Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial unveiled how toxic their marriage was, but there may be a disturbing reason they stayed together.
It’s been a harrowing trial to witness and now thankfully it has come to an end.
Reading the testimony from the Depp-Heard trial has brought out an ugly color in society – particularly the online community.
The six weeks leading up to the jury finding that Amber Heard defamed ex-husband Johnny Depp in an opinion piece has set the internet — indeed the world — on fire.
Recounts of faecal matter in the bed, sexual assault with a bottle, physical violence, threats — the list goes on. Many have watched on with a grotesque interest in this sideshow of humiliation, degradation and rage.
Many have been questioning the psychological state of both parties involved; questioning why they stayed together, how it got to this?
Reports that this trial would deter domestic violence victims from speaking out have circulated, after Heard’s testimony was dragged out, put under the microscope and questioned at every statement.
The social media trends, the hashtags, the threats. Heard has been called a liar for her testimony – the mockery of this trial, this verdict makes me feel physically sick. But it also brings up an all too familiar question – how did it get to this, why did they stay together, who are these people?
But let me tell you, domestic violence can bring out ugly colors of desperation for the victims.
Many years ago, I was embroiled in a violent and controlling relationship with a man who was largely unhinged. I wanted a way out but felt I had nowhere to turn.
I had a loving family, many close friends, was even seeing a psychologist regularly at the time. Part of that made it all the more challenging to break free (he’d threaten my loved ones), but I count myself among the lucky ones as I managed to physically relocate to get away from his vicious chokehold.
He spent months going through the textbook phases of isolating me from my friends, becoming increasingly defensive of me, putting my job at risk, trying to make me more reliant on him. I didn’t know it was even happening, as I’d had no experience or understanding of it.
The violence started with a small shove. He was apologetic at the time, I didn’t think anything of it. I was a bit miffed but we moved on.
Then it slowly escalated. Taking his rage out on his surroundings slowly migrated to me being the subject of the rage. “You just make me so angry,” was a daily affirmation.
Our relationship brought out some terrifying responses in him, but also in me – I didn’t even recognize myself. You see, when your survival is threatened, you become an animal; flailing about, desperate to escape the situation.
He’d push me up against the wall by my neck – I’d spit in his face in an attempt to free myself from his stranglehold.
He’d shove me around, I’d try and shove him back to maintain some semblance of control.
He would stalk me in his car, following me down the street – I’d drive erratically trying to get away.
I was unhinged, desperate and trying to get out of danger. I’d park outside the police station, in an attempt to deter him. He’d just be waiting for me when I got home.
He would turn up at my work, at my friends’ houses – he even managed to install an app on my phone to track my movement without me knowing.
I was mortified, humiliated it had gotten to this point – how did I get here?
I wasn’t one of these down beaten women on the posters with a black eye. I was strong, confident, had a support network and well educated … wasn’t I?
But every time I would try to end it, he’d either emotionally blackmail me, “please, I have no one else, nowhere to go, I love you so much – I didn’t mean it,” appealing to my humanity or he’d threaten, get violently, publicly angry and in these moments, I wanted to diffuse the situation as best I could, so I’d try to place him – mitigate my needs to end it. Try and fade the relationship rather than a clean break.
In the end, I had to move – internationally – to severe the tie. Thankfully my mother was living overseas so I could uproot without too much struggle. And for that, I count myself extraordinarily lucky. She didn’t even know the full extent of the violence and aggression, but she knew enough that I needed to get the hell out of the country to escape him.
But the point is, in that time, I didn’t recognize myself, or how I got to this ugly, scary place. I doubt Heard or Depp has recognized themselves in this situation. Recounting these vile anecdotes, reliving these degrading encounters.
Had something like what is happening to Amber Heard been happening in the media when I was trying to leave my relationship, I would have been fearful of being called a liar, being called a bitch, a manipulator, my motives being questioned for sharing this information .
I still am. I’m fearful for the backlash of talking about my experience now. But I feel like there’s too much dialogue, and not enough of it is from survivors, so I’m putting it out there, in hope that we frame this differently. Not make light of such devastating encounters.
This was a terrible, toxic relationship, and there are probably many others out there – and by making a sideshow of it all damages the changes of those others speaking up.
Caitlyn Davey is a freelance writer.