As Someone Who Grew Up With Domestic Violence, I Believe Amber Heard

May 30, 2016

A smiling face can hide a world of hurt.

When Johnny Depp’s ex partner Amber Heard filed for divorce this week, everyone was quick to hypothesize as to what lead to the short-lived marriage’s downfall. Was Heard a gold digger? Depp, another Hollywood serial monogamist? Was there an affair involved?

Then Heard posted a picture of her bruised face on Instagram. A restraining order was filed. Reports streamed in that the 30 year-old actor had been “violently attacked” by Depp in their penthouse apartment.

According to a statement from Heard filed on Friday in support of the restraining order, Depp “began obsessing over something that wasn’t true” and “became extremely angry”, smashing an iPhone into her face “with extreme force”.

Heard’s bruised face after Depp’s alleged iPhone attack.

In legal documents obtained by TMZ, Heard claims there were at least two other incidents of domestic violence by Depp in the past six months, including one that took place during her birthday party last month, at which Depp showed up “inebriated and high”, later allegedly throwing a wine glass at her.

The actor says she “lived in fear” of Depp and the idea he could return to the apartment they shared to “terrorize me physically and emotionally”.

Despite the compelling evidence stacking up against Depp, and his well-known history of drug and alcohol abuse, celebrity gossip site TMZ posted a story questioning Heard’s authenticity immediately after the fallout, writing, ‘Sources connected to Johnny are calling BS, saying Amber “is an affront to real victims of domestic violence.”…It’s interesting, she’s asking for a temporary restraining order claiming there’s an immediate threat of harm, but Depp has been out of town since Wednesday promoting his new movie.’

The article was quickly followed up by a distasteful piece on the Daily Mail, titled Amber Heard is pictured smiling hours after Depp’s ‘iPhone attack’.

Here’s the thing; domestic violence victims are some of the happiest, most outgoing, seemingly carefree people you’ll ever meet. They make an art out of living a lie. I know, because I’ve been where Heard was.

Keeping up appearances: Heard and Depp at a red carpet event.
Keeping up appearances: Heard and Depp at a red carpet event.

If you had of asked anyone what they thought of my life when I was a kid, they would’ve told you I had it all: a happy family, a huge house with a pool and tennis court, and doting parents who bought me anything I wanted and drove me all over the state to attend a multitude of extracurricular tournaments.

But the truth was my childhood was anything but happy, or normal.

Behind the walls of our perfect family home, my doting father was regularly violent; a consequence of severe bipolar disorder left untreated for years. When he slipped into a rage, everyone was fair game. Coming home after school was like boarding a frightening rollercoaster; we never knew which side of his disorder would greet us when he opened the door.

Despite this, we all went to great lengths to project an image of perfection to our friends, neighbors and extended family; even when it meant constructing elaborate excuses. The holes studded throughout our house from his angry fists? Those were the beginnings of renovations. The sling on my arm at school? I hurt myself playing with my siblings. The flinching every time someone came near me? I was just a naturally jumpy person.

And so, when the police were finally called in, people who knew us were startled. How could this perfect family home conceal so much toxicity?

I was the life of the party in highschool, no one guessed what was going on at home.

Untreated mental illness can be devastating to those who suffer it, but it can also be equally as devastating to those closest to them, especially when you add drugs and alcohol into the mix.

Like my father, Depp has a well-established history of mental illness, including anxiety disorder and self-harming. In an interview with Talk magazine the Pirates Of The Caribbean star opened up about his the self-inflicted scars on his face and body, “It was really just whatever [when I hurt myself] – good times, bad times, it didn’t matter. There was no ceremony. It wasn’t like ‘Okay, this just happened, I have to go hack a piece of my flesh off.'”

While both these mental health issues can be well-managed through appropriate treatment, neglecting to seek help – be it through medication, therapy or lifestyle changes – can have disastrous consequences. Add to that Depp’s known partying lifestyle and you have a recipe for dysfunctional intimate relationships.

While we’ll never know with certainty the inner workings of Depp’s marriage with Heard, one thing we do know for sure is this; domestic violence victims stories shouldn’t be trivialized and ignored. Like everyone else, Heard has a right to be heard. A smiling face and seemingly happy life aren’t reason to judge the authenticity of her story, I should know.

Comment: Do you think Amber Heard has been unfairly treated by the media?



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