Posted on: April 28, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Mariah Trujillo, Editor-in-Chief

By now, most of us know about the defamation case filed by actor Johnny Depp against his former partner, Amber Heard, over an op-ed Heard wrote claiming to be a survivor of domestic abuse. The trial has become a spectacle of “he said, she said,” with both parties saying the other is the true abuser.

“It sounds like they were in a very toxic relationship and apparently didn’t understand how toxic it was, to the point where it sounds like there was abuse in one form or another coming from both parties,” said Moraine Valley criminal justice professor David O’Connor, an award-winning trial attorney who has spent more than 35 years participating in complex courtroom litigation. “But it also sounds like she was highly manipulative in the way that she did things.”

The trial has brought to light some of the misconceptions about domestic violence and the stereotypes about who its victims are. Many people still see this as a “women’s issue.”

That’s kind of a domestic violence secret: males are victims of domestic violence.”

David O’Connor, Criminal Justice Professor

“That’s kind of a domestic violence secret: males are victims of domestic violence,” said O’Connor. “They could very easily be abused, and even if the police are called, very seldom will they say, ‘My wife hit me’ or ‘My wife threw something at me and caused this cut.’ Very seldom will they say that happened and yes I want to press charges. It just simply doesn’t happen to the same degree as the alternative.”

Domestic violence is a pattern of intentional dysfunctional behavior designed to control someone, commonly done through manipulation, threats of abandonment, withholding or forcing intimacy, constant criticism, and destruction, according to MV counselor Anna Rogers.

Domestic violence situations are commonly viewed as an issue for the “lower class” but through the trial, it is apparent it occurs at every level of the economic structure, according to Moraine criminology professor Brian Duffy. 

Heard’s 2018 op-ed claiming to be a survivor of domestic abuse referenced timing that coincided with her marriage to Depp, which ended in 2016. According to Depp’s testimony on April 25, Disney dropped him from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise just days after Heard’s op-ed was released.

Just days after filing for divorce in May of 2016, Heard requested a restraining order against Depp. The court granted her request but according to that same testimony, Heard visited Depp in July 2016.

“This happens with incredible frequency, in run-of-the-mill domestic violence cases where one of the parties gets an order of protection, doesn’t presumably want any contact with the abuser, and yet, turns around and does exactly contrary to what they asked for,” said O’Connor. “A lot of times, the judges are perplexed on ‘Well, wait a minute, a week ago you’re saying you were afraid for your life and you absolutely needed an order of protection I granted, and now I hear that you went to your boyfriend’s house, what are you doing?’”

Because domestic violence has no format, no gender, no race, no socioeconomic status, and does not always appear as a physical threat, MV counselor Sharon Brennan believes it is better to try to identify the dynamics of power and control in a relationship to determine whether a pattern of abuse exists.

“Everyone deals with trauma differently,” O’Connor said. “You certainly can see signs, but you can’t make the assumption because they’re not crying on your shoulder and crying about what somebody is doing to them that they’re not somehow being abused. Sometimes these signs are much more subtle. It might be anxiety, it might be depression, it might be some type of fairly limited action.”

According to Duffy, victims of domestic violence may appear with unexplained injuries and adapt to a change in social behavior, a change in clothing choices, and a withdrawal from common activities. Following suit, it’s not uncommon for a victim to develop depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

You certainly can see signs, but you can’t make the assumption,”

David O’Connor, Criminal Justice Professor

“The police have made great strides over the years,” O’Connor said. “They are better trained to understand some of these issues than they were years ago. A lot of times they would show up and unless the woman looked like they were completely beaten up with cuts and bruises and could hardly walk, a lot of times they used to just try to settle things down, tell everyone to relax, and then they left.”

In terms of spotting an abuser, while there is no specific definition, there are some characteristics that are noticeable including frequent changes in behavior, lack of emotional stability, and the need for control.

“Oftentimes, we would get a witness on the stand and they would maintain that they were the victim, they were so quiet and demure and they would never even raise their voice,” said O’Connor. “Within two minutes, they’re screaming at one of the attorneys! So you get the impression, ‘Alright, if you’re willing to do this in the courtroom, what was it like in your apartment?’”

To help prevent incidents of domestic violence, Moraine Valley offers several resources, including classes to help identify a toxic relationship, an Intro to Domestic Violence class taught by Duffy, and several eager counselors willing to listen.

For anonymous, confidential help at any time, you can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). To make an appointment with a counselor, call the MVCC Counseling & Career Development Center at (708) 974-5722 or in Building S, Room S202. 

You are not alone, you are not to blame.”

Anna Rogers, Moraine Valley Counselor

“I would say to all people, regardless of gender and gender expression, who are involved in a relationship that feels controlling, involves excessive jealousy and/or criticism, and to those who are aware they are being abused: Just feeling heard and supported is the first step toward thinking about your possibilities,” said Rogers. “You are not alone, you are not to blame.”