From Fox5

Johnny Depp Reveals Abuser Red Flags in Trial

Without making any judgement on if Amber Heard was also abusive to Johnny Depp (which is possible), it looks to me like Johnny Depp was abusing Amber Heard.

It’s actually kind of interesting how people seem very inclined to take sides on this; that they assume if Heard was abusing Depp, then it’s not possible that he was also abusing her. Actually, it’s very common for people to abuse each other, with the type of abuse escalating as each person uses the other’s abusive behavior to justify upping the ante. It’s likely that we underestimate how many men are abused by women, and that’s something that should absolutely be corrected. However, it’s also important to remember it is far more common for a man to commit serious domestic violence, including murder, against his female partner than it is for a woman to retaliate against a male partner.

Most especially, men tend not to get murdered after leaving a relationship. Women do. In fact, it is more common for women to get killed after leaving the relationship than while still in it; 75% of women who are murdered by a partner are done so after they left.

While it’s more rare, sometimes women do kill their partners, but it often appears to be a type of self defense against an abusive partner. In fact, the existence of battered women’s shelters has substantially reduced the number of male deaths from partner violence, because abused women are now more likely to go to a shelter than kill their partner. All of which is to say; women in a domestic violence situation are more likely to be penalized for leaving the relationship than men are.

So, what this means is, in a mutually abusive situation, Heard was more likely to experience retribution for leaving than Depp was. (If you’re wondering what “retribution for leaving” might look like in a celebrity couple, you can consider the case of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian where West is using all of his power and prestige as a male celebrity to make Kardashian’s life miserable.)

I expect that, compared to Depp, Heard probably felt more “trapped” in the relationship. Not that this justifies abuse, of course, but it’s important to point out an inherent asymmetry in heterosexual relationships in our culture that can color how abuse plays out. Simply stated, Heard probably waited too long to leave and her abuse could likely be explained through that context. Again, not justifying it (she apparently she hit him, and threw objects at him) but I can see that being part of why it happened.

Depp’s abuse, on the other hand, seems to stem from other issues; notably, I don’t think he was afraid to leave. I think he was struggling from a drug addiction and his mental health was poor enough that he didn’t have a full understanding of the situation. Now, a lot of people have a fair amount of sympathy for Depp because he was struggling with addiction, and that’s fair; I absolutely believe we should have empathy for people with addiction issues.

However, it does not erase the fact that addiction is correlated with severe domestic violence. I want to be very clear here; addiction does not cause domestic violence, and it is possible to be a non-violent addict. However, addiction can cause an escalation of existing domestic violence. Here’s a quick quote from the Addiction center on the topic:

Addiction and substance abuse is linked to domestic violence in a strong way. When someone is inebriated from drugs or alcohol, they are likely to lose control of their inhibitions. Being under the influence of any substance greatly increases the chances of abusive behavior.

Addiction Center Article on Domestic Abuse

All of which is to say, if Depp had tendencies towards domestic violence, they were likely to be far more severe and extreme if he was also struggling with addiction. And, he was struggling with addiction; he admitted it.

Which brings us to the next question; did Depp have motivation to abuse Heard?

Depp has also admitted to being jealous when Heard was making movies. Here are a few quotes on the topic:

“I become irrational when you’re doing movies, I become jealous and f**king crazy, and weird…and we fight a lot more,” Depp could be heard saying on the audiotape.

WGTC Article

The jury saw photos of mirrors and a lampshade that displayed words written on them in blood from Depp’s severed finger, which he also mixed with paint; one mirror’s caption read “Starring Billy Bob and Easy Amber,” a reference to actor Billy Bob Thornton, with whom Heard had just starred in a film.

Washington Post Article

So — in particular, it seems to me that Depp became jealous when Heard was off doing movies. Which, to be fair, I can actually kind of understand. Heard was an extremely beautiful women making movies with very conventionally attractive men; I would have struggled with jealous feeling in that situation myself. I also think, it’s fairly common for actors to fall in love (and, even cheat on their partners) with their on-screen romance partner.

All of which is to say, it was actually a very reasonable for Depp to have some jealousy. Unfortunately, sexual jealousy is the number one emotional motive for domestic violence. I talked about this more in depth in my previous blog post How to Stop Your Husband from Killing You, but suffice it to say, this kind of jealousy, mixed with aggressive behavior (for example, writing “Starring Billy Bob and Easy Amber” in his blood,) and combined with a drug addiction I think, makes it very likely that he did commit serious abuse against Heard.

Something I think we struggle with a society, is that men who are otherwise good people can abuse their partners. In particular, the extreme jealousy some men feel in their romantic partnerships drives them to behaviors they would not commit in other situations where that jealousy was absent. Now, some people will call me an “abuse apologist” for saying that, but what happens if you don’t admit this, is you set the stage for victim blaming.

Right now, what we’re starting to see, is that people who like Depp can’t square the idea that he could be an overall good person who was terrible to his partner. So, they are effectively blaming Heard for the situation. They’re saying she manipulated him, drove him to extreme behavior when he was weakened from dealing with addiction, etc. I just think, the far more likely situation is, he began behaving irrationally out of jealousy (he himself admitted to being “irrationally jealous”) possibly fueled further by addiction issues, then she escalated her behavior in frustration and response to his behavior, and they got in a viscous cycle.

But, it doesn’t mean either of them are terrible. What it means, is they were caught in a very particular situation that society doesn’t offer very good support for. In particular, we do not offer good support for men dealing with romantic jealousy. Part of the reason we don’t, is that the corporate/material world seeks to trap men into sacrificing their freedom for career by tying their societal worth to the attractiveness of the women they can date. The same forces that drive this extreme jealousy also drive men to work 80 hour weeks looking for enough “success” that they can get a bombshell wife.

And, Depp had all that! He had a successful career, he had the bombshell wife — but he risked losing it all every time she had to flirt with another dude on camera for her job.

If we really gave men the tools to break free from their sexual jealousy, we would also be providing them the tools to break free from their corporate overlords. We would also be providing them the tools to break out of capitalism. It is instead much more conducive to perpetuating capitalist norms to scapegoat them, to paint them as “evil anomalies” and cut them loose.

But, too many people are dying. Too many women are being abused and blamed for it, too many kids are grabbing guns to shoot up schools. So, I really think, a larger societal shift is needed where we start to teach people — especially men — how to handle their difficult emotions like jealousy rather than using them to try to trap people into performing their societally sanctioned role. This will, of course, lead a different looking world moving forward, a world where men are not judged based on their success, or what type of person they are dating. But, I think, the alternative just really isn’t working at this point.



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