opinion

"Amber Heard was courageous to speak out about abuse. We've failed her."

As a society, we’ve responded pretty terribly to Amber Heard’s accusations that Johnny Depp was abusive towards her. If you think that’s an overzealous call to make, hear me out.

What matters in this Hollywood saga is not how much money he is worth versus how much she is not. Nor whether this was a one-off situation or consistent abuse. I don’t care about their dogs, or her sex life, or Vanessa Paradis coming to his defence.

What matters is that when the story broke, our message to Heard was clear: Your word isn’t true, your proof isn’t proof enough, we’d rather not know about it, we don’t believe you.

bruising amber heard

Heard claims Depp threw a phone at her face. Source: Getty.

Because of both Heard and Depp's status, that message has now gone around the world and reached countless victims of abuse. And what does matter is what they're hearing in all of this.

Statistically speaking, we know that the vast majority of physical and sexual violence is not reported. We know that on average one Australian woman is dying a week from violence at the hands of a current or former partner. This is an epidemic and it needs to change.

We know that one in three men will abuse their current or former partner at some time, often when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

We know that abusers don't abuse all the time and that they are often the most charismatic person in a crowded room.

Heard and Depp in happier times. Source: Getty. 

We know that abusers more often than not hold financial power over their partners.

We know that it's not bad all the time, which is why it takes time to leave.

We know that when exposed, many people around the abuser will be completely shocked and say that this behaviour seems totally out of character.

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We know that victims on the other hand are good at hiding injuries and explaining away suspicious situations.

We know that they are unlikely to share what's happening to them with others until a desperate "breaking point" is reached where they begin to truly fear for their safety.

We know that it will usually take seven attempts for them to successfully leave their partner.

Depp and Heard earlier this year. Source: Getty. 

Abuse is a disgusting, horrific and uncomfortable truth of our society.

But is it also a truth that we still feel an attack on a man's honour is a greater crime than an attack to a woman's physical and mental wellbeing?

I believe in the idea of innocent until proven guilty. And up to this point, Depp has not been found guilty of anything, so it's important to remember that. But Heard on the other hand, has been. Her lack of money, sexual history, good looks and age have all been used as evidence to hang, draw and quarter her in the public arena.

The worst crime she's committed, it seems, is that she's dared to accuse a respected public figure of committing a crime.

Depp on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Source: Youtube. 

Because the reality is that he certainly may have done it. The evidence certainly stacks up that way. Just because Johnny Depp is a much loved actor doesn't mean he can't be abusive.

I don't want to see another woman abused.

I don't want to see another woman killed by a current or former partner.

I don't want someone to tell me that they don't believe it happened because it seems "out of character."

I want women to be able to speak out about abuse and be heard.

I want society to believe women who are brave enough to talk about abuse and offer them meaningful help.

Mostly though, I want to live in a society that acknowledges this atrocity and does something to stop it from happening.

Just because a court of law hasn't found Depp guilty - and again, he may not be - doesn't mean that we should take cover under the shade of the "we don't know what really happened" tree and hope to avoid the harsh sunlight of reality.

* Featured image via Getty. 

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