TW/CW for mentions and descriptions of abuse, control, and violence. Also when I use the word women in my writing I always mean all women, not only cisgendered women. Trans women are women! TERFs are never welcome on this page or anywhere near me, ever!
I have not been following the Heard/Depp defamation trial. I tried everything I could, actually, to avoid hearing about it. But no, every fucking day I have to hear or see something so unbelievably triggering it is incredible that I am able to function at all. I’m serious. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, my abuse survival comes up pretty regularly. Guess what?! My abuse survival comes up in my everyday life, everyday. It’s not something I ever get to just put away for a while and forget about. Far from it! Lately it’s been so bad that I have such levels of exhaustion that I keep testing myself for covid (so far very much negative and grateful). The amount of hate and violence towards women, reminding us every fucking waking moment of our lives that much of the world would prefer we were dead rather than non-compliant to any whim of the status quo.
I rarely share my abuse survival with people I work with or new people that may come into my life. Not because I fear for how they would perceive me, I rarely consider that side of it but I’m now thinking that perhaps I should start, but because of the fact that the few people who have heard any details simply cannot handle it at all. I’ve seen grown men turn pale when I describe one or two specific instances, not even the really bad/terrifying ones, or even outright refuse to accept it. “That cannot be true!” they exclaimed with an insistent look on their face. I’ve had people get mad at me about it, like I had some say in the matter. I’ve had people stop talking to me because they really couldn’t wrap their head around someone they know/like (me) having gone through what I did and being a decent human being in the end. Or of course the delightfully gaslighting that is, “Why didn’t you leave?!” or “Why didn’t you call the cops?!” Which are not real questions and only prove that survivors really can’t ever fucking trust anyone.
The truth of what I really survived will likely never be known by anyone but me. I don’t get to choose that, either. My C-PTSD brain likes to surprise me with dreams and memories, as vivid as daylight sometimes, of what happened to me. It also does its best, as it did then, to protect me in order to survive. To literally continue living and breathing, my brain had to hide things from me while it was happening and after too. My entire being was taken from me, and while I rebuilt it/me, nothing would or really could ever go back to what it/I once was. I don’t and won’t ever get to see the world or any cisgendered, heterosexual, male human as safe ever again. It hasn’t just changed me or colored how I view things, it really rewired my brain. I wasn’t claustrophobic before I met my abuser and now it is the actual worst, for example.
Seeing the media publish headlines like, “Can we believe women ever again?” about this fucking defamation trial has resurrected a level of dread over my own existence and the world’s. The ceaseless scrutiny of every facial expression, garment worn, even who/when/if eye contact is established with anyone in the courtroom at all. It’s maddening and so predictable! The entire world hates women it feels like. If not for intersectional feminist groups online, I would fully believe it was the entire world that hates women. I do not believe that anyone with any measure of power in this world gives a shit about us, that is for sure! Ahem!
Abuse survivors didn’t choose to be abused. We often never even got to choose to survive. There were more times than I could ever count that I didn’t want to survive. I remember wanting him to finally fucking kill me and get it over with so that a.) he might actually be punished/accountable/imprisoned/removed from society, and b.) to finally be free from the constant violence and threats of worse, always worse. The really important part about all of this and the subject of domestic violence (really it’s gendered violence, I hate the word domestic), abuse survivors don’t owe anyone a damned thing! We don’t owe you our stories, or our testimonies, we don’t owe anyone an explanation or retelling or reliving our traumas to “make sense” of anything for others. It doesn’t make sense. It won’t make sense. Sense was never part of the picture. It is all and always will be about power dynamics.
Tell me you hate women without saying you hate women: Tell me how you feel about this defamation trial! The “hot takes” are cold wet garbage spouted into the collective void of the internet to make themselves feel a taste of that power. They fucking envy this shit, I promise you that. It doesn’t mean that they would enact the same violence to get it, but they envy it. Because what does anyone gain from saying all of this horrible shit about a woman they truly know nothing about? Momentary feelings of relevancy? More likes or followers? It’s embarrassing.
