Amber Heard saw, ‘in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse’

Amber Heard saw, ‘in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse’

December 19, 2018

Amber Heard has written a Washington Post op-ed about domestic violence, Me Too, and the culture of victim-shaming and victim-blaming that happens when women do come forward to tell their stories. Amber was abused by Johnny Depp before and during their marriage. I now believe that Amber’s “second thoughts” about marrying Depp were because she had already seen behind the mask and he had already shown her his violent side. But she did what so many women do: she believed he would change, she believed that it was just that one time, that he would never hurt her again. I always think about this too: Amber tried to settle their divorce quietly, without going public about the abuse, and he refused and started smearing her in the press. Then when she talked about the abuse, the smear campaign went into overdrive. You can read Amber’s full WaPo op-ed here, and here are some highlights:

Like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet — I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim. Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.

Friends and advisers told me I would never again work as an actress — that I would be blacklisted. A movie I was attached to recast my role. I had just shot a two-year campaign as the face of a global fashion brand, and the company dropped me. Questions arose as to whether I would be able to keep my role of Mera in the movies “Justice League” and “Aquaman.” I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.

Imagine a powerful man as a ship, like the Titanic. That ship is a huge enterprise. When it strikes an iceberg, there are a lot of people on board desperate to patch up holes — not because they believe in or even care about the ship, but because their own fates depend on the enterprise.

In recent years, the #MeToo movement has taught us about how power like this works, not just in Hollywood but in all kinds of institutions — workplaces, places of worship or simply in particular communities. In every walk of life, women are confronting these men who are buoyed by social, economic and cultural power. And these institutions are beginning to change.

We are in a transformative political moment. The president of our country has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, including assault and harassment. Outrage over his statements and behavior has energized a female-led opposition. #MeToo started a conversation about just how profoundly sexual violence affects women in every area of our lives. And last month, more women were elected to Congress than ever in our history, with a mandate to take women’s issues seriously. Women’s rage and determination to end sexual violence are turning into a political force.

….I write this as a woman who had to change my phone number weekly because I was getting death threats. For months, I rarely left my apartment, and when I did, I was pursued by camera drones and photographers on foot, on motorcycles and in cars. Tabloid outlets that posted pictures of me spun them in a negative light. I felt as though I was on trial in the court of public opinion — and my life and livelihood depended on myriad judgments far beyond my control. I want to ensure that women who come forward to talk about violence receive more support. We are electing representatives who know how deeply we care about these issues. We can work together to demand changes to laws and rules and social norms — and to right the imbalances that have shaped our lives.

[From The Washington Post]

I appreciate how she takes her own story and puts into context of how institutional male privilege and institutional sexism/misogyny work. Amber lost work because she accused her powerful husband of physically and emotionally abusing her. Amber lost friends, she lost her reputation as a professional, she lost money and she lost time. She’s right – there absolutely should be more institutional support for victims of abuse, assault and harassment.

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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