Textbook Abuse

The trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp has been difficult to watch, as I suspect it has been for all survivors of male violence. In fact, some male friends that are survivors of domestic violence with women perpetrators are finding it difficult to watch, too. They see their abuser in Amber and women see theirs in Johnny.

Intimate Partner Violence, aka Domestic Violence, is more common than anyone likes to admit.

As Amber recounted Johnny’s abuse, I kept thinking one word: Textbook. Her descriptions of abuse-apology-abuse cycles are textbook. The way his violent behavior got worse over time, from the first slap across the face to raping her with a bottle. Textbook. Her response to his abuse, from disbelief to denial. Textbook. Anyone who has done any reading whatsoever on abusive relationships can see this pattern.

The Cycle of Abuse

The first time Johnny hit Amber was when she asked him about his tattoo that reads “Wino Forever.” Those of us who are 45 or older remember that tattoo originally said “Winona Forever,” from his relationship with Winona Ryder (when he was 26 and she was 17). He proposed 5 months after they started dating (Textbook love bombing) and stayed together for 3 years. After they broke up, he changed the tattoo to “Wino Forever.”

Remember that Amber is 36-years-old, 22 years younger than Johnny at 58. She was a toddler when he got that tattoo, so she doesn’t know its infamous story. So she asked. He responded, “Wino Forever,” and she laughed.

He slapped her across the face.

Not knowing how to respond, mind reeling, wondering if it’s somehow a joke, she laughed again. He apparently said, “You think that’s funny, bitch?” and slapped her again.

Then she knew he wasn’t playing around.

Laughing in the face of danger is something women are socialized to do. We laugh it off in an attempt to defuse the situation. This is so deeply ingrained in women at such an early age, we don’t even realize we’re doing it half the time. All we know is …. “I can’t make him angry.”

We viscerally know how much worse it can get if he gets angry.

Immediately afterward, he apparently got down on his knees and begged for forgiveness, swearing it would never happen again.

Guess what. It did. …. Textbook!!

Textbook Narcissism

Johnny saying she’s the abusive one is also textbook narcissist behavior, something called projection. There’s no doubt she also exhibited abusive behavior, but it now seems quite clear it was in response to his. Perhaps attempts to protect herself or simply because she didn’t know what else to do. She had tried everything else. No excuse for abuse, of course, but perhaps an explanation.

Amber’s testimony not only describes textbook abuse cycles, her response fits perfectly with someone in survival mode, displaying signs of PTSD. Her testimony reveals she certainly was tightly bound by betrayal bonds, aka trauma bonds.

When Amber said she looked into his eyes and the man she loved wasn’t there.

She’s right. He wasn’t.

The man she loved is a hollow shell, sadly. The emptiness beneath is terrifying. I saw it when my rapist’s mask slipped, too.

Harrowing to see such a void.

Many performers have Narcissistic, Histrionic, or Borderline Personality Disorder, and that’s in part why they’re successful. It’s all about them and only them, everyone else be damned.

Back in 2012, I wrote a lot about narcissism and their sociopath cousins on my former pen-name’s blog Caught in the Cogs. One in particular was called “A Crack in the Fragile Shell.” Here’s an excerpt:

Often referred to as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the narcissist excels at creating a very believable , charming and compassionately loving mask. It is only a matter of time, however, before you see his teeth, and by then it’s usually too late. He has taken a huge bite out of your heart, if you’re lucky, and your soul, if you’re not. This wolf seeks only to consume and degrade others to try and elevate himself. As the incubus or a vampire in literature, he feeds upon his target in an attempt to fill the black hole gaping inside them, but it can never be filled. So he sucks them dry, leaving them used and forgotten, and moves onto the next victim.

as O. M. Grey—Caught in the Cogs, 6 June 2012

While Johnny sat smirking through half of the trial, he’s not smiling anymore. He refused to drop this over the past few years, and now the public are getting glimpses of the monster behind the mask.