I’m at a point in life, especially being single and dating in this so-called modern world, that I am not convinced that most cis-hetero men actually like or want to know anything about women. They refuse to learn even basic anatomy and biology, they refuse to grow and learn to be better people in general (often insisting they “were raised right” so believing nothing to grow from), most have no interests that would ever overlap with an actual grown ass woman, refuse to do anything in the world to make it a better or safer place for the children they believe they should be bringing into this it. Again, it’s very embarrassing for them, or should be anyway. I’m bisexual, I date all genders, but it does feel awful to be attracted to those you know fucking hate that you even exist. Ugh!
Abuse survivors are only believed when they are absolutely perfect and angelic to start with, and the abuser is the biggest monster with witnesses galore, and even then it is a long shot. That’s it! Outside of that very narrow scope, we are never believed and are always punished for reporting/telling anyone what happened to us. It is kept under wraps by families who find out out of fear of making the abuser “look bad”. More often than not, it is the abuser that gets protected, shown sympathy, and is held up as the victim. Classic! It would be laughable if it wasn’t so terribly tragic.
If you’re familiar with patterns of abuse, then you already know about DARVO. It is a way to recognize what is happening and when I first heard about it I thought, “Wow! This really fits the bill!!!” Definition of DARVO: DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim — or the whistle blower — into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.
Again, I have not followed this defamation trial, but since it is being shoved down my throat each and every day, I can tell you that much of what I have seen and heard aligns very much with DARVO and my own abuse experiences. The smashing of glass, cupboards, walls, those horrific texts (no one who actually loves someone talks like that about them I assure you), and the worst of and the most viscerally real for me was the glass bottle insertion…I have been in that moment. It feels like the world stops turning but worst of all is that no one knows and nothing stops. You feel yourself leaving your body because your brain is desperately trying to protect you. You can’t process what is happening because it can’t be happening, right?! The abuse never seems “that bad” or even real until it goes way beyond anything you thought you could survive and then it’s too fucking late!
I was fourteen years old when I met my abuser, who was twenty-one. It took only three months for him to take over every aspect of my life, move into my family’s home, and beat the ever loving shit out of me on a daily basis. He forced me to drop out of school. Every phone call, he monitored. What I wore, if or when and how much makeup I was allowed to have on each day, he would supervise. After five months he had made certain I had no contact with anyone else without his physical presence. When I started working full time, he went with me my first day because he needed to know that I was only working with women. Thank the stars we didn’t have cell phones, the internet, or social media, I cannot imagine what he would have put me through over that stuff. He even convinced my dad to sign my emancipation papers by saying it would insulate me and possibly my siblings from the pending custody battle my dad thought he’d be facing at the time. Really it was to protect him and no one else.
The only way I was able to escape after five years of daily violence and terror was simply that someone noticed something was off. That’s it! They didn’t see anything or hear anything, they hadn’t seen me in years and actually wasn’t at the house we shared to see me at all, but they noticed a vibe. They were gentle and kind about it and simply said, “I don’t know what is going on, but if you ever need a place to stay…” I left the very next day! I had never even heard of the town I moved to twenty miles south of my hometown, but it has been my favorite city ever since. Had that one person not given me an out, I don’t know that I would have survived even the next month, the violence was at an all time high at that point. I mean steering wheel grabbing and opening doors on the freeway level violence.
Today the media is playing up, “Is this the death of # Me Too?” nonsense, which is so fucking appalling! Because how dare anybody try to hold anyone accountable for anything at all ever, oh unless you’re a woman. Then you get punished for fucking existing! The fucking hoops we have to jump through just to get by in the world is too damned much. Not even taking into account that gendered violence is waiting for us around every damned corner! But please, do tell me how we’re all a bunch of fucking liars! (Insert epic eye roll here.) They want it both ways, but we refuse to give it to them, so they try to destroy us. They want something that never existed in the first place and they are pissed as hell about it.
