Depp vs. Heard and the Truth About Domestic Violence

“Tell the world, Johnny, tell them: ‘I, Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence,’ and see how many people believe or side with you.”

                              - Amber Heard

When she uttered those words in 2016, Amber Heard had every reason to believe them.  The campaign against domestic violence had been going on since 1971 when Erin Pizzey opened the first DV shelter in England.  Since then, an industry centered on domestic violence had flourished and promoted the radical feminist narrative that only men perpetrate DV and only women are its victims.  The facts about DV have always contradicted that narrative, but, year after year, the industry continued its promotion and the news media and politicians followed suit.  So naturally, after 45 years of misinformation about DV, Amber Heard spoke those words.  Who indeed would believe a man claiming to be a victim of his wife’s violence?

But, on June 1st, a jury in Virginia did exactly that.  The evidence before them would have surprised no one familiar with the facts of DV – that a wife could physically and emotionally abuse her husband and lie about it.  They ruled that her lies about Depp were uttered with actual malice, the most difficult thing to prove in all of civil law.  Legal experts agree that they got their verdict right: a woman lied about domestic violence; a woman abused a man.

In short, the verdict, in one of the most widely-publicized trials of recent times, overturns a key element of the popular narrative on domestic violence.  So the response by the press and DV activists is all too predictable; they’re desperate to get the world “back on message.”

To A. O. Scott, of the New York Times, the verdict reflects society-wide misogyny that kowtows to men and leaves abused women battered and alone.  If you’re radical feminist/serial liar/self-proclaimed man-hater, Julie Bindel, only female victims who “behave like a 1950s housewife” can get a fair shake in DV court.  To DV activists, the verdict “sends a chilling message to other victims” of DV.

Their remarks have but a single purpose - to reassert the false narrative.  Reading them, you’d never know that a jury of seven people listened to every minute of testimony and concluded that Heard lied repeatedly both in court and out and did so maliciously.  You’d never know their verdict was unanimous.  Nor would you know that Heard repeatedly attacked and abused Depp, a fact she openly admitted in recorded statements.  Nor would you know that Depp’s approach to her physical abuse was to walk away, i.e., to de-escalate, or that Heard repeatedly derided him as a “baby” for doing so.

The DV industry and the news media won’t, after decades of misrepresentation, admit the simple truth.  To do so would risk drastic reductions in funding to countless organizations that all along have taken mischaracterizations of DV straight to the bank.  Perhaps worse in their minds, the false narrative they’ve been peddling would blow away like a leaf in a hurricane.

The realities of DV have been well known to science since the mid-70s.  Men and women are equally likely to be violent toward an intimate partner.  Women are more likely than men to use a weapon, but men tend to injure their victims more seriously.  Women are somewhat more likely to initiate physical abuse.  About one-third of DV homicide victims are men.  Lesbian relationships on average are the most violent, followed by heterosexual and then gay male ones.

DV is gender-symmetrical, our societal response to it is not.  There are about 1,500 DV shelters for women in the U.S., but only three for men.  For decades, the police have been trained to arrest the man in a DV situation, whatever the objective facts of the case.  For years federal law on DV made no mention of female perpetrators or male victims.  Neither has the current president of the United States.

In 2015, Dr. Murray Straus, then perhaps the pre-eminent authority on domestic violence in the U.S., published a paper detailing seven different ways in which the DV industry maintained the false narrative.  Those tactics involve endless repetition of the false narrative backed up with threats – even death threats - against anyone who dared tell the truth.  He went on to show how the news media’s reporting on DV, due to ignorance, bias or a willing embrace of falsehood, promotes the industry’s claims.

If Straus were still alive, he’d not be surprised at the response to the Depp-Heard verdict.  It’s the effort of radical feminists, the DV industry and the MSM to regain the hegemony of their false narrative, so precisely articulated by Amber Heard – that no one should believe a man who says his wife abused him.

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