….or are they?

Cultural Rape Apologia Script

Last evening #amberheardisapsychopath was trending on Twitter, and I was flabbergasted. Me! Someone who is no longer surprised at the sheer ignorance of the public, especially when it comes to human psychology or their insistence on perpetuating rape culture, was shocked! How could they see something so utterly incorrect?

Amber is clearly an abuse survivor with pretty serious PTSD (likely C-PTSD), but she’s no psychopath. She might have a (likely Borderline) personality disorder from her abusive childhood, but she’s not psychopath.

Again, people would rather blame the victim rather than entertain the possibility that someone they respect could commit such acts.

Believe me. They can. In fact, it’s how they get away with it—because no one will believe it.

Textbook response!

We’re all insidiously taught a cultural script through what Daniel Quinn calls “Mother Culture” in his amazing book Ishmael. Before we can even speak or form narrative memories at around 4-years-old, we get the message in every conversation, TV show, or news program we overhear that this horrible thing happened because of something the victim did or did not do.

Whenever there’s a discussion or accusation of sexual violence, you normally hear one of these five Great Derailers:

  1. False Accusation!
  2. Innocent Until Proven Guilty!
  3. Witch Hunt!
  4. Slander!
  5. NAMALT (Not all men are like that)

They’re not meant to open a discussion or even hear what the victim is trying to convey. Their purpose is to silence her* and take control of the conversation so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable considering that their friend/family/professor/entertainer/favorite actor could do such horrible things.

On-Stage vs. Off-Stage

The public is still confusing Johnny’s on-stage persona with who he is off-stage, and that’s a very dangerous mistake to make with anyone, but especially with violent abusers. Think back to what people said about Ted Bundy.

“So charming and kind! He couldn’t have done those horrible things.”

What about Cosby?

“So funny! He couldn’t have done that.” … even “These women are ruining my happy childhood memories with these accusations.”

I mean, seriously.

I could go on and on and on and on. The first thing anyone conveys is disbelief because their perception of these accused predators and abusers differs so greatly from the victim’s experience. This is called cognitive dissonance, and it’s very uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable feelings = blame the person causing them, namely the victim speaking out.

The struggle to understand two completely opposite things like this is called cognitive dissonance.

We must all remember that these are actors, talented actors. We see what they want us to see. That’s their job: to make viewers believe they’re someone else.

These are their onstage personas. Any time anyone is watching, they aren’t going to show their monstrous side. Any time a camera is on, they’re performing. Anytime someone else other than the target is present (except in some circumstances with trusted staff or others under their spell), they won’t show the beast within. The mask stays on.

Please keep this in mind when someone speaks out about their experience. Please.

To this day, I refuse to be behind closed doors with any man who isn’t my partner or a few others that have proven over decades they won’t assault me. No doctors. No teachers. No colleagues. Not even friends. I know from experience, a man can do whatever the fuck he wants behind closed doors and no one will believe me. I will be shamed and mocked and blamed. He won’t even be questioned.

Nope. I won’t chance it no matter who you are.

Just imagine if the person you should be able to trust more than anyone in this world—your intimate life partner—is the very one causing the harm. I know many of you reading this don’t have to imagine it.

You are not alone.

May you find peace.

*Pronoun Disclaimer:
Since my writings are based on my personal experience with sexual violence, please accept that I often use language reflecting a binary gender system: male pronouns (he/him/his) for the perpetrators of sexual violence and the female pronouns (she/her/hers) for the victims of sexual violence through the bulk of this site. It is not my intention to minimize or dismiss experiences where the victim or perpetrator are genderqueer or intersex people, or where the perpetrator is a woman or the victim is a man.
I encourage you to substitute pronouns as you see fit in order to reflect your community and/or experience. The important topic at hand is sexual violence, and I’d like to remain on topic regardless of pronoun used or gender of the parties involved.
Rapists are rapists. Abusers are abusers.

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