I used to love Johnny Depp. I won’t hide that. 21 Jump Street and Nightmare on Elm Street were a big part of my childhood. I had a crush on this dude, but I didn’t know anything about him. I do remember though when he got the “Winona Forever” tattoo for Winona Ryder who he was dating at the time. My abuser got a tattoo of my name across his heart without warning or notice, he just showed up at my school and pulled up his shirt to loudly (mega embarrassingly) proclaim his “love” for me. I was disgusted by it, still am. To think that fucker has my name on his flesh for life? Well, mine wasn’t even the first and I knew that, so when he got it and showed me, it just felt like any other time he would punch or kick me in the stomach. I never talked about it. I don’t know if I have ever told anyone about that part.
The similarities of Depp and my abuser are painfully obvious to me now. The big proclamations, the over the top devotion (that was fake as hell and I knew it), the way they would say the most horrific things to my face about how they were going to destroy my body in the most horrific ways after they killed me, saying they would sexually violate me post mortem, or even while alive because they insisted that they owned me, making it clear every chance they had (without witnesses) that there was no escape. The threats of violence were incessant. The physical violence always came in a moment of calmness, though occasionally not. Usually the violence, both physical and verbal, were related to his intoxication from pills and booze, though certainly not at the level of Depp’s addictions. In public and especially at bars, he would publicly propose marriage so that the entire bar would celebrate and buy him more booze. I got nothing from it but humiliation and occasionally a roll of quarters for pinball, I was too young to drink. He’d use the same trash fingerhut ring and would beat the shit out of me when I would take it off because it kept turning my finger green.
If you had asked anyone at the time about seeing bruises or marks from the physical violence they would have been shocked and appalled. They never saw a thing! I became very good at hiding hickies in the seventh grade, my friends would come to me to cover them, and of course I covered my own too. So I already knew how to take redness and purple marks and turn them into nothing you would ever notice in a lifetime of being right there looking at it. We didn’t even have all of the wonderful products for evening tone and texture like there are now. My secret weapon was a green eyeshadow, the right pink shadow, concealer stick, foundation, makeup sponge, and of course that classic green compact of Covergirl’s pressed powder at the time. More often than not, especially after one time where I couldn’t leave my bedroom because there wasn’t enough makeup in the world to cover the level of swelling and bruises I had, my abuser wouldn’t hit me somewhere that would show or garner attention. That would have defeated the purpose. No, he made sure to hit/punch/kick/grab my back, stomach, thighs, and every tiny tender spot you can imagine. I have no doubt that makeup helped me survive, I know for a fact that it provided the opportunity for me to hold a job and be out in public when I otherwise would not have been able to. Demonizing this is offensive and wrong. Demonize the abuse and abuser, not the survivor trying to maintain any semblance of normalcy in the world.
The aggression you see, the banging on things, breaking things, throwing things, it is a show. They want to show you how they feel about you. It’s what they truly want to do to you, but they know they can’t, so they destroy you in other ways. Calling you a whore, a slut, a piece of shit, isolating you from everyone who cares about you, controlling as much as they possibly can about your day to day life, they will degrade you in every way imaginable and then keep going beyond even that. They will tear you down to nothing and then plant seeds all around to destroy your reputation, too. Talking to a grocery store cashier could get you thrown into a closet, beat up, pissed on, and locked inside for three hours. Well, that happened to me anyway. I have no doubt that there are instances that Amber Heard can’t yet recall because her brain won’t allow it, it’s still trying to protect her. She has gained nothing through all of this. I genuinely hope that she can isolate and do some healing and has the support in her life to create a new and more positive existence for herself. She. faces a lifetime of flashbacks, sleepless nights or ones filled with nightmares, hypervigilance, and so much more.
