Apart from the OJ Simpson murder trial, which got the highest coverage in US history during 1990s, the legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, telecast live for the past 6 weeks, has grabbed worldwide attention, flooding all forms of media.

Reality youtubers churning out commentaries, jokes and entertainment content for viewership have increased. Mainstream press and newspapers remained disappointing as headlines and stories continue the same stereotype narratives that promote sensationalism than facts, despite the Virginia jury trial and verdict.

Independent YouTube Journalists and Legal Expert Commentators (e.g., Ex District Attorney Emily Baker, Law and Crime Network, Bruce Rivers) are worth looking into. Actual telecast of trial hearings, depositions and cross examinations also offer more rooms for assessing evidence and testimonies.

Although this couple divorced 5 years ago, it takes us almost 6 years to get closer to the truth.

Edward Scissorhands (Image by Tanatos330)

The Media is a Double-Edged Sword and a Pendulum that can swing both ways!

I am a fan of Johnny Depp as he played memorable roles in Tim Burton’s movies.

Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonder, Captain Jack Sparrow are eccentric, out of the world characters that JD with his talent, and I believe his personal experience of sufferings, added a unique depth to his portrayals.

AH is a beautiful starlet. I enjoyed her film roles in some movies like The Danish Girl. She obtained press attention for declaring that she had donated all her divorce settlement. Together with the me-too movement revived in the 2018, her philanthropic claim was then featured in magazines and the press widely. Just prior to her divorce, she obtained a highly publicized paparazzi coverage of her restraint order.

Many had believed in her claims and were behind her. JD and his family were subjected to hate content for years, he lost his main livelihood as an A list celebrity. Now those crowds are angry at having trusted her claims.

The philanthropic ‘claim’ was later reframed as a ‘pledge’. Was the need to proclaim the donation an impulsive gesture? Believing in intention and thought as action performed can sometimes be linked to a dissociative factor known as absorption and imaginative involvement, a confusion of reality and self-fantasy.

Even if AH changes her mind and prefers to keep all her divorce settlement, there is nothing wrong with that. She could issue an apology to the charitable organizations for over pledging, or overstating her donating claims, and move on. It is her money.

Instead, the need to blame her ex-husband continues, this time for her inability to honor the fulfillment of the said pledge, although his lawsuit came more than a year later after getting her full divorce settlement, tax-free.

Addiction and Violence are not synonymous.

Having an addictive disorder does not turn one into a violent person.  

On the contrary, IPV Intimate Partner Violence has to do with power and control. It can manifest in different forms, not only physically, but financially, emotionally, and psychologically as well. Physical abuse is the easiest to detect unlike the rest of the other forms. Any form of abuse can be severely damaging and take years to understand the extent and recover from it, mentally, emotionally, and even economically.

Recordings of their interactions were alarming. The idea of recording so much intimate details of their lives with the intention of observing and improving their relationship for use in therapy (seriously?), became a disaster. Collecting evidence as such, is likened more towards a need to prove oneself, or against your intimate family member.

AH sold rights (of a video of JD’s raging, smashing the kitchen) to a sensational newspaper. How could a personal video ended up as the intellectual property of a sensational newspaper? This is a covert form of IPV abuse.

AH also admits to hitting her ex-husband in the recording, overt aggression.

Denial or minimizing abuse is common in IPV relationships.

Males are seen more culpable of physical aggression being biologically stronger while females may be more prone to covert aggression. I have only encountered and worked with a male victim of abuse who stepped forward to obtain a protection order against his wife.

Male victims of IPV often stood up to maintain more balance in parenting and custodial rights for their children’s welfare.

Stereotyping and Scapegoating Addiction

The expert witnesses of AH legal team pursued the argument that addicts are abusive and violent. The correlational studies mentioned cannot provide the causality that since JD has an addictive disorder and an anger issue (smashing and kicking furniture), he must be guilty of being a wife beater.

What is Addiction?

Addictive Disorder is the compulsive use, tolerance, and dependence on substance, whereby withdrawals occur when one attempts to stop or cut down. In fact, it is seen as a disease where certain brain reward pathways are formed and created a pattern of repetitive use despite the negative consequences on the body and relationships.

Addictions are complex and is a family disease. Addicts are often scapegoated as the main problem in the family, blamed for the issues suffered by the rest of the family members.

The aggression link aspect of addiction is intra-personal, self-directed aggression; self harm This is due to the increasing risks of poor health, overdosing, falls, accidents, and impaired decision making and multiple losses occurring in one’s life once the disease progresses.

