The internet is abuzz over the news that celebrity couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are divorcing amid Heard’s allegations that there was drug and alcohol abuse as well as domestic abuse during their 15-month marriage.
According to a People magazine report, Heard, 30, has alleged in recent court documents that Depp, 52, is “an alcoholic and drug addict,” and that he “had relapsed into a cycle of substance abuse” that involved alcohol and drugs.
She also has claimed Johnny Depp was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive to her.
“I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating, and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him,” Heard said in court documents while seeking a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband, according to TMZ and Associated Press reports.
Heard has alleged that Depp threw a cellphone at her, hitting her cheek and eye, while he was high and drunk during a fight that reportedly took place between them at their Los Angeles home in May 2016.
While Johnny Depp himself has yet to comment publicly on the case, the actor has openly acknowledged his battles with drugs and alcohol in past media interviews, saying he used the substances during what he called a “darker period” in his early Hollywood career.
In a 2008 Rolling Stone interview, Johnny Depp said, “I spent years poisoning myself. I was very, very good at it. But finally I was faced with a critical decision: Do I want to continue to be a dumba** or do I want to not be a dumba**? It was best to stop. Now I look back and say, ‘Why? Why did I do that?’ “
The unexpected and bitter celebrity couple’s split has cast light on the issue of domestic violence and perhaps added to the conversation about drug and alcohol use and its ties to intimate partner relationship violence.
Statistics paint a grim picture of intimate partner violence in the United States. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the country, according to the 2010 Summary Report of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. In one year, this equates to more than 10 million men and women.
The same survey reports that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
In addition, 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point where they felt fearful or believed they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
Definition of domestic violence
Domestic violence has been defined by the US Department of Justice as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
“Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”
Domestic violence can involve acts that are physical, emotional, or sexual in nature.
People from all walks of life and all communities can be affected by intimate partner violence, no matter the person’s age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, occupation, ability, or income. While data show most reports of domestic violence are filed by women who were abused by their male partners, men also are victims of domestic abuse, as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
According to the 2010 Summary Report of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which studied victimization by sexual orientation, the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner for lesbians was 43.8 percent, 61.1 percent for bisexual women, and 35 percent for heterosexual women.
For gay men, it was 26 percent, 37.3 percent for bisexual men, and 29 percent for heterosexual men. The report did not include data for gender identity or expression.
It is believed LGBTQ+ victims do not report incidents out of a fear they will face homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination from law enforcement and the legal system and other agencies.
Survivors of domestic violence often feel shame in coming forward to share their experiences for fear they will be judged, blamed, or ostracized. They often worry that the response from people will be unsupportive or judgmental, which leads to victim-blaming.
Some domestic violence victims advocates say they have found reaction to news of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard split troubling. In a recent interview with MSNBC, Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said:
Because of his celebrity status in this particular instance, there is an enormous amount of victim blaming occurring.
People have a difficult time understanding that an adult woman can be a victim of domestic abuse. We are still a society which marginalizes women … and where women and children in this society are not as valued as men. Men who are accused of or charged with domestic violence are just not held as accountable.
Social media users have posted the trending hashtags #WeAreWithYouAmberHeard and #ImWithAmber to show support for Heard, who some believe will help others by sharing her story and by discouraging reactions that seek to blame or attack domestic-abuse victims.
Drug, alcohol abuse can affect relationships
While substance abuse does not directly cause domestic abuse, it is widely viewed that the misuse of drugs and alcohol influences and enables violent behavior. Past studies have cited substance use in cases involving violent behavior in relationships.
Drinking and using drugs have an effect on the way users behave and perceive the world around them as well as the people they encounter. In many cases, cravings for substances intensify, making the user focus more on satisfying the need to find and obtain more drugs. This is also a sign that substance addiction is beginning to form.
If both the abuser and victim are substance abusers, the combination can become even more explosive.
Couples in which one or both parties are addicted could argue or get into physical fights over just about anything—from finances to conflicts over alcohol and drug use.
However, substance abuse is only one factor to consider when reviewing the complex nature of marital and relationship conflicts.
Help for domestic abuse victims
When alcohol and drugs are used, the danger of a violent relationship can intensify, particularly for the person who is on the receiving end of the abuse. If both parties are using drugs and/or alcohol, the situation could potentially worsen.
One main priority for domestic-abuse survivors, who also abuse drugs and alcohol, is to get to a place of safety first; the most dangerous time for a woman in this situation is when she initially leaves the abuser. The safe place must also treat their substance abuse disorder and find the proper program to address it.
If both people in the relationship abuse drugs and alcohol, both should seek treatment that targets their chemical dependencies and uses therapy to address their traumas and related issues. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), psychodrama therapy, group counseling, and family therapy have been found to be helpful for domestic abuse victims.
Finding resources that teach domestic-violence survivors how to start life again away from an abusive relationship is key, and aftercare programs may include a strategy to address possible relapses if the person is a substance abuser.
If you or someone you know would benefit from a free consultation and assessment, call Recovery Hub at 844-242-0890. Our addiction specialists are available anytime, day or night, to help anyone begin his or her journey to lasting health, happiness, and sobriety. Don’t wait; call us now.