The chaos surrounding the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial is heartbreaking and alarming. Can you imagine the effects of someone’s personal life turning into a global media circus? However, the silver lining is that it brings the focus back on the often-ignored question – are men abused by women?
The Depp vs Heard trial
The ongoing $100 million defamation trial between actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard is getting ugly as new details are popping up every day. Depp decided to sue Heard after she published an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2018 claiming to be a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
Being widely covered in traditional and social media, the defamation case has brought back focus on the harsh reality of domestic violence, along with intimate partner abuse, mutual abuse, and reactive abuse. Both actors have claimed that the other was physically abusive with the other in the relationship. While the trial is yet to reach its conclusion, an audio clip presented in the court allegedly reveals that Depp was the victim of abuse and violence in the relationship.
Related reading: Reactive Abuse: They Call You Abusive for Reacting To Their Abuse
From love to abuse
Depp and Heard have been dating since 2012 and were married in 2015 in a private ceremony. However, Heard filed for divorce in 2016 accusing Depp of physical violence under the influence of substances. They got divorced in 2017 and Heard wrote The Washington Post op-ed in 2018, which brings us to the current Depp vs Heard trial.
Although Johnny Depp has been referred to as an abusive “monster” by Amber Heard’s lawyers, phone recordings released in 2020 reveal Heard claiming to have hit Depp. In the audio clip, Heard has allegedly said “I’m sorry that I didn’t hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you, it was not punching you… I did not punch you, I was hitting you.” She continued, “I can’t promise you I won’t get physical again. God, I f***ing sometimes get so mad I lose it.”
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Are men abused by women?
Depp recently said Heard was the actual abuser in the relationship and he was the victim as she has once used a vodka bottle to cut off his finger during an argument. However, the most alarming part of the audio clip is when Amber Heard allegedly said “Tell the world, Johnny, tell them – I, Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim, too, of domestic violence, and it’s a fair fight. – And see how many people believe or side with you.”
And this is what I have a problem with – no one believes that men can be abused by women. Whether Depp abused Heard or Heard abused Depp or both abused each other, that is for the court to decide. But the fact remains men can be victims too. It is time we ask ourselves as a society – are men abused by women too? And the answer is a resounding ‘YES’!
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The reality of male domestic violence
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30% of women worldwide experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. But what is the percentage of men abused by women?
According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010, 1 in 4 men are victims of some type of physical violence or abuse by an intimate partner. Here, violence refers to aggressive behaviors like pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting. The survey also observed that 1 in 7 men have experienced “severe physical violence” during their lifetime by an intimate partner. This involves strangling, burning, beating, etc.
One 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that although 76% of domestic violence victims are women, 24% of victims are men abused by women. In fact, 1 in 9 men are victims of serious intimate partner sexual abuse, physical abuse, and stalking. And this can lead to physical injury, mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) & anxiety, and the development of sexually transmitted diseases in men.
Related reading: Abuse Knows No Gender: Real Life Examples Of How Women Abuse Men
Another 2014 study found that 1.7% of men have been victims of rape during their lifetimes and among them 29% of men were raped by an intimate partner. Sadly, about 9.5% of men become victims of different types of sexual violence by an intimate partner. Around 14% of men abused by women also experienced extreme physical violence, like being intentionally burned, beaten, kicked or hit with hard objects during their lifetime. In fact, 2.5% of men were also stalked by an intimate partner, leading to stress and fearfulness.
Reports also suggest that around 49% of male victims of domestic violence or intimate partner abuse don’t report or inform anyone about their suffering nor do they seek any help. Moreover, 11% of men abused by women have had suicidal ideation due to intimate partner violence.
Male domestic abuse is NOT a myth
“Domestic violence act in India is for women only,” explains researchers of a 2019 study. Even in a third-world, a male-dominated country like India, domestic abuse against men is a reality. “Domestic violence against men in India is not recognized by the law as well,” state the researchers. However, an increasing number of men are being physically and psychologically abused by women. The study found that 51.5% of male victims of domestic abuse experience violence from their intimate partner or wives.
Related reading: Men can be abused too
Recent research even shows that a total of 97 German men were victims of attempted murder or completed murder by their ex-partners in 2018. “Most men in our own survey were married to the female perpetrators or had lived with the women for several years,” add the researchers. In fact, in the United States, around 5% of men abused by women are victims of homicide and are murdered by an intimate partner annually.
However, no one believes that men can be abused by women. Regardless of how much statistics are shoved into their faces, even today, most people believe that ‘real men’ don’t get abused by women. It is only men who are capable of abusing women. And perhaps this is the saddest aspect of the Depp vs Heard trial. The combined social belief that men are always the abuser and women are always the victim.
No, I am not marginalizing the suffering women go through at the hands of abusive men. That is a fact that no one can deny. But we should also stop denying the fact that men can be abused by aggressive women as well.
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Impact on male victims of domestic abuse
As per one 2020 study, male victims of female-perpetrated partner violence (PV) tend to experience higher levels of –
- General psychological distress
- Post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSD)
- Psychosomatic symptoms
- Cardiovascular disease
- Poor overall health
- Loneliness & isolation
- Job loss
- Suicidal ideation
“Although male victimization is not perceived by society to be as severe and as harmful as female victimization, research shows that PV (partner violence) against men is associated with a range of negative physical and mental health outcomes,” explains the researchers.
Men abused by women are also more likely to lose custody of children and also become victims of false accusations of child abuse as well. In fact, it has been found that abusive women often use false allegations of domestic violence or even simply the threat of making false allegations to “dominate their male partners.” Now I am not saying that is the case in the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial, but we cannot deny that it is a possibility.
Related reading: Domestic Violence Against Men And The Difficulty In Recognizing It
However, researchers have also observed that “women’s violence usually occurs in the context of violence against them by their male partners.” It was also found that men and women “perpetrate equivalent levels” of mental, emotional, and physical abuse. For men, physical violence occurs more due to control motives; while for women, physical abuse is typically a reaction driven by fear and self-defense.
Abuse against men is still abuse
Studies have found that domestic violence and sexual abuse experienced by male victims is a “steadily increasing phenomenon.” Unfortunately, we seldom talk about it. Granted, women face domestic violence a lot more than men do, but that does not mean men cannot be victims. “Men being battered or abused by wives is not a myth,” concludes a 2021 study. In fact, understanding the state of men abused by women is crucial for understanding abuse against women and the driving factors for breakups and divorces.
Regardless of the outcome of the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial, we need to keep talking and spreading awareness about domestic violence and abuse against both women and men. Abuse against anyone no matter what their gender, sexual preference, age or race is, should be condemned. And we should support male victims of domestic abuse as passionately as we support female victims. This is the only way we can build a stronger, healthier society.
Related reading: How Men Are Emotionally Abused In Relationships and Ways To Deal
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What are the four basic patterns of partner violence?
Typically, partner violence can be categorized into 4 common types – emotional or psychological violence, physical violence, sexual violence, and neglect.
What is the relationship between gender inequality and domestic violence?
Domestic violence is generally negatively associated with gender inequality. Societies with higher gender inequity typically witness higher levels of domestic violence.
What are the three R’s to avoid abuse?
The simplest and most effective way of protecting someone from domestic violence is following the three Rs – Recognize the warning signs, Respond by talking to the victim, and Refer the victim for help.