Over the past few weeks, the internet has been abuzz with speculation about the relationship between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. In a divorce filing, Heard accused Depp of physically abusing her over their four year relationship, and was granted a restraining order. In response, Depp’s attorney said that Heard’s claims were “financially motivated.” Depp’s ex-wife Vanessa Paradis and daughter Lily-Rose have spoken out on Depp’s behalf, claiming that he is a “sweet, loving man” and that he had never abused Paradis. For many people, this was all the evidence they needed: if Depp hadn’t abused his ex-wife or daughter, then he couldn’t have abused Heard.
The problem with this argument, however, is that it buys into a dangerous myth about domestic violence: that all abusers are monsters. In reality, abusers can be loving and kind towards some people in their lives and absolutely horrible to others. Just because someone never hit a former partner does not mean that they won’t be violent with someone else. Relationship dynamics are different for each couple; the person who is gentle with one romantic partner can be abusive with the next. The same is true for different types of relationships. A person can be abusive towards a child and kind to a romantic partner, or vice versa. We should never assume that because a person is not abusive to some people in his/her life, that means that he/she cannot be abusive towards anyone else.
Accepting this fact also means accepting that — like anyone else — abusers are multi-faceted. Abusers are not branded with a scarlet letter, letting us know that they hurt their loved ones. They are everyday people, and in many cases, we would never suspect that they were abusive towards anyone. We may see them as upstanding citizens, beloved actors, and caring pet owners. They can be great parents, dedicated volunteers, celebrated athletes, and hard-working employees. Abusers can be our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and parents. They can be wealthy or poor, gay or straight, male or female. Even someone that you have experienced as a really nice person can be abusive to someone else in their life. Acknowledging this helps us to not overlook abusive situations simply because we have had a different experience with that person.
When it comes to Johnny Depp, it may be true that he was loving and kind to his ex-wife and daughter. That does not mean that he did not abuse Amber Heard. Similarly, just because he is a beloved actor does not mean that he did not abuse Amber Heard. Let’s debunk these myths surrounding domestic violence — and instead focus on how we can support victims. Blackburn Center offers a variety of ways for you to get involved in our mission to end all forms of gender violence. Click below to learn more about how you can be part of the solution!