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“Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them, I, Johnny Depp, I’m a victim of domestic abuse ... and see how many people believe or side with you.”—Amber Heard
“Yes. I am.”—Johnny Depp
That exchange comes from the sensational Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard multi-million dollar defamation trial and believe it or not, yes, even here in Seacoast, New Hampshire, we should care.
This trial is not just about two Hollywood actors and the seedy realities of their lives. If it were, I think many of us would be tempted to just say, “Okay, millionaires, go back to your mansions and multiple penthouses and put your incredibly toxic relationship behind you.” And, then, happily go back to our comparatively mundane lives.
But, this is about something much more significant, as highlighted by a recent Vogue piece, authored by Raven Smith and entitled, “Why it is Time to Believe Amber Heard.”
Vogue and its parent company, Conde Nast, have a global readership that reaches nearly a half billion people. That is influential. Vogue just ultimately told us, only a woman can be a victim of domestic violence and be believed. That is a dangerous and irresponsible assertion, and it is also very wrong.
Mr. Smith writes, “I can no longer 'both sides’ this. It’s time to draw a line. It’s time to believe women—all women. It’s time to believe Heard.” Why? Because she’s a woman? Johnny Depp stated he is a victim of domestic violence. Am I not to believe him, just because he’s a man? That is the only conclusion one can make from this author’s declaration. If I am always to believe a woman, and the woman denies abusing a man, am I automatically to believe he is lying and is not a victim? That’s what he’s telling me to do in the case of Johnny Depp and therefore, in the case of all claims of domestic abuse by a male victim. What an unjust system and concept.
In this entire piece, the author gives not one other reason to believe Heard, other than the fact she’s a woman. I have actually watched quite a bit of the civil trial—a luxury of working from home. I not only don’t automatically believe everything she says, I don’t think I would believe it if she told me the sky is blue. Regardless of my opinion in this specific case, the sweeping idea that a woman is always telling the truth, means a man is always lying and dismisses the fact that men can not only be wrongly accused, they can also be victims. It is ignorant of reality and perpetuates a stigma that prevents male victims from coming forward, and/or leaving a dangerous situation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in seven adult men has been the “victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his lifetime.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline website, devotes a lot of focus on male victims of domestic abuse, acknowledging men are unlikely to report their abuse for many reasons including: Men are socialized not to express their feelings or see themselves as victims; Pervading beliefs or stereotypes about men being abusers, women being victims; The abuse of men is often treated as less serious, or a “joke”; Many believe there are no resources or support available for male victims.
The Vogue piece and the thousands sharing it on social media and agreeing with it, are validating every reason a man doesn’t come forward when he is abused, and reminding him not to.
Mr. Smith references of Amber Heard, “Her truth” when “THE truth” is all that should matter. He notes of the trial and public opinion of it, “I don’t want to think about what this is saying to victims of abuse who are considering coming forward.” That’s exactly my sentiment in response to the “always believe the woman” pronouncement.
When Amber Heard, on record, mockingly dared Johnny Depp to out himself as a domestic violence victim, she did so because she is well aware of the broad mentality shared by Mr. Smith and much of the world; and the stigma associated with male victims that prevent them—including Johnny Depp—from coming forward. She didn’t count on his willingness to share “his truth.”
I don’t know what will happen in this highly sensational trial, the monetary result of which won’t effect any of us. What will potentially effect society, however, is what we take away from it, beyond the insight into the uncomfortable underbelly of Hollywood. Whether you believe Johnny Depp, or believe Amber Heard, this should open the discussion that we accept men can be victims too; that we acknowledge men are not always the aggressor; that while we champion the courage of a woman who is a victim to come forward, we must do the same if it is a man. In today’s climate, and in the wake of the Vogue piece, I’d say for a man, if this concept perpetuates, it may even take more courage to do so. This trial, and Mr. Smith’s writing, proves why.
National Domestic Abuse Hotline and Resources: https://www.thehotline.org or 1-800-799-SAFE.
Alicia Preston Xanthopoulos is a former political consultant and member of the media. She’s a native of Hampton Beach where she lives with her family and three poodles. Write to her at PrestonPerspective@gmail.com.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Preston Xanthopoulos: Heard-Depp trial bigger than Hollywood couple