Blaming the victim: When speaking up backfires

Recently, discussion of domestic violence has been seen everywhere, from gossip columns to mainstream news publications. Why the sudden increase in visibility? Allegations involving celebrities.

After filing for divorce from mega movie star Johnny Depp, estranged wife Amber Heard accused him of domestic violence. With these claims came an onslaught of negative press, though much of it was against Heard, the alleged victim.

 

Many accused Heard of lying and questioned the authenticity of leaked photos and text messages. But Heard is attempting to put a stop to some it.

Doug Shanhope, a friend of Depp’s, wrote a guest post for digital news organization The Wrap titled, “Johnny Depp Is Being Blackmailed by Amber Heard — Here’s How I Know.” As the title indicates, the post claims that those closest to Depp had been worried about Heard’s manipulative presence in his life. Stanhope says that Depp warned his friends that Heard was going to leave him, and that she threatened to lie about him if he didn’t give her what she wanted in the impending divorce.

Heard argues that Stanhope’s post is decidedly untrue. She is now suing Stanhope, as well as unnamed others, for defamation and infliction of emotional stress.

This unfortunate incident brings to the forefront a fear that is common in domestic abuse victims – that their stories won’t be believed. When a victim is finally able to find the strength to speak up only to be called a liar, it can be devastating.

When domestic violence victims are ready to take those often frightening first steps, it’s important to have a strong support system in place. This can be especially challenging for victims of domestic violence, as the usual built-in support system of family may be the people from whom they need the protection.

But there are support resources available to anyone in need – from attorneys and legal counsel experienced in representing victims to domestic violence support groups. No matter the victim’s status in society, a person should never have to confront family violence alone.

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