I was just compared to Amber Heard by my ex and I have a few things to say about it.
Years ago, this kind of comparison would have cut deep. Today, I ignore it as another ridiculous and senseless attempt to not only hurt and put me down, but also to justify my ex’s behavior towards me.
You see, he found a piece of creative non-fiction online in which I described him and he felt violated. This is why he chose to make this comparison.
But the way he took that piece of writing and used it to demonstrate a point – more importantly, the same point he’s wanted to make for many years now, even long after I stopped thinking or caring about the relationship – is telling. Essentially, following popular public opinion that Johnny has “the right” and Amber has “the wrong”, that he was innocent of abuse all along.
This tells me something about the culture of violence on a larger scale and where this case may lead society as a whole. And it’s potentially worrying to consider what previous abusers might learn from this court case, even if his own theories have no basis to rely on.
Here are four places where his theory breaks down:
1. Amber’s public op-ed was somewhat different in nature from my barely viewed personal essay.
When Amber heard published his editorial in The Washington Post, it was meant for many eyes. Although she didn’t name Johnny Depp, she was clearly referring to him when talking about the abuse she suffered between specific dates.
Amber’s story was all about going public and creating waves.
My essay, on the other hand, was posted where no one who knew me or my ex would be likely to see it. I had a tiny audience myself. I didn’t name him either. Therefore, no one could go looking for him to find him, even if it was easy to do.
The goal was not to create noise and a sense of victimization, like Amber, but to write creative non-fiction from a personal perspective.
My ex’s argument was that I left out important details that would have given him more credibility.
This argument would carry some weight if I were pleading a case. I was not. I was writing a piece of creative non-fiction from a personal perspective.
In creative nonfiction, we have to be selective about what we include and omit, and we choose the angle from which we approach the narrative. It’s creative and a full story isn’t always necessary. In this case, the focus was solely on the experience of a person who slipped almost seamlessly into an abusive relationship. Not about the thousands of events that turned it into the ugly mess it later became.
2. My ex compares himself to Johnny Depp and pretends to be a victim.
As we all know, the trial revealed some horrible things between Heard and Depp. They were described by the couple’s clinical psychologist and former marriage counselor, Laurel Anderson, as “mutually abusive”.
It’s no secret that abusive and toxic relationships that spiral out of control usually involve both parties running amok and becoming abusive in some way. And, while I’m not proud of having misbehaved at times during our fiery relationship, I confess that I behaved intentionally mean to him to feel avenging satisfaction.
However, what was revealed during the Depp v. Heard trial was that, of the two, still according to Dr. Anderson, It was Ms. Heard who initiated violent interactions to prevent Depp from leaving. This is a classic trait of the manipulator and the aggressor.
And this is where the perception of my ex breaks down. If there was ever anyone who wanted to get away and have some peace, some fresh air or anything outside of the relationship, it was me. And, each time, he prevented it or tried to do it. If he let me go, he would phone me repeatedly until I picked up and agreed to come back to talk.
During those times when he was stopping me from going anywhere, he was doing things like physically standing in my way while calling me horrible names, telling me what a despicable person I am, listing all my crimes and refusing to arrest me. Meanwhile, I would be trapped, forced to listen to this.
I never initiated a single violent interaction, and I never acted violently towards him. On one of those horrible mockery occasions, as he stood on lower steps of the stairs, I was holding a glass of water and wanted to do nothing more than smash it over his head. . However, having some control over myself, I refrained from doing so and simply dumped the contents on his head.
It was the height of my violence. He can’t say the same thing.
3. I requested legal intervention, just like Amber did.
In his mind, my request for police protectionand an order from the Children’s Residence Court was only intended to affect him, belittle and humiliate him. He saw it the same way Amber Heard was pictured getting a protective order.
Whatever Amber’s reasons, I’d say she was probably justified in seeking legal protection; given that it is known that Johnny was not always in control of his reactions, was often under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and had acted violently, at least in her presence, if not towards her, there was a threat.
As women who may be smaller and physically weaker than our male partners, we have the right to choose to seek protection. Nobody has the right to tell us that we don’t have the right to do so.
In my case, that also included my freedom as the mother of my ex’s child.
He thinks it was purely a manipulative move on my part and had no real validity.
He doesn’t think I needed to get a child residence order, which gave me more decision-making power, because he thinks he’s not in control. Unless he sees the need to control, of course. Like the time he saw the need to install spyware on my computer so he could always monitor me, get my passwords and read private emails.
He doesn’t think I needed to get legal protection from him to try to stop me from taking my son out of the country for a two week vacation. Maybe not, but why should I take the risk?
After all, if he found a possible reason why he should do it, then he would. It’s who he is.
And he didn’t think I needed to disable his right to prevent me from moving to another part of the country, whether it was for work, a new relationship, or anything. Maybe not.
However, since there was enough reasonable evidence that he took pleasure in blocking my way when I had good opportunities to earn money or do something for me, I requested this order. Since there was enough evidence that he intended to go completely ballistic if I found a new relationship, I left nothing to chance.
Why wouldn’t he try to stop me from living a life free of him?
If he had a good reason to arrest me, he would. What I know.
Because he needs control.
And people like him will always find a “good” reason. Just as they will always find a reason to blame the behavior of others for their own despicable actions.
4. Johnny Depp is an artist and so is he.
And then I heard it all…
“He’s an artist and artists are expressive.”
“He was under immense emotional pressure.”
“Everyone does drugs in Hollywood. He wasn’t doing anything that no other actor would do.”
He was apologizing to Johnny Depp for his violent acts for the same reasons he had apologized years ago.
Passionate people behave passionately…even when triggered.
We don’t know the full story behind Depp and Heard and we probably never will. But, we can see what counts as toxic behavior. And we can see what counts as abusive.
A man who uses his physical strength to intimidate a woman is behaving abusively. Period.
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Whether or not Johnny Depp is a “bad” person, he’s acted like a real asshole at times. His text messages spewed toxicity. Her drinking, drug use, and destruction of furniture were NOT acceptable, no matter how toxic, underhanded, or abusive Amber Heard’s own actions were.
As Laurel Anderson said, they were “mutually abusive.”
Does this case send subliminal messages that validate violent men?
The only reason my ex found my story is because he recently went through all of my content online. This story was written a while ago and it should have sifted through hundreds of stories before it came to this.
Some people call it bullying.
But the question that comes to mind is this:
Do all the previously abusive and violent men who failed – whose partners finally managed to walk away from them with a semblance of self-respect and a certain freedom – use the example of Depp as a reason to excuse their own behavior?
Are they all watching the trial and following the popular view that Johnny Depp is the “innocent” party while simultaneously comparing their ex-partners to Amber Heard as the “aggressor”?
Because if that’s what will come out of this trial, we have a big problem on our hands.
As my ex said, looking at me with a knowing smile:
“We’ve all broken furniture in our time.”
At that moment, I looked at him and said:
“You have. But some of us didn’t.
Sally Prag is a full-time writer, mother of three, and coach. Learn more about his work on Medium.
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If you are a victim of domestic violence, you are not alone. National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that approximately 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or harassment by an intimate partner in the United States More than 12 million women and men during the year suffer from incidents of domestic violence and ‘abuse.