Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: Jury’s out on Who the Victim is

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: Jury’s out on Who the Victim is

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Jury's out on Who the Victim is 2016 images

When someone points a finger at you and accuses you of something, you only lose in life. That’s especially the case when the pointed finger has a really heavy word attached to it like “rapist” or “domestic abuser.”

Without a doubt, many fingers that get pointed belong to people who are truthful. However, there’s often a big problem in sorting out the truthful accusers from the lying accusers because of one little thing: a profit motive. Somebody might accuse a rich person of a crime only in hopes of getting a settlement out of the individual. It’s this motive that makes people skeptical of accusers nowadays.

Johnny Depp is the latest big name to enter the gray area that comes with being accused. Amber Heard has claimed that Depp committed acts of domestic violence against her. The accusations come at a time when she and Depp are settling divorce particulars. Not surprisingly, the allegation of domestic violence would seemingly improve the divorce settlement from Heard’s point of view. Therein lays the problem with people accepting Heard’s version of the facts at face value. However, there are other problems, like strange circumstances involving some texts.

Accused celebrities aren’t anything new in North America. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks went through something of these sorts last summer/fall. His accuser wasn’t his wife, in fact, it was someone that he had only recently met. NHL fans will remember that Kane was central to an investigation by the police force in Hamburg, New York in 2015 after a woman he met at a nightclub accused him of rape.

The matter began to die in the mainstream media in November. At that time, Frank Sedita, a district attorney in New York, claimed that “The totality of the credible evidence — the proof — does not sufficiently substantiate the complainant’s allegation that she was raped by Patrick Kane, and this so-called ‘case’ is rife with reasonable doubt.” Despite an authority dismissing the ‘case,’ the online trolls still have their fun with Kane to this day.

In my opinion, the proper point of view to take on the Kane situation was just to take what the district attorney said at face value. You could dream up some conspiracy theories about Sedita wanting to protect Kane in allegiance with the men of the world, or because of Kane’s status as a prominent American athlete. However, if you say that he’s innocent until proven guilty, then it has to be admitted that his accuser did not come close to proving a thing. If you want to live in a world where someone merely accusing you shouldn’t wreck your life, then there should be no prejudice against Kane.

But the matter of not casting a dark shadow over someone who is merely accused is certainly not our social reality in North America. Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls faced an accusation in 2015 as well. A woman claimed that he and his friends drugged her and then raped her in August of 2013. On that matter, look at the following barf-provoking statement that one Lindsay Gibbs made in a September 30th article at Think Progress:

“…Rose’s case already has one thing in common with other high-profile sexual assault cases against athletes: A disturbing trend of victim-blaming and a lack of understanding of what exactly constitutes consent.”

For those that don’t know exactly what “victim blaming” is, it can be said to exist when someone who has been wronged is suggested to be the source of the injustice. There can actually be some insight at times as sometimes victims are in need of education on how to protect themselves from harm. But the problem with victim blaming is that it absolves the perpetrator to some extent. Here are a few examples for clarity:

(1) You go out late at night and someone robs you. While regaling your tale someone tells you it’s your fault that you got robbed because you went out late at night.

(2) A woman that dresses provocatively gets raped. People then tell her that it’s her fault for attracting attention to herself.

(3) You go to the bar, get drunk, and get roofied. People say that that’s what you get for going to the bar and getting drunk.

Often when a victim gets blamed, there is some insight. Going out late at night can be a bad move in some circumstances. Dressing provocatively can attract attention your way from the wrong kind of guy. Going to the bar and getting drunk can put you in harm’s way as well. However, I don’t think the victim should ever be overtly blamed in place of the actual perpetrator.

That said I still find Gibbs’ use of the phrase “victim-blaming” as erroneous, based on the information available at the time and egregiously biased. Notice that the writer of the article, not just ahead of a conviction but ahead of any evidence being presented in court, designates Rose’s accuser as a victim with her use of the phrase “victim-blaming.” Whether the woman is a victim or not is something that needs to be established, not presumed, and it has to be established in a legal way – not in the potentially oppressive venue of social-media court.

If Gibbs wanted to be responsible then she could have written the phrase like this to make a point that might have some merit at the early stages of a potential legal matter:

“…Rose’s case already has one thing in common with other high-profile sexual assault cases against athletes: A disturbing trend of *doubting accusers* and a lack of understanding of what exactly constitutes consent.”

In regard to Depp and Heard, there are articles out there using “victim blaming” in a similar way. One Katherine Barner, writing at Bust.com, offered this headline: “We Have A Problem With The Way The Media Is Victim Blaming Amber Heard.”

She opened her article with these statements:

“Amber Heard has accused her soon-to-be ex-husband Johnny Depp of domestic violence. She filed for divorce last week, a brave act in an apparently abusive situation. The hashtags #IStandWithAmber and #imwithamber are popping up all over social media, and the amount of victim blaming in this situation is alarming.”

The first statement is true, the second statement is irresponsible for presuming abuse, and the designation of Heard as a “victim” before anything on the matter is proven is again barf provoking.

I think the phrase “victim blaming,” as it is prematurely used, is a tool of the propagandist. The phrase confers guilt onto the accused, whether it exists in reality or not, and if the use of the term affects a reader’s perception of an accused person then the reader has been brainwashed. That is especially the case if the accusations are proven to be false because it would mean that a writer had assigned truth to unproven and false allegations.

Using the phrase “blaming an alleged victim” as a substitution works a lot better than the phrase “victim blaming” because the former phrase indicates that the writer is open to the possibility that the accused is actually innocent. In turn, malleable readers aren’t taken down a path at a premature stage. I actually wonder if calling someone a victim of someone’s actions, in published writing, before those actions are proven in court, might be more than just bad freelance writing.

On a similar matter, simply doubting accusers has nothing to do with blaming them. Victim blaming would be if Heard proved that Depp struck her and then people said that she caused the situation herself. There may be people out there among the 7 billion of us that are doing that, but even they would be presuming that Heard is a victim here when really there’s a chance that the victim is Depp.

What we’re left with is a situation where we, the third-party onlooker, doesn’t really know what happened. That means Johnny Depp will lose to a degree, and it means Amber Heard will lose to a degree too (unless she’s only after money and ends up getting it).

I do find the allegations against Depp hard to believe, but I have enough faith in investigators to just respect their findings. The alleged texts from Depp’s assistant strike me as strange given that they allegedly don’t have timestamps and that the assistant has allegedly claimed that they’ve been doctored. That stinks as much as the Patrick Kane rape-kit situation did.

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Shane is a sports writer with a big interest in tennis, but he's also a noted writer about travel and fiction. Plus he can handle long walks in the cold Canadian tundra!

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