Growing Pains – Childhood Trauma is an Attachment Injury!

JD and AH experienced childhood abuse at the hands of their parents. This is painful, NO CHILD OR ANY HUMAN DESERVE ANY ABUSE. They came into the relationship with personal baggage. JD revealed at testimony the pain and severe depression he carries and why he had not enjoyed being sober.

High adverse childhood event scoring increases the likelihood of developing an alcohol use disorder by 7 times and the likelihood of suicide by 12 times.

His mother was cruel, cold, and abusive. His story triggered a lot of public sharing of childhood trauma and IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) experiences. (This is the positive power of media when it connects and provides an emotional outlet for the public.)

AH has a cruel father who has an issue with drinking. She admitted being introduced to Al-anon by one of her close friends in the midst of her relationship with JD.

Toxic relationships often occur when childhood attachment injuries remain unhealed. One may seek out relationships and partners to re-experience those trauma bonding; an attempt to fulfil unmet needs and revive their desire for justice. Re-creating or allowing situations to allow the parts within to speak out and act out.

On the other hand, the other extreme can occur. Seeking work situations which causes one to have poor boundaries such as overworking, being underpaid, and avoiding intimacy by turning to work and money as the primary focus. This is termed trauma abstinence.

What are the signs of toxicity in relationships?

  • Physical, Psychological, Emotional and Financial Abuse (e.g., Frequent fights and rage, over criticalness, blackmailing, threats of abandonment, depriving financial resources or access, frequent flirting to cause jealousy, disrespect e.g., use of demeaning and belittling language)
  • Poor boundaries, such as an imbalance relationship– parasite and host
  • Reckless companionship – use of substances, overspending unnecessarily

The use of poly-substances was rampant among the couple and friends, to the extent that party friends were invited to live right next to them.

JD felt betrayed by his chosen one. However, frequent intoxication clouds our minds, and impairs our ability to make judgements of what and who is better for us.

AH seemed to have taken on the role as a compulsive helper and a helpless family member who is unable to manage JD’s addiction. The desire to and inability to control and manage JD’s addiction, is a sign of compulsive care taking and severe codependency.

AH’s extravagant wine habit, regular alcohol, and drug-taking, contradicts her stated convictions about being worried over JD’s excessive use of substances. Saying you support a partner while doing a different action, is unhelpful: “We can use together, but not when you are alone!”

Despite being a short live marriage, resentments can grow rapidly as the addiction of JD deteriorates.

Co-morbidities or co-occurring conditions such as mood disorders, trauma related disorders, personality traits and disorders are more common in survivors of childhood trauma.

Both JD and AH are on psychiatric medications which have limited efficacy if they are still using other psychoactive substance use regularly.

Blindfolded Justice (Image by Openclipart Vectors)

Compassionate Justice

Relationship, occupational and financial losses due to the impact of unresolved childhood wounds are real and painful.

The content and details revealed in this trial has been intense, disturbing, and damaging to their personal privacies. I suppose none of them would be able to live their lives the same after all these publicities.

Whether JD is sober or on a harm reduction recovery now, he is now able to share what is his version of truth and his experience with IPV. This level of vulnerability is uniting sufferers of abuse, addictions, and mental health. Male survivors are real. They exist. They need a voice too.

Contrary to the legal defense team of AH, this case is not a battle of the sexes and that IPV is not limited to female as victims or survivors. This case uncovered facts, new neutral witnesses, and contested tampered evidence.

For years, masses have stood behind AH when her un-scrutinized claims were published. The systems and even the press and public were always ready to support and help her. She has an expensive legal team, hired expert witnesses, and got all the time she needs to present before the jury.

Now the masses are seeing more evidence otherwise of what went on in their crumbling and painful marriage.

JD won the unanimous jury vote and public opinion. He deserves a break from the paparazzi stereotyping. The pendulum has swung… … AH is receiving the brunt of the outrage by social media now. This is unfortunate and can be damaging as with all respects, AH also has her mental health struggles!

When Media provides reality content, the right versus the wrong, the bully and the victim, a winner, and a loser; all sort of extremes, only adds on to further dramatization, and splits our perceptions.

Pro JD or Pro AH aside, it is time to see that the Me-Too Movement is non-bias, and non-sexist. It is also time for mental health pain and recovery to be non-stigmatizing and hopefully, anyone can access and receive treatment and care earlier.


Proclaimer: I am a private EMDR psychotherapist listed at Psychology Today