Johnny Depp is getting divorced and it’s not pretty. Amidst the ongoing legal battle between Depp and his estranged wife, Amber Heard, allegations of abuse against him have taken over headlines. Heard claims that Depp has been emotionally and physically abusive to her throughout their short, 15-month marriage. Late last week, Heard was granted a temporary restraining following an incident where she claims Depp assaulted and threw a phone at her, creating a bruise under her eye. In her court documents, Heard says that Depp was drunk and high during the incident, and that drugs and alcohol usually made him paranoid and violent. These kind of stories are not uncommon in Hollywood or anywhere else. Depp has yet to address the allegations directly. In the meantime, however, several women from Depp’s life have come forward to publicly defend him against these allegations.
Depp’s ex-wife of 14 years and mother of his two children, Vanessa Paradis, wrote a letter that describes Depp as a sensitive person who has experienced love and never abused her, leading her to conclude that these allegations are outrageous. His first wife, Lori Anne Allison, to whom he was married for two years in the ’80s, repeated these sentiments and says that she was never hit or yelled at by Depp. And the actor’s daughter claims that he is one of the sweetest people she knows, also rejecting Heard’s claims of abuse.
But can you legitimately defend someone against allegations that are so personal? How? In a situation like this, can you really use your experience with them to gauge what their experience was like with someone else?
We are not carbon copies of ourselves as we move from one relationship to the next. We build partnerships with people based on the unique blending of our personalities. We learn new things about ourselves and our partners with each new relationship. We can experience fresh trauma while in relationships that our partners may or not be the source of. It comes to be that we have fresh needs, or lost interest in the things that once sustained us. In other words, people change. Part of what it means to be human is that we evolve and adapt. The only thing guaranteed to us in this world is change, and it is not always in a positive direction. Johnny Depp, with his charming face and amazing talent, is no exception to this rule. The person Depp was 30 years ago when he was married to Lori Anne Allison is certainly not the man he is today. Even if he was full of puppy energy and sunshine in his past relationships, there’s no guarantee that he’s not a trash human being now.
And then there is the age old adage about minding one’s own business. In addition to keeping us safe and free to deal with our own shit, those words ask us to use wisdom, humility, and good judgement to recognize business that is not ours to mind. This seems so true in the case of Depp’s exes and children. Ultimately, no one can confirm or deny exactly what baggage was a part of Heard and Depp’s marriage. Sure, his exes can make assumptions based on their own previous experiences with him. But assumptions should not be the basis of determining whether or not a woman is lying about spousal abuse. To do so would be crossing a line into dangerous victim-bashing territory, and all for the sake of nostalgia.
I’m not here to argue whether or not Johnny Depp is the abuser Heard claims he is — and it isn’t my business either way. It’s an extremely personal matter that just so happens to be playing out publicly. I do tend to believe survivors of abuse and assault, until I have a strong reason to believe otherwise. But it is worth sorting through what deserves our attention in these situations and what doesn’t based on the circumstances. It’s very likely that Johnny Depp is not the same person he was 30 years ago. It seems likely that he still uses drugs and alcohol, and that those substances can have different effect on Depp as he ages. I think it’s likely that he treats his daughter differently to how he treats his wife, and that he may feel less inclined to lash out at one than he does the other. It’s possible that at age 52, Depp could be running on a completely different emotional wavelength. It’s feasible that Johnny Depp is an asshole and his exes can’t convince me to throw that possibility of the window just yet.