Oh, right, the “mutual abuse” thing. No. That isn’t a thing! Though I do understand wanting that to be true, it takes some of the pressure off of us and the abuser to believe that. I remember one very specific instance where I not only fought back, and didn’t go thinking survivors don’t fight back, but actually scared the shit out of my abuser by how I did it. This was like 3-4 years into the situation (I refuse to call it a relationship when I was an actual fucking hostage), and my own rage and strength surprised me. I don’t remember the start of the fight, but I remember how it ended. I lifted him two feet off the ground and slammed his back right onto the ground with every fiber of my being. The look of terror on his face I will never forget. I remember him laying there, very close to tears (hawd how they love to pull out the fucking alligator tears when the tables turn for even moment), trying to raise himself back up and insisting, “Sarah! You could have killed me! You could have really hurt me! You know about my medical conditions, how could you even think of doing this to me…ME?!!!” I vividly recall stepping back and laughing too.
Everything you think you know about domestic abuse, gendered violence, unless you’ve lived it, you don’t know shit. It is everywhere, right under our noses, we walk by it everyday and don’t notice it. It flies under every radar because there is no radar for this. There is nothing that exists today that would prevent it from happening. Oh, well, sure…education! Ha-ha! But in the USA that is a shit show all on its own, so it’s a joke to even suggest it. Education would help tremendously, though. I think things like consent, understanding boundaries and appropriate versus inappropriate behaviors, should be taught in kindergarten and continue through into higher education because the relevancy and tactics of abuse change and mature as we do. There are signs of course that you can keep an eye out for and absolutely should, but I want to ask you pointedly, if you knew something was going on with someone you knew, what would you do? We often have grand ideas about such things. Reality is much more disappointing though.
I am personally asking you to never call the cops, and to instead save your local crisis center hotline in your phone now so that when an occurrence arises you will have it handy. And then… What can you truly offer them? A place to live? An income? Safety? Do not confront the abuser, your priority should be the safety and comfort of the abuse survivor and nothing else. Confronting them dramatically can set off a shame spiral. Be gentle! Let them know that you are concerned and want them to have the life that they want for themselves. Let them know that their comfort and safety is all that matters to you. Let them know you have thought this through and have a plan of escape, even if it is literally jumping out a window with no possessions in the middle of the night. Let them know up front that you know it’s not their fault, no matter what they or anyone else says, it is not their fault!
I called the police on my abuser twice. Both times the cops aligned with him upon arrival and painted a nice pretty picture of my insanity (note: they keep saying Amber heard has a number of mental illnesses when she more than likely has C-PTSD). When I had bruises and blood from fresh wounds, they accused me of abusing him. They accused me of purchasing my emancipation papers illegally (it is very hard to get emancipated as a minor, you must prove your independence, have both parents sign, and go before a judge to plead your case). I have never called the police for anything ever again and I won’t. That is not what they are there for or are trained for. My abuser made it clear that a third attempt would mean not just my life but my entire family’s lives, too. He reminded me every day that he had the power, and that at any point in time he could simply choose to slaughter them all, in front of me, in the most gruesome of detail. This is all so on the surface of what I went through, but I think you get the picture by now.
The only way I was able to escape was by absolute luck! Had that friend not just happened to be visiting another occupant of the house we shared, had he not offered me a place to stay, had he not picked up on something being off (my abuser wasn’t present when this happened), who knows what could have happened. I don’t for a moment believe that I would have gotten out. By that point I couldn’t get a job, I was applying and interviewing, but not getting offers. Finally, once I moved away, I found out that he was telling potential employers that I was dead. I started to give my grandma’s phone number instead, and bam, got a job! That job led me to every good thing in my life ever! What saved me, ultimately, was my abuser not knowing where I was and not knowing who I was with or anything other than where my family lived and I wasn’t with them. When he discovered where I was living he showed up and beat up my other two roommates to find out where I worked. He only knew I had a job because my grandma didn’t know not to tell him, my family really thought that whole five years that I was just in a weird relationship. Ugh! He showed up at my job, I had only had a few weeks at that point, covered in blood and tried to grab me from behind the counter. Had my boss not just happened to be there on his day off to run payroll, who knows, he may have succeeded in trapping me with more violence again. But My boss heard the commotion, called security, and came out and physically apprehended him until security could take him out. That was the last time I saw him. I looked over my shoulder for another ten years after that. Now I worry about how I might react if I ever crossed his path again. The truth is I don’t know. I have had some wild and violent fantasies, but I can’t say at all that that is within my nature.
