Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and the Double Standards of Abuse

Paola Hernandez Olvera, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Actor Johnny Depp, more famously known as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Carribean movie franchise, was accused of physically and emotionally abusing his ex-wife and actress Amber Heard, in 2016. Heard claimed that Depp would strike her or throw objects at her whenever she spoke back to him, among other things like making her feel as if the abuse was her fault. These allegations caused Depp to lose his role as Captain Jack Sparrow and the internet to erupt in backlash. Four years after the allegations, recordings emerged, pegging Heard as the abuser, and not Depp. In the recordings, Heard admits to hitting Depp and hurling objects at him, like pots, pans and cans. However, things seem to still not fair well for Depp, as Heard continues to hold the role of Mera in the Aquaman movie franchise, stirring a debate about the differing standards of abuse for men and women. 

According to the 2010 report from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors from slapping, shoving, and pushing, and in some cases might not be considered “domestic violence.” 

“Abuse is physical, mental or sexual exploitation of an individual, typically [by a person] from a position of power, but not always,” biology and AP Environmental Science teacher Alex Messer said.

Many male victims of physical and sexual assault don’t report out of fear of their abuser or of not being believed. Because men are typically believed to be physically stronger than women, it is a common belief in society that men can’t be raped or beaten by women. The standards of society prove to be a difficult obstacle to overcome for a man to be believed when coming forward when there are, according to Loveisrespect.org, a dating abuse statistics website, 43 percent of women who are thought to lie when reporting sexual assault or abuse, and vice versa. 

“When you go out to domestic violence situations, there are always two sides to the story- one side, the other side, and then the truth somewhere in the middle,” School Resource Officer Steve Schnoeblen said. “Because each person is going to tell their version to make it look good for them. There are instances where people do lie about it. Sometimes we can figure it out and sometimes we can’t.”

In 2013, actor Evan Peters accused his girlfriend at the time, actress Emma Roberts, of assaulting him after Roberts left him with a bloody nose following an argument between the two. Roberts was arrested, but Peters chose to not file charges claiming the incident was a mistake. Other known cases of domestic abuse involve the abuse of Bobby Brown by the late singer and actress Whitney Houston and the abuse of Jason Statham and Danny Cipriani by model and actress Kelly Brook. Although plenty of evidence of the abuse exists (tape recordings from Depp and Heard, a hospital visit from Peters and Roberts, and court hearings for both Houston and Brown), all of the cases, except Depp’s, were dropped by the male victims.

“There seems to be a two-way or an ‘unfairness’ for men and women and non-gender conforming people or trans people,” Messer said. “For men, it is more or less people don’t always believe them and so they can’t always voice their concern about it, especially if they need to reach out because unfortunately, we grow up in a society where men are supposed to be stoic and women are considered to be the emotional ones. That’s not true; people are people, they’re different, and they have different dynamics and personalities.”

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) states that on a typical day there are more than 20,000 calls made to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. Although the number might seem profuse, according to the Rape, Incest and Incest National Network (RAINN), only 230 out of 1000 sexual assault cases are reported to the authorities, meaning that three out of four cases go unreported.

“When you’re on patrol, you’ll go to domestic violence calls quite a bit,” Schnoeblen said. “Actually, you’ll probably get three or four or five of them a week.”

Access to abuse hotlines and help centers for victims has become easier, and the internet has become an outlet for victims to tell their stories and seek help from others. Although there is more awareness of abuse now than there was four years ago when Heard first accused Depp, the stereotype and the image of masculinity is still dangerous and forces many men to keep quiet about their abuse.

“Abuse can happen to anyone,” Messer said. “Unfortunately, no one is immune to it, regardless of age, sex or sexual identity or gender identity. Anyone can, unfortunately, encounter abuse and likewise, anyone can be an abuser.”