The Double Standards of the Domestic Violence Debate

Trigger warning: domestic abuse 

A lot of people remember May 2016 when, a week after her divorce from Johnny Depp, Amber Heard filed a domestic violence restraining order against him. It was shocking for a lot of people because Johnny Depp is a very famous actor, well known for the role of Jack Sparrow that a lot of us grew up with. Johnny Depp was immediately shunned on social media as an abuser; because why would she lie? She is a younger woman and he is an older man, both of whom have a significant presence in popular culture, which of course makes the impact of the case escalate massively. Why would anyone doubt the word of a woman speaking up about her history with abuse? The fact is that is that is rare for a woman in our society to say she hasn’t been a victim of violence based on her gender, therefore it is only natural she would gain support, especially since the rise of the Me Too movement.

There has been many speculations about the truth in Amber Heard’s statements, some people going as far as questioning the state of her mental health. But this story has gained less attention overtime, with Amber even becoming a spokesperson for various charities denouncing domestic violence. However, there has been a rather recent turn of events which changed the public’s opinion on the matter: the release of an audio clip, extracted from tapes which Amber and Johnny apparently used to work through fights. These  make Amber’s claim of being a victim of abuse questionable to say the least.

On the 31st of January the tape was leaked and later uploaded on various social media platforms, notably on the YouTube channel Incredibly Average, that had been reporting their opinions on the case for more than a year before (trigger warning: the audio clip contains first-person descriptions of abuse, it might be upsetting to some listeners). The audio is of an argument between Amber and Johnny where she admits to getting physically violent towards him while she confronts him about fleeing whenever these altercations rather than fighting back. Johnny does admit to throwing a can at her after she did the same to him once, but tells Amber he cannot continue enduring physical violence. The audio finishes on them saying they’ll try to be better. During the fight, Amber embodies the typical attitude of an abuser, as it is difficult to deny that she was the one demonstrating violent behaviour after hearing her saying so herself, and refuses to take any sort of blame, rather putting it on Johnny’s actions or using the excuse that she loses control and it isn’t her fault. 

The tape had a massive impact on the general public, and #JusticeForJohnnyDepp soon started trending on Twitter with messages of support towards the actor, and messages of hate and distrust towards Amber Heard. This case highlights a phenomenon in society that is deeply rooted in the patriarchy and expectations towards men. Society says men are supposed to be strong, they are not supposed to cry, whereas women are supposedly weaker and more vulnerable, therefore why would a man ever be in a position where he would suffer abuse? It is unfortunately a common concept even in today’s society, and men who are victims of abuse are afraid to come forward because they are afraid they won’t be believed, which happens because of internalised patriarchal values.

This just goes to show how much Feminism is needed in society, as, in contradiction to popular belief, it is a movement that is based on the equality of genres, not female supremacy, and therefore includes the liberation of men’s testimonies and aims to help them overcome the concept of toxic masculinity suppressing their emotions, weaknesses, and trauma. It is only fair for a female abuser to be prosecuted the exact same way as a male abuser because it is their same crime and the concept of people of the female sex being weaker and therefore needing lighter punishment is completely unfair and biased. Each person’s history of abuse is completely valid and that no matter their gender or gender identity.

Johnny and Amber’s legal battle is still ongoing and new material is frequently brought up in that matter, but the fact that everyone could be a victim of abuse, even a man of Johnny Depp’s influence, should never be disregarded or dismissed. It is also important not to disregard Amber Heard’s claims either, the audio is but a small part of the story and it would be inappropriate to dismiss her. The fight should be against the very concept of abuse, not just a certain kind, as every victim is valid.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse or know someone who is a victim, speaking up and getting help is fundamentally important.

Here are some hotlines:

National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 200 0247

Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327

Featured image by Loren Javier. Available on Flickr under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

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