Depp’s personality and history of violence, it does fit a pattern though). A victim gifting their partner an ornamental knife in the beginning stages of a relationship doesn’t mean they are actually the abuser. Many people collect knives and are not abusive, Amber was just wrong to hope that her husband was one of them.
“He can’t be abusive because he was too high on drugs or drunk all the time.”
80% of violence in the home occurs when the abuser is intoxicated. Depp’s addiction does not make him less likely to be violent. In fact, we have video evidence of how easy it was for him to get drunk and violent very early in the morning in the kitchen cabinets video.
“Smashing up property is not domestic violence”
Smashing up property is domestic violence. Especially when you, as Depp did, often make sure you destroy your partner’s treasured things.
“Fantasizing about killing or raping your partner is okay if you do it behind their back.”
It’s not okay. Depp didn’t save his violent fantasies about raping and killing Heard for Paul Bettany though – as Amber testified, he threatened her himself. But even if these violent fantasies were just fantasies and not actual threats, they aren’t okay. In a healthy partnership people don’t fantasize about killing their partners. If you find out your partner has been telling his friends he would like to drown you, then burn you, and then rape your burnt corpse to check you are dead – please, get out now.
Amber Heard had more evidence than 95% of victims. If we don’t believe her, we don’t believe most victims – male or female. However, the only way we can disbelieve her persuasive and proven tale of a violent marriage gone wrong is if we believe a lot of misogynistic victim-blaming myths.
Please use Domestic Awareness Month as a reason to educate yourself and the people around you on these harmful myths. Teens especially look up to John Depp as a role-model. We need to protect our younger generations and that is why all decent people need to apologize to Amber Heard and condemn Depp and his MRA propaganda!