Respect all victims

The case of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp raised a lot of questions about the way we treat victims of abuse.

It has become clear that, whether one is the abuser and one is the victim, or whether they are both victim and abuser in one, the global culture of blame affects both.

As the libel case in the U.K. ended and Johnny Depp was released from his role as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts, comments sections and articles were lit ablaze with people calling Heard a liar and Depp a victim. 

It brought  how we treat male victims of abuse to the public’s attention. They are often met with disbelief, with ridicule and rarely with justice. 

However, the problem was that many of the men getting angry about the treatment of Depp aren’t angry about the treatment of male victims, but they are angry about the acknowledgement of female victims.

The scariest thing about these misogynists touting their slogans of “Men get raped, too!” and “Women are abusers, too!” is that they do not care. They do not care about male victims. They do not care that women can be abusers. They care about denouncing and disproving female victims. 

After the successes of the #MeToo movement, misogynists across the world found themselves suddenly accountable for their own actions. They complained that they couldn’t even hug, talk to or look at a woman, lest they suddenly be accused of sexual assault. They cried about false accusations, liars and gold-diggers, but they did not once bring up male victims, which the #MeToo movement also worked to give a voice.

When actor Anthony Rapp went public about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Kevin Spacey, he was blamed for ruining House of Cards, Spacey’s popular Netflix original series. These men were not supporting Rapp, they were ridiculing him. 

The only time male victims matter to the misogynists parading around decrying and insulting the #MeToo movement is when they fit their own argument. They suddenly tack on “too” to the end of all sentences mentioning female victims or female perpetrators.

“Men get raped, too,” they say. “Women abuse, too,” they cry, not realising that the feminists who carried the #MeToo movement into the modern fold never said they didn’t.

Rather, these are just attempts to bring the attention away from women and onto men. The sentence should instead be, “Men get raped.” They should instead say, “Men get abused.” But they don’t care that men get raped. They don’t care that men get abused. They care that women get raped and abused and are finally speaking up about it. It is just an attempt to derail conversation and progress.

The truth is that on average, more than one in three women and more than one in four men will be raped, abused or stalked by an intimate partner according to the Centers for Disease Control. One in four women and one in seven men 18-years and older will find themselves the victims of severe partner violence in their lifetimes. The truth is that these numbers only come from the people who report, and the vast majority don’t.

There is only one message these men are trying to send when they flood comments sections, when they send death threats, when they leak nudes, when they criticize a victim’s sexual history and lay it all out in 280 characters on Twitter.

The message is clear: you come after us, and we’ll come after you. 

Johnny Depp is a victim. So too, I believe, is Amber Heard. We might never know what happened behind closed doors, what words were exchanged or blows thrown. We do know that this case has revealed what we as a society have failed to learn: that anyone can be a victim, and they deserve to be treated with compassion and understanding. 

Victims of any kind of abuse, whether it be sexual, physical, emotional or all of the above, deserve to have a space to talk about their own experiences without someone crawling out of the shadows to deflect, derail, but-what-about, twist or bend the conversation. And they deserve a space without said people conflating their own version of reality around the fact that everyday, thousands of people are being abused, and not by strangers, but by the people they know and love.

There will be more victims, male and female. There will be more abusers and accusers and those who defend both. There will be people who don’t care about either and only care about their own privileged and protected lives, safe from the accusations of the women or men they have abused and assaulted.

But there will also be those who work tirelessly to acknowledge and assist victims of all kinds, all genders, all sexualities and all races. The hope is that they never stop, and that the culture of blame that circulates every discussion of abuse can someday come to an end. The hope is that the world will embrace and acknowledge victims, rather than debate whether they deserve to be called victims at all.