CONTENT WARNING : details of domestic violence
I am a survivor of domestic violence. When I was 15 years old, I testified against our abuser via video link in Southwark Crown Court. His defence lawyer made it known he thought I was little more than a talented actress who had concocted an elaborate tale of abuse and violence in order to wring money from a poor, embattled man. Despite having just played a recording of my frantic 999 call to the court where I screamed, cried and begged for help as our lives were threatened by a man wielding a knife, his lawyer somehow spun it. I was a delusional teenager whose love of film and TV had warped my sense of reality. We were devious, treacherous women who had lied and manipulated to get this innocent, kind, benevolent man arrested, get his money and get him out of our lives.
I have long understood the mechanics of victim blaming- to destroy the integrity of the abused while protecting, uplifting, the abuser. This patriarchal society is set up in such a way that when a woman speaks of abuse she has suffered immediately the first questions asked are
“What did you do, though?”
“Why were you there?”
“What were you wearing”
“What did you say?”
I do not know Amber Heard, but extend to her the benefit of doubt that was denied to me. I feel akin to her because like Jonny Depp, our abuser was a "sensitive, loving and loved person." Like Jonny Depp, our abuser had friends like Paul Bettany who came forward to testify he was the “sweetest, kindest, gentlest man.” Many say that the root of the issue between Heard and Depp lies in money; that she is a duplicitous gold digger, who wrecked a family and stole this man, an argument which implicitly asserts she is deserving of whatever treatment she received.
Corrine Barraclough of the Daily Mail (*sigh*) has gone as far as to say Heard is “entitled to justice, but not a payday.” This narrative of Amber Heard as a greedy Jezebel denies Jonny Depp agency and responsibility for his actions while simultaneously highlighting the flaw in patriarchy- men are powerful, superior beings but one wink from a tempting beauty and they are struck so weak they are unable to abide by their children and the promises they made. Give me a break. If my abuser had two pennies to rub together for every punch, for every kick, for every pot, telephone, knife used to incite terror in us I would have asked for those two pennies. Who are those who have never suffered the fear of assault to tell the survivors of the horror how to seek recompense? Too often are victims of violence be it sexual, physical or mental made to suffer for free by the powerful and wealthy. If Jonny Depp, as rich as he is, is stupid (and I put emphasis on are you dumb, blood?) enough to get married to someone without a prenuptial agreement, he won’t do it again after this. Watching the “revelations” of Heard’s financial status play out, the endless barrage of anti-Amber rhetoric from gossip magazines makes me pity her and thankful that when I suffered the indignation of having to prove I was the victim of abuse, that I was blessedly un-famous.
To sell Amber Heard as the evil, manipulative, twisted woman who’s sole purpose in life was to destroy Jonny Depp appeals to society’s need to blame women for the their abuse. This explains why despite the pictures of her bruised face, stories circulated that she was smiling “just hours” after her attack. Cos, as everyone knows, we survivors must never smile again. The only genuine proof the abused have against their abusers is their dead bodies. Otherwise all they have are allegations. I learned that when I was 15 years old- I relearn it every time a story like this comes to light.
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