I’m not going to lambast Johnny Depp here. I don’t know what went on his marriage. I wrote here how important it is that women who come forward about domestic abuse are believed is.
I’ll say I believe her, and I’ll leave it there.
The thing that’s unsettled me most about the Depp scenario though as a survivor of domestic abuse is twofold. Firstly the horrific manner in which Amber Heard has been treated has triggered a hell of a lot of anxiety for me.
“she must have deserved it”
“those bruises are clearly fake”
“she can’t have been abused, there’s a pic of her smiling the next day ”
All the vileness and disbelief thrown her way took me back to a dark place, brought back feelings of absolute despair and frustration because I’ve been that woman.
It’s a massive thing to finally admit you’ve been abused. It’s the only crime you will speak out about and be told as the victim to prove it.
The other thing that’s really gotten to me about the whole thing is the number of colleagues and friends coming forward to assert ‘he’d never do this. He’s a nice guy’
Abusive men are usually nice guys. To their friends to their families. To your friends to your families, to you in the beginning.
These men are charmers, sweet talkers, they’re so genuine and caring and loving.
The insidious nature of domestic abuse is what makes it so dangerous and so frightening.
When the ‘nice guy’ asks you to stay in with him rather than go out with your friends, you find it flattering.
When the ‘nice guy’ tells you, you don’t need to wear make up, why don’t you take it off before you leave the house, you’re quite charmed.
When the ‘nice guy’ confides in you that your friends are no good, they all secretly laugh at you and hate you. Tells you that there’s only him who really cares you believe it.
When the ‘nice guy’ kicks you in the face for speaking out of turn he’ll apologise and cry and tell you it’s only because he loves you so much and it wouldn’t have happened at all if you’d just kept quiet. You’re worn down by then, you’re ashamed so you believe him.
When the ‘nice guy’ screams in your face that you can never leave as you can’t cope without him. That no one else will ever want such an ugly, stupid mess. You believe it wholeheartedly.
Then if you’re one of the lucky ones. If you get to leave, if you run away and escape from that torture that was your life. The charm offensive intensifies, towards you at first. Grand gestures, tears, flowers, on his knees begging you to come back. He must note a change though, a look in your eye, a change in your stance, a different tone of voice. He realises his power is waning and has to turn his charm elsewhere.
He’s good at that.
The ‘good guy’ will tell your friends and family he’s concerned about your mental health.
He’s likely put years of background into this to make sure they’ll believe he cares.
The ‘good guy’ will use tears to anyone with authority. The police, the social worker, the court. He’ll break down into heartbroken sobs that his children have been taken away.
He’s a charmer, some people will believe him.
The ‘good guy’ will have told HIS friends and family lies about why you’ve left. They’ll aid his abuse by calling you a liar.
The ‘good guy’ will contact the children, with tales of how he misses them, how mummy has taken them away and he can’t eat or sleep without them. The beginning of emotional abuse of them right there.
Unfortunately you can’t pick out the abusive man in a crowd.
You can’t say it can’t be true because they’ve always been nice to you, bloody hell abusing their partner is a full time, intensive job, done over months and years they simply don’t have the time to abuse everyone they know.
You can’t say you’ve never witnessed it so it can’t be true. These men aren’t stupid, every action they ever take is planned and thoughtfully carried out.
I know many really good men (well a couple at least) hell I’m trying to raise two. I’m not saying the good guy doesn’t exist. I’m just saying maybe we can be a bit gentler with the women speaking out, doing the bravest thing they’ve ever done.
Abusive men are charming and manipulative, they’re good at it. Maybe we can keep that in mind before we judge.
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