In 2016, American actress and model Amber Heard appeared in court with a picture of herself with facial bruising, claiming that her then-husband Johnny Depp physically abused her. During the same year, a judge granted a restraining order against Depp, who vehemently denied physically abusing Heard.
The whole fiasco didn’t stop there. In April 2019, Depp filed a defamation lawsuit against Heard for $50 million after she claimed that she lost out on work opportunities because she spoke publicly about the abuse. In his lawsuit, Depp stated that she is the abuser and her claims “were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career.” However, the odds were against the Hollywood star.
Due to the alleged domestic abuse and sexual violence issues concerning him, Depp lost his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise and his reputation took a hit. Many people believed that he was the bad guy and he deserved to be jailed for what he had done to Heard. But then a bombshell recording of Heard in 2015 began circulating on the internet.
In the recording, the actress admitted to hitting Depp, mocking him, and calling him a baby. She also said she’s thrown pots, pans, and vases at him. According to USA Today, an online site that delivers current local and national news, sports, entertainment, finance, technology, and more, the two even debated on the degree to which Heard injured Depp. "Babe, you're not punched... I don't know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you're fine. I did not hurt you, I did not punch you, I was hitting you,” she said in the recording.
At another point, Depp could be heard saying, "I do not want to leave you. I do not want a divorce, I do not want you out of my life. I just want peace. If things get physical, we have to separate."
The recording has prompted the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp across all social media platforms. Fans want justice for Depp after not being believed in for many years.
This issue has spawned more in-depth discussions concerning how society disregards the idea that men can also be abused too and that men can also become victims of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Against Men
Most of the time, we hear stories of women suffering from all kinds of abuse from their husbands. The experience has affected their whole lives, causing trauma, anxiety, and depression to these women. Vox, a liberal-leaning American news and opinion website, reported that 51.9% of American women have experienced physical violence at some point in their lives. Most women suffer from abuse in silence because they are afraid to do be shamed about it. Surprisingly, men also experience the same thing.
In the US, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking. Some impacts include injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, sexually transmitted diseases, and more. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) also reported that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some lesser form of physical violence from an intimate partner. These include slapping, shoving, and pushing. Aside from that, there’s 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men who have been injured by an intimate partner.
Contradicting the widespread assumption that it is always women who are left battered and bruised, the 2010 “Domestic Violence: The Male Perspective” report released by campaign group Parity claimed that assaults on men by wives and girlfriends are often ignored by the media. According to The Guardian, an online British site, the findings of the report showed that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-2005 and 2008-2009. Between 2008 and 2009, about 16% of men had experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16, which is equivalent to 2.6 million individuals.
"Domestic violence is often seen as a female victim/male perpetrator problem, but the evidence demonstrates that this is a false picture,” the report said.
The 2018 ONS/Crime Survey, for its part, reported that men suffer from different kinds of abuse, which includes non-physical, financial, or emotional (57%), force (45.7%), threats (28.7%), stalking (18.1%), indecent exposure (2.4%), and sexual (0.5%). "Culturally it's difficult for men to bring these incidents to the attention of the authorities. Men are reluctant to say that they've been abused by women because it's seen as unmanly and weak,” the Parity report added.
Why Men Are Afraid to Come Forward
Just like women, men who suffer abuse from their partners are afraid to come forward. A report in the journal BMJ Open revealed that masculinity is a great factor in why men do not come out to report abuse. Society has always expected them to be the tough ones, and telling their story of abuse and trauma to the authorities is considered a weak move for them. Researcher Alyson Huntley from the University of Bristol stated that this is a hard stereotype to work against.
According to Reuters, an online site that brings you the latest news from around the world, covering breaking news in markets, business, politics, entertainment, technology, video, and more, men often stayed in abusive relationships because they felt committed to or concerned about their partners. There’s also a chance that they were unaware that services for their predicament existed and they were too depressed, despondent, or traumatized to gather the strength to leave.
Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative, a British charity for male victims of domestic abuse, stated that men often ask for validation if they are indeed a victim of domestic violence. “Women are very much taught that domestic abuse is something that happens to women and therefore they need to be on their guard…men aren’t really taught or brought up in the same way,” he said.
Abuse of men happens far more often than you might expect, and sometimes, we turn a blind eye just because it is somewhat unthinkable for men to get abused by women. Sarah Wallace, a senior research fellow at the University of South Wales, stated that there’s a need to focus on helping understand and recognize abusive behaviors and the seriousness of the abuse. It’s time that we also encouraged men to share their stories and inspire other victims to do the same.