Updated: Mar 12
They remind us we need to talk about female Intimate Partner Violence, too - and acknowledge how similar are the dynamics
“Baby, I told you this once. I’m scared to death we are a f**king crime scene right now.” — Johnny Depp to Amber Heard
It’s a tale as old as mass media: Rich, beautiful, powerful man falls in love with rich, beautiful woman, is alleged to have abused her throughout the marriage, and ignites an ugly debate, now mostly on social media, about whether she’s telling the truth or not.
Some generalize that ‘Abused women aren’t believed,’ which is only partially true; the woman is always believed, by many, and not believed by others, and never believed by a few, regardless of the facts.
An uglier new twist emerged in the latest sad tale of Hollywood epic love gone awry: She, too, is an abuser.
The dirty, acrimonious and highly public divorce of Hollywood heavyweight Johnny Depp and wife Amber Heard a few years back dragged into the light a little-acknowledged corner of domestic violence discussions: The female abuser.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 men have experienced some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner. While we speak endlessly about the number of women victimized by violent male partners — and that number is always much higher — we fail to recognize that, while battered men are in the minority, there are more than many believe. Especially since battered men, like women, often don’t report it.
Domestic violence activists want to keep the focus on women, since they’re battered, injured and killed far more than men. And almost always, by men. I’ll leave the jeremiads about men and patriarchy and the validated statistics to the activists and social justice warriors. I will examine female batterers like Amber Heard because I know the activists and SJWs won’t.
This is what equality looks like: Violence is ALWAYS wrong, not just when men perpetuate it.
It doesn’t matter that Amber Heard can’t hurt Johnny the way he can hurt her. It doesn’t matter that he’s more powerful in Hollywood than she is. Her violence against him is still wrong.
We can’t point fingers at one injustice while ignoring the other.
“You didn’t get punched. You got hit. I’m sorry I hit you like this [slapping sound]. But I did not punch you. I did not f**king deck you. I f**king was hitting you.”
Just imagine if Depp had said these words instead of Heard.
She made many damning comments on audio tapes released by Depp’s legal team. The Twitterati debated whether this was ‘mutual abuse’ or abuse in self-defense.
It gets worse. It sounds an awful lot like the kind of discussion a lot of domestic violence couples have, except with the roles reversed.
AH: “Hit you across the face in a proper slap.”
There’s such a thing as a ‘proper’ slap?
AH: That’s the difference between you and me. You’re a fucking baby! JD: Because you start physical fights? AH: You are such a baby! Grow the f**k up Johnny! JD: Because you start physical fights? AH: I did start a physical fight, because- JD: Yeah, you did. So I had to get the f**k out of there. AH: Yes, you did. So you did the right thing.
Heard starts physical fights. They both make that clear. The entire transcript is here.
Depp alleges Heard had domestic violence issues before she met him, and there is at least one prior minor incident to indicate she sometimes got physical with others. (And her female then-partner, as females are wont to do, defended Heard’s actions later and downplayed the seriousness.) If there’s further evidence Heard got physical with others prior to her marriage, I haven’t found it yet.
She alleges that Depp physically abused her throughout their marriage. He admits to abuse on the audio tapes. Heard released photos of her bruised face at one point.
We’ve also seen a video of a drunk and threatening Johnny Depp, early in the morning, getting violent with the camera. We already know he abuses drugs and alcohol and a Rolling Stone article from 2018, The Trouble With Johnny Depp, makes it clear the man’s got a lot of psychological and emotional problems.
While the article only touches upon his stormy relationship with Heard, it does examine Depp’s tortured relationship with his mother, an abusive woman he described as “…A real bitch on wheels. My mom was maybe the meanest human being I’ve ever met in my life.”
His mom ‘hurled things’, like ashtrays and phones. There were ‘irrational beatings’. “It was a ghost house — no one talked. I don’t think there ever was a way I thought about people, especially women, other than ‘I can fix them.’ ”
Johnny married a woman not unlike dear ol’ Mom.
And he wants to ‘fix’ broken women, the way many women naively want to ‘fix’ their broken, abusive men.
That’s the remarkable part about female-on-male abuse: They greatly resemble the reverse scenario.
There are no innocent victims in this story. Just a couple of sad, broken individuals with anger management issues and a clear willingness to lash out at the one they claim to love.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s not always easy to recognize Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) against men. A November 2019 Psychology Today article notes there’s a growing body of international evidence to indicate both genders experience IPV in proportionate numbers.
It’s titled Domestic Violence Against Men: No Laughing Matter for a reason.
Because when men get abused, they often get laughed at.
The article links to a horrifying British social experiment in which actors pretending to be a couple fight twice in a public place. In the first scenario, the man begins to get physical with the woman, and strangers nearby appear concerned and a few intervene. In the second fake fight, the woman gets physical with the man. No one intervenes. Several smile and chuckle. Including women. Ha ha, domestic violence is funny!
Just imagine how viral this would have gone if people had reacted that way to the ‘abusive’ man.
Is the UK statistic at the end that 40% of domestic violence is suffered by men accurate? I don’t know. It seems men are often unwilling to report or admit it because they think they won’t be believed. And, apparently, they justifiably fear being laughed at.
By women. Toxic femininity, or toxic feminism?
The article also links to a short, five and a half minute story of Alex, whose tale sounds remarkably like those told by abused women. Warning: Disturbing images and wounds.
