News, Opinion

Will The Amber Heard Case Be A Turning Point For Male Victims Of Domestic Abuse?

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By Ben Thompson


When actress Amber Heard accused her then-husband Johnny Depp of domestic abuse in 2016, the public showed him little sympathy. As further allegations emerged against him, painting him as a controlling, violent alcoholic, his reputation took a nose-dive. Few would disagree that his career hasn’t been the same since, despite him continuing to land work.

However, recent developments have made many re-evaluate their opinion on the situation – and the role gender plays in domestic abuse narrative.

In the aftermath of their 2016 divorce, the couple released a statement that suggested they were on amicable terms, despite the turbulent nature of their relationship:

“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. There was never an intent of physical or emotional harm. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains.”

For a while, the public heard little more of the Depp-Heard situation. The decision to hire Depp to appear in J.K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts films sparked massive backlash, but in the era of #MeToo, this was to be expected.

Recently, however, the case has been pushed back into the limelight after it was reported that Depp had filed a lawsuit against his ex-wife. The $50 million suit is in response to an article Heard penned for The Washington Post in 2018, which makes reference to the 2016 abuse allegations.

The law-suit, available for online viewing, is critical of Heard’s version of events:

‘Mr. Depp never abused Ms. Heard. Her allegations against him were false when they were made in 2016. They were part of a elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career […] With a prior arrest for violent domestic abuse and having confessed under oath to a series of violent attacks on Mr. Depp, Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse; she is a perpetrator.’

It is true that Heard was previously arrested for domestic abuse in 2009. This was after she reportedly struck her then-girlfriend Tasya van Ree in an airport, following an argument. However, Ree asserts that the story was ‘mis-interpreted and over-sensationalised’.

These recent developments leave many in a difficult position.

In a era in which we frequently repeat the mantra ‘believe women’, does this mean that we dismiss men who accuse women of domestic abuse? Is this further complicated when both parties are accusing each other of misconduct?

More details are likely to emerge and shed more light on what really happened in the Depp-Heard household. One thing is for certain, though – society has come a long way in re-evaluating it’s attitude to domestic abuse, especially when men are the victim.

One third of domestic abuse victims are men, a figure that is probably higher that most people would expect, but because of the lack of awareness, the help that’s given to female victims often isn’t available for men.

ManKind, a charity dedicated to helping male victims of domestic abuse, reported that whilst one in six men will experience abuse, only one in twenty will seek help.

The shame associated with the abuse runs deep, and is representative of men’s fear at appearing vulnerable or weak. Looking at testimonies posted online, however, illustrates that their experiences are not to be dismissed:

‘Wife became very angry and she attacked me with a set of Porsche Keys – maybe three inches long. she stabbed me thirteen times. As I was trying to leave, she took our daughter and tried to throw her down the steps.’

‘I have been verbally and psychologically battered and abused, I’ve been threatened with bodily harm, I’ve been threatened to be shot right between the eyes, I’ve been kicked in the groin, I’ve had to watch while my ex sexually molested my daughter and not dare interfere for fear of retaliation.’

If there’s any silver lining to come out of the Depp-Heard debacle, then maybe it’s that it’s shown how far attitudes towards male victims have come. Depp has certainly received a good deal of public sympathy.

Depp and Heard’s situation seems complicated, however, and in time, we’ll likely learn more of what went down in their short-lived and toxic relationship. In the meantime, it seems best to reserve judgement until we have clarification of the facts.

About the author / 

Ben Thompson

Modern History student. Mostly writes about politics and social issues.

10 Comments

  1. Leanna 8th April 2019 at 12:14 am -  Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful post

  2. Monica Frate 21st October 2019 at 11:59 pm -  Reply

    There’s a ton of information being revealed about Amber. She admitted to being abusive towards him during their divorce proceedings and then she left court and started lying and denying the truth.

  3. Melissa van der Vegt 22nd October 2019 at 12:13 am -  Reply

    Finally a thoughtful article on the subject. From what I’ve read about domestic violence men get abused at the same rate as women. They just don’t report it. If they do, they’re more likely to get arrested than their perpetrator. It is time to start a new hastag #mentoo.

  4. Mitty 22nd October 2019 at 1:53 pm -  Reply

    Finally light is being shed on this. I look forward to the day Depp is completely vindicated.

  5. Silke 22nd October 2019 at 2:06 pm -  Reply

    Thank you! The truth needs to be said – and written.

  6. Leslie 22nd October 2019 at 8:37 pm -  Reply

    Insightful and well-researched journalism! I’m impressed! Watch YouTube’s from That Brian Fella for more info! —former Journalism Professor

  7. Deyan 23rd October 2019 at 12:24 am -  Reply

    Why hadn’t I seen this article before? Very good, quite objective. There is much to change even in our society to achieve a fair and equitable treatment for all, hopefully this case represents a big step in that direction

  8. Dasha Kozyreva 24th October 2019 at 2:12 pm -  Reply

    Thanks for this article! It is very nice to see adequate and objective material, which does not consist of empty cries and loud statements.

  9. Ben Pedler 7th July 2020 at 6:53 am -  Reply

    I’m a male survivor of domestic abuse. My ex wife attacked me physically and psychologically over a period of ten years. I’m also a brother to five sisters and now the partner of a rape survivor. Women must be believed because women are at greater risk. I don’t think violence is the preserve of men, I think no h men and women have equal propensity to violence regardless of their gender. But it can’t be denied that me are usually physically stronger and capable of doing more damage, so women are at greater risk. It seems entirely feasible to me that either one of the partners in this story could be the perpetrator, or even both. But it’s not reasonable in my view and in my experience to assume guilt on the basis of (male) gender.

  10. Elizabeth 19th May 2022 at 4:18 am -  Reply

    I am a woman who has experienced abuse from other women, mainly within my family. That would be emotional abuse, sexual harassment, starting when I was very young from my older sister, who ruined my life for years by spreading rumours and lies about me. My mother was abusive through neglect, and sarcasm, and setting me up for punishment from my father, who would administer beatings. My mother approved 100%.
    I’ve also experienced bullying and abuse from other women, and from men, but it’s remarkable how many women there have been.
    I fully sympathize with Depp, and understand the trap he was in. Amber is a screaming bully, and very manipulative, and I would say she’s an alcoholic; drinking since about age 14.

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