We Need To Talk About How Social Media Is Reacting To Amber Heard’s Allegations

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The divorce of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp has become troubling, with Heard accusing Depp of abusing her on at least two occasions. “During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me,” Heard states in court documents. A judge temporarily granted Heard’s request for a domestic violence restraining order against Depp after the actress showed up in court wearing her evidence: a black eye. She said in a sworn declaration that Depp threw her cell phone at her, hitting her cheek and eye, during a fight on Saturday, May 21. She also alleged that the actor pulled her hair, hit her repeatedly, and grabbed her face. Police were unable to verify the claim, saying that after being called to the couple's home on May 21, Heard did not "insist" on a police report and that no evidence of a crime was seen.
Heard's temporary restraining order against her estranged husband stands until the next hearing, on June 17. Heard appeared in court on Friday, May 27, and along with her lawyer, submitted photos showing bruises as evidence that Depp abused her repeatedly throughout their marriage, Variety reports. She also requested the restraining order be extended to her dog, Pistol, but that request was denied.
Eyewitness testimony by neighbor and friend iO Tillett Wright, an author, artist, and the co-host of MTV's Suspect, confirms that Heard regularly spoke about Depp's alleged abuse. "Many times over the past few years, Amber has confided and complained to me about Johnny's abusing her, both physically and verbally," Tillet Wright said in court documents.
Reactions to her allegations on social media have been unsettling.
Johnny Depp is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and is very, very famous. People love him and the characters he's portrayed, from his iconic roles in Edward Scissorhands to Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Film buffs appreciate his work in films like Blow and Ed Wood. He has been nominated for an Oscar three times, was the winner of the Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy once and nominated multiple times, and has won 13 People's Choice Awards.
Perhaps because of that success and goodwill, many have decided to victim blame Heard. Depp has led a relatively private life for the past 15 years, but he has had his share of bad behavior in the past. In 1994, he was arrested on charges of criminal mischief after trashing his $l,200-a-night room at New York City's Mark Hotel while allegedly fighting with then-girlfriend Kate Moss. A week before that, he reportedly got in a bar fight in London, when photographer Jonathan Walpole mistakenly picked up Depp's glass from the bar. "He pulled both my ears very hard," Walpole told London's Evening Standard (via People), adding that "some ape" who was with Depp "leaped on my back, put his arm round my neck, and tried to force my head to the floor."
At the time, his friends characterized these incidents as "just Johnny being Johnny" to People, likening it to the sort of outbursts they have come to expect on occasion from an actor who can be as otherworldly as the character he played in Scissorhands. "I think Johnny obviously has a temper, but this [hotel room fight] is a very minor incident," director John Waters, who worked with Depp on the film Cry-baby, said at the time.
All that good will for Depp has generated some absolutely hate-filled Tweets aimed at discrediting Heard. In the wake of the revelations, dueling trending topics have emerged for #ImWithAmber and #ImWithJohnny.
Thankfully, the internet was having none of that. The hashtags #wearewithyouamberheard and #imwithamber started trending Saturday morning, with some points worth taking notice of; specifically that when our first reaction is to defend the alleged abuser and attack the victim, we are sending a terrible message to not only the victim, but to other victims of domestic violence, as well.
The psychology of an abusive relationship is complex. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence psychological terrorism can keep victims from leaving. Tactics include withholding food, water, or medicine; sleep deprivation; total isolation; extortion or blackmail; murder of pets; physical violence; and rape. In a high-profile case such as this, it's hard to watch as the world takes sides. As Leslie Morgan-Steiner, domestic abuse survivor and activist, points out in her lauded Ted Talk, "One in three American women experiences domestic violence or stalking at some point in her life, and the CDC reports that 15 million children are abused every year, 15 million."
Steiner ended her Ted Talk on a note that feels appropriate here, saying, "Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end domestic violence simply by shining a spotlight on it. We victims need everyone. We need every one of you to understand the secrets of domestic violence. Show abuse the light of day by talking about it with your children, your coworkers, your friends, and family. Recast survivors as wonderful, lovable people with full futures. Recognize the early signs of violence and conscientiously intervene, de-escalate it, show victims a safe way out."
If you or anyone you know have been the target of domestic abuse, report it by calling 911 or, for confidential help, you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

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