Self

I Wrote A Personal Essay About My Ex And Now He's Comparing Me To Amber Heard

Photo: Andrea Raffin & Undrey / Shutterstock
woman typing / amber heard

I have just been compared to Amber Heard by my ex and I have a few things to say about it.

Years ago, that kind of comparison would have cut deep. Today, I shrug it off as another ridiculous, insane attempt to not only hurt my feelings and belittle me but to justify my ex’s own behavior towards me.

You see, he found a piece of online creative nonfiction in which I described him and he felt violated. That’s why he chose to make that comparison.

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But the way he has grasped this piece of writing and used it to demonstrate a point — more importantly, the same point he has been wanting to make for many years now, even long after I have stopped thinking or caring about the relationship — is telling. Essentially, following the popular public opinion that Johnny is in “the right” and Amber is in “the wrong”, that he was innocent of abuse all along.

It tells me something about abuse culture on a bigger scale and where this case may be leading society as a whole. And it’s potentially worrying to consider what prior abusers may be drawing from this court case, even though his own theories don’t have a leg to stand on.

Here are four places where his theory falls apart:

1. Amber’s public op-ed was somewhat different in nature from my barely-viewed personal essay.

When Amber Heard published her op-ed in The Washington Post, it was intended for many eyes. Although she didn’t name Johnny Depp, she was clearly referring to him when she spoke about the abuse she had suffered between specific dates.

Amber’s story was fully intended to become public and create waves.

My essay, on the other hand, was published where no one who knew my ex or me would be likely to see it. I had a minuscule audience of my own. I also didn’t name him. Therefore, no one could go look him up to find him, even if it was easy to do so.

The purpose was not to create noise and an impression of victimization, like Amber’s, but to write some creative nonfiction from a personal perspective.

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My ex’s argument was that I left out important details that would have given him more credibility.

That argument would hold some weight if I was arguing a case. I wasn’t. I was writing a piece of creative nonfiction from a personal perspective.

In creative nonfiction, we have to be selective over what we include and leave out, and we choose the angle from which we approach the narrative. It’s creative and a complete story is not always required. In this case, the focus was purely on one person’s experience of sliding almost seamlessly into an abusive relationship. Not on the thousands of events that turned it into the ugly mess it later became.

2. My ex is comparing himself to Johnny Depp, and claiming to be a victim.

As we all know, the trial revealed some awful stuff that went on between Heard and Depp. They have been described by clinical psychologist and former marriage counselor to the couple, Laurel Anderson, as “mutually abusive.”

It’s no secret that abusive, toxic relationships that spiral out of control usually involve both parties lashing out and becoming abusive in one manner or another. And, while I am not proud of having behaved awfully at times during our fiery relationship, I admit that I did behave in ways that were intentionally unkind to him to feel some vengeful satisfaction.

However, what became revealed during the Depp versus Heard trial was that, of the two of them, again according to Dr. Anderson, Ms. Heard was the one who initiated violent interactions to prevent Depp from leaving. This is a classic trait of the manipulator and abuser.

And this is where my ex’s perception collapses. If there was ever anyone wanting to walk away and get some peace, some fresh air, or anything outside of the relationship at all, it was me. And, every time, he prevented it or tried to. If he did let me leave, he would then phone me repeatedly until I picked up and agreed to come back to talk.

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During these moments when he would prevent me from going anywhere, he would do things such as stand physically in my way while calling me awful names, telling me what a despicable person I am, listing all my crimes, and refusing to stop. Meanwhile, I would be trapped, having to listen to this.

I never initiated a single violent interaction, nor did I ever act violently towards him. On one of these awful taunting occasions, while he was standing on some lower steps on the staircase, I was holding a glass of water and there was nothing I wanted to do more than smash it over his head. However, having some control over myself, I refrained from doing so and instead simply emptied the contents over his head.

That was the height of my violence. He can’t say the same.

3. I sought legal intervention, just like Amber did.

In his mind, my seeking police protection and a child residency court order were for nothing other than to get at him, belittle him, and humiliate him. He saw it in the same way that Amber Heard has been portrayed going to get a protective order in place.

Whatever Amber’s reasons, I would say that she probably was justified in getting legal protection; given that we know that Johnny wasn’t always in control of his reactions, was often under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and had acted violently, at least in her presence, if not to her, there was a threat.

As women who may be smaller and physically weaker than our male partners, we have the right to decide to seek protection. No man has the right to tell us that we are not justified in doing so.

In my case, it also included my freedom as the mother of my ex’s child.

He believes that it was purely a manipulative move on my part and had no real validity whatsoever.

He doesn’t think that I needed to get a child residency order which gave me greater decision-making power, because he believes he is not controlling. Unless he sees a need to be controlling, of course. Such as the time he saw a need to install spyware on my computer so that he could always check up on me, get my passwords, and read private emails.

He doesn’t think that I needed to get legal protection from him trying to prevent me from taking my son out of the country for a two-week holiday. Maybe not, but why should I risk it?

After all, if he came up with a possible reason why he should, then he would. That’s who he is.

Controlling.

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And he didn’t think I needed to disable his right to stop me from moving to another part of the country, be it for work, a new relationship, or whatever. Maybe not.

However, since there was enough reasonable evidence that he took joy in standing in my way when I had good opportunities to earn money or to do something for myself, I did seek that order. Since there was enough evidence that he intended to go completely ballistic if I found a new relationship, I did not leave anything to chance.

Why would he not try to stand in my way of living a life free of him?

If he had a good reason to stop me, he would. That I know.

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Because he has a need to control.

And people like him will find always a “good” reason. Just like they will always find a reason to blame other people’s behavior for their own despicable actions.

4. Johnny Depp is an artist and so is he.

And here, I had heard it all…

“He’s an artist and artists are expressive.”

“He was under immense emotional pressure.”

“Everyone takes drugs in Hollywood. He wasn’t doing anything that any other actor wouldn’t.”

He was excusing Johnny Depp for his acts of violence on the same grounds that he excused himself years back.

Passionate people behave in passionate ways … including when they are triggered.

We don’t know the full story behind Depp and Heard and we probably never will. But, we can see what counts as toxic behavior. And we can see what counts as abusive.

A man who uses his physical strength to intimidate a woman is behaving abusively. Period.

Whether or not Johnny Depp is a “bad” person, he behaved like a complete piece of s*** at times. His text messages spewed toxicity. His drinking, drug-taking, and furniture-smashing were NOT acceptable, no matter how toxic, devious, or abusive Amber Heard’s own actions have been.

As Laurel Anderson said, they were “mutually abusive.”

Is this case sending subliminal messages that validate abusive men?

The only reason my ex found my story was because he recently went looking through all of my online content. This story was written a while back and he would have to have sifted through hundreds of stories before he got there.

Some people call this stalking.

But the question on my mind is this:

Are all previously abusive and violent men who didn’t get their way — whose partners did eventually manage to walk away from them with some semblance of self-respect and some freedom — using Depp’s example as a reason to excuse their own behavior?

Are they all watching the trial and following the popular opinion that Johnny Depp is the “innocent” party while simultaneously comparing their ex-partners to Amber Heard as the “abuser”?

Because, if that is what will come out of this trial, we have a big problem on our hands.

As my ex said, looking at me with a knowing smirk:

“We’ve all smashed up some furniture in our time.”

At which point, I looked at him and said,

“You have. But some of us haven’t.”

Sally Prag is a full-time writer, mom of three, and coach. Read more of her work on Medium.

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you’re not alone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that approximately 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S. More than 12 million women and men over the course of the year suffer from instances of domestic violence and abuse.

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