There’s only one real difference between Alex and Jordan’s tale and the reverse: He could have fought back, because he’s physically stronger, but he didn’t. Maybe he knew violence was always wrong. Maybe he’d been brought up that ‘You don’t hit girls,’ like my ex said re his abusive ex-wife. (He never once lifted a finger against me or ever made me feel even the tiniest bit in danger, so I believe him that he never hit her, not even in defense.)
Or maybe Alex suffers from the same victim psychology we more commonly associate with women.
It’s easier not to take men’s stories seriously because the narrative has always been an often more serious or fatal reverse story. That narrative is largely accurate, especially in times past when women had fewer options for leaving.
Today, unfortunately, women’s rising equality may also result in women’s feeling they have the ‘right’, somehow, to abuse a man who ‘makes them mad’.
AH: What do we do different if I--if I have a problem. JD: You tell me. AH: You need to tell me how to tell you different- JD: Tell me. AH: -if I’m hurting you- you need to let me be able to be mad. Sometimes you are gonna make me mad. I’m a human. I cannot live where it’s like- JD: Well, the same thing goes for me then. You’re gonna have to allow me to get mad. AH: Yes! Exactly! I- JD: Okay, but when I get mad then you start fucking yelling.
There was a lot of yelling in the Depp-Heard household. Plenty of insults. Plenty of f-bombs. Sometimes abuse is verbal, not physical, where often women have the upper hand, although it’s not hard to imagine Depp isn’t a hefty contributor as well.
He also has a habit of ‘splitting’, as Heard complains, regardless of whether physical violence is involved.
AH: I told you- I- what I needed. You said we should- [unintelligible] you don’t- [silence] We are seeing the counsellors not to just- stop what we are doing. It’s not alone enough. We gotta change how we do things. And I wanna trust you and I feel like all the trust is gone- all the fucking trust is gone in a relationship because you keep splitting. JD: I’m not going be in a physical f**king altercation with you. AH: Don’t. Then don’t. JD: You f**king hit me last night. You f**king… AH: What about all the other times you split? C’mon you cannot act like that’s about that. JD: Well on a plane, I can’t split. AH: No, and you hit back. So don’t act like you don’t f**king participate.
There’s a lot more in the transcript. It’s quite, quite clear that Amber Heard herself is a batterer, even if her record isn’t as lengthy as Depp’s.
It’s a sick, sad social dynamic, two people who seem incapable of working out their differences without yelling, recriminations, and occasional violence. Amber Heard sure sounds like a male abuser in those audio tapes.
It’s mutual abuse.
Activists and some feminists don’t want to admit that. They argue, with some justification, that female abuse is defensive and often in the context of a male-abusive relationship. It also found that “in general, women and men perpetrate equivalent levels of physical and psychological aggression, but evidence suggests that men perpetrate sexual abuse, coercive control, and stalking more frequently than women and that women also are much more frequently injured during domestic violence incidents.”
So yes--men are and always have been the more violent partners, and Johnny Depp appears to be no exception, so Heard’s violence against him occurs in that context of male abuse.
But what’s striking about the audio tapes and transcript is just how much she sounds like a traditional abuser, making excuses for herself, mocking Depp for being a ‘baby’ and noting no one will believe him. She states “No” when he asks if she thinks she’s an abuser, then, when he asks if she believes she’s abused him physically she dances around the question with all the finesse of a politician asked about his sexual imbroglios. Heard makes it clear she hits her husband at times when he hasn’t hit her, and that he ‘splits’ when she does this, so, he often removes himself so as to not take her abuse and perhaps not respond the same way.
She also complains he ‘splits’ when they start to fight, whether violence has occurred or not.
Depp’s no angel. Neither is Heard.
And neither is a devil.
It’s impossible to argue that only one or the other is a victim, unless one is a hardcore misogynist or misandrist. The audio tapes make it crystal clear that both parties have violence issues and the abuse is mutual, not Heard whacking Depp
on the attack (although that may have happened, too).
If we’re going to take IPV seriously, we’ve got to open the conversation to the unpleasant reality of those women with their own separate violence issues. It’s hypocritical for women (mostly women, apart from a few virtue-signalling ‘feminist’ men) to claim IPV is a serious problem and then turn a blind eye to female abuse.
When women are raised in abusive households and move on to adult relationships with more abuse, we express sympathy and empathy for the fact that she learned to be a victim through a lifetime of abuse.
So what excuse are we to offer the man who grew up with ‘the meanest person he’d ever known’ and who at least sometimes tried to avoid getting physical with his sometimes violent wife?
Prison psychiatrist James Gilligan in his now-classic book Violence: Reflections On A National Epidemic (1997) argues that shame plays a huge role in the motives of men who commit horrifyingly violent crimes. Where does this sense of shame come from? Often from childhood abuse, neglectful environments.
Gilligan writes, “In the course of my work with the most violent men in maximum-security settings, not a day goes by that I do not hear reports — often confirmed by independent sources — of how these men were victimized during childhood. Physical violence, neglect, abandonment, rejection, sexual exploitation and violation occurred on a scale so extreme, so bizarre, and so frequent that one cannot fail to see that the men who occupy the extreme end of the continuum of violent behavior in adulthood occupied an equally extreme end of the continuum of violent child abuse earlier in life.”
What are we to make then, of men who are abused and go on to abuse?
Something to think about.
CC0 image public domain on Pxhere
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