My abuser never stood trial, was never arrested, never punished in any way whatsoever. He went on, I imagine, to live whatever the hell life he wanted. He’s still alive. Several years ago, out of morbid curiosity, I looked him up on Facebook. The picture of him now was a shock. He was already disabled when he was twenty-one, so I have no idea how his health may have degraded since. Part of me imagined that he would have died by now, certainly, with all of the drugs and scams (drugs, credit card and check fraud, outright mugging people, fencing of stolen goods, I suspected some pimping towards the end as well) he was always doing. I needed to know that he didn’t live in my hometown, having had to move back there for a few years. And luckily he didn’t. Moving back there gave me the worst flashbacks of all, it was a constant source of triggers, I hope I never have to go back.
Notice I said “have to”? Yeah, financial abuse is all a part of this as well. When I had jobs, he took my money. When I didn’t have a job, he made me pull scams and dumpster dive. I never had cash to buy my lunch at work, but he always had money for beer and pills. Any means of control, and an abuser will attempt it and even work hard to succeed in their aims. Restraining orders at the time were about $800, per county. Because I moved to escape, that would have meant needing two restraining orders since my family lived in another county where my abuser also lived. I had only just started my retail job at the mall (1996/1997 wages, y’all!), where was I going to come up with $1600? And go to court? No thanks, I had seen enough courtrooms by that point to never want to be in one again. Come to find out, the island-owning Depp has financial issues! That and punishing Heard for ever speaking up at all (she never named him until the defamation trials, and she won the first one) is surely why this suit was brought to the court of Virginia (a state neither lives in, and has much more lax laws about domestic abuse). Abusers always want the last say, the last laugh, the last blow, the last drop of your blood and they will never be satisfied with even that.
So unless you can offer someone a place to stay where their abuser will never think to look for them or know anyone around you or your circle at all (snitches are everywhere), there’s only so much you can do. Shelters have a lot of restrictions and requirements and often foster more abuse in those settings. There’s no magic charity that can swoop in and save someone with free fresh clothes, a place to live safely, and a means of indepence like an income. And even then, they will need so much support, therapy, learning how to live a normal life again, and years of needing all of that and more just to get to a sense of safety and normalcy. And what if they aren’t willing to leave the abuser? What then? Be present! Stay present as much as you possibly can, even be annoying-level present! Most abusers will almost never show their ugly side to anyone but their victim. Your presence could keep their victim safer than without. It is in isolation that they do their worst.
This defamation trial has been unbearable for abuse survivors the world over. It shows us everything we always suspected was true. It supe-mega sucks! Seeing people in your own life side with an abuser is devastating. We now know for certain who we can never trust, never want to be alone with, never feel safe around again. The outcome of the trial is still unknown to everyone. I am dreading the day when the judgement is handed down, regardless of what it is, because once again we will feel it like a sucker punch to the gut, collectively. Worse still is that this trial has the potential to create a blueprint for abusers to further harm their victims. Already Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson) has filed a defamation suit against Evan Rachel Wood, it’s a terrible tool of the powerful to further cause harm. Because the power was already in their hands or they never could have perpetuated that level of abuse against us. They are charming and can convince anyone but their victim of their innocence. Until women are believed and supported when they do report and speak up, nothing will ever fucking change.
I’m here for realness and sincerity, honesty and vulnerability, I’m here for the good and juicy bits of life that shine for me when I know I’m heading in the right direction.
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