This week, Amber Heard filed for an emergency restraining order against Johnny Depp, who she is attempting to divorce. I believe her. I’ve read the account of his physical and verbal abuse and it rings true, as a DV survivor. False abuse allegations are rare; domestic violence is common.
But other people are not so ready to believe. They like Depp, maybe they’ve liked him for decades. They love his art and his looks, and don’t want Heard “ruining” that for them. So, although she is the victim and did nothing wrong, fans and gawkers are expressing anger at her for daring to say something (to a judge to get protection. She hasn’t given press interviews or anything.)
I’m here to take on the expressions of disbelief and the objections to believing Heard I have seen, one by one. Such statements are in bold italics with my responses in standard text.
She’s just trying to get rich. This may shock you, but there’s no money in being a victim. In fact a majority of women fleeing domestic violence become homeless during the process. Furthermore, she is already rich. She’s married to Johnny Depp, who is paid between $10-20 Million for starring in movies. Unless you’re saying Depp didn’t give her access to money like some type of financially abusive husband, she’s already got access to his money and in seeking divorce wants less. Depp is the one who brought money into the matter when he attempted to silence Heard and stop her seeking an order of protection by paying her off.
They’ve only been married a year. I was married only months when I accepted the truth that my marriage was killing me and a danger to my infant child. That’s why you never heard me say a bad word about Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage; sometimes 72 days is all it takes for tremendous regret to kick in.
Why didn’t she say something sooner? She was only married for a year and you hate on women who split after two months. What’s the exact right moment to report abuse? Is it never? Everything about these objections betrays that as your real desire: silence on the topic of abuse. She spoke up as soon as she was able to, and compared to many abusive relationships, she did it quickly.
She posted to Instagram the next day and I didn’t see any bruises. That’s because bruises can take a few days to become visible, and because people who have not yet escaped their abuser must “put on a good face”, be that bruise covering makeup or heartache covering smiles. It is dangerous and unsafe for a present victim to discuss their situation or invite others to do so. Victims have to help cover the abuse to evade the risk of worse violence.
The police didn’t find evidence of abuse. Uniformed police officers, the ones who respond to 911 calls, are not detectives. They are not DV experts. They are not psychologists. Police officers actually abuse their own partners and family at higher rates than the general public or any other profession, making them disastrously unsuited for the task of determining if there is abuse going on. Even if they discover it, as abusers themselves, they are more likely to protect their fellow than his victim.
The family law judge who listened to Heard’s request did think there was sufficient evidence to order Depp stay 100 feet away and not call her. So far that is literally all Heard has asked of Depp; that he leave her alone . This is what has outraged his fans who believe he is entitled to stalk and harass her so long as they can’t see bruises. (Her face was visibly bruised at her court appearance but no one seems to care.)
She didn’t press charges. When she was violently attacked, Heard called the police. They arrived and voiced doubts, told her they saw no evidence of abuse. Perhaps they blamed her for angering her husband, or suggested she made the whole thing up. They made no move to protect her. In that emotional state with such unsympathetic men, would you really truly feel empowered enough to press charges? Or would you, like the majority of victims, concentrate on escape instead?
I wasn’t there. No, you weren’t there, so you actually don’t have good reason to say Heard is making this up. You don’t have reason to “defend” Depp against Heard’s attempt to protect herself. The witness who was there completely backs Heard’s account of the attack, down to the size of the wine bottle Depp was brandishing like a baseball bat. This is not he said/she said. This is he said vs they said. You’re not a better witness than the two women who were there.
When I was younger and poorer and leaving my ex-husband, a part of me wished we were wealthy so that at least I’d be leaving with a nest egg. Now I think I was lucky that we were poor and unheard of. I heard nearly all these same objections to my testimony of abuse, but from a much smaller group of people. Very few who aren’t his relations give a damn about my ex, and I could simply cut off all contact with people who chose him. I was able to silence his supporters by changing pizza stores and blocking his mother’s phone number.
Amber Heard has no such option. She can’t stop the bombardment of victim blaming and abuser excusing coming her way. She can’t even mourn her failed marriage and what it cost her in privacy. Even as a poor person who recognizes the magical problem solving quality of money, I don’t think she’s got the better deal here. I think maybe I did, with my poverty and anonymity.
Once this dust has settled and the divorce is final, Depp will go back to his career unscathed. Just like Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Nicholas Cage, Tommy Lee, Mickey Rourke, Gary Busey, Woody Allen, Tommy Sizemore, Steven Segal, Christian Slater, Axl Rose, Josh Brolin, Steve Austin, Eric Roberts, Bill Murray, Sean Connory, Eminem, Michael Fassbender, John Lennon, Gary Oldman, Sean Bean, Jack White, Alec Baldwin, Ozzy Ozborne, Vanilla Ice, Ben Jones, James Caan, and Dudley Moore.
And each time Depp gives an interview, stars in a movie, or receives an award, Heard will have to listen as people cheer for her abuser. My abuser is a nobody, so I never have to see him honored. There were no magazine headlines announcing my “babe” or “hunk” of an abuser was “back on the market”, as there have already been in this case. I was able to move away from my abuser and all reminder of him, but Heard won’t have that opportunity.
There is nothing about what Amber Heard is going through I covet, nothing that looks pleasant. This is not a route to a big payday. It’s a woman asking only to be left alone, and Depp’s lawyers and fans telling her she has no right. That sounds damn abusive to me.