• Elinor Shelp-Peck

Women Can Be Abusers Too

Johnny Depp is back in the news after an audio recording leaked wherein his now ex-wife, Amber Heard, admitted to physically abusing him. In 2018, a then-anonymous op-ed was written for The Washington Post by Heard. In her op-ed, Heard claimed abuse at the hand of Depp throughout their marriage, leading to Depp losing public affection as well as, arguably, his most famous role: Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It was widely believed that he was the abuser in the marriage. Following the op-ed and for the past two years, Depp has defended himself with claims of Heard being the actual abuser in their marriage. Depp subsequently sued Heard in an ongoing $50 million defamation lawsuit, presenting 87 surveillance videos and providing numerous witnesses and photographs, all to the conclusion that it was Heard who was abusing him. The general public, however, still elected to believe Depp was the abuser until audio from a therapy session leaked in early 2020, where Heard admits to hitting Depp. Questions are emerging regarding the couple’s relationship, especially whether there was a single abuser or if both were responsible for violence in the relationship. Following the audio leak, Heard made a statement addressing the abuse, saying that she “felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” At the same time, the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp began trending as fans moved to support the exonerated actor. Not only does their situation highlight how men are stereotyped as the abusers, but also how society shuns men who do speak out about their abuse, hesitant to believe their stories.


It is not frequently talked about how women can also be abusers, whether it be emotional or physical. There is the stereotype that women are always the victims, but this is far from the truth. According to the New York State Office of Domestic Violence Prevention, the number of women who have reported experiencing physical abuse is nearly double the number of reported cases in which men were the victims. This raises the question as to whether or not men feel comfortable coming forward in intimate partner violence situations because of the stigma or if it is accurate that they experience less abuse than women.


Talking about women abusers is especially important in a women’s college setting like Meredith. At times, the real world can seem to become something it isn’t because students spend so much time in an isolated setting. Women can begin to think that only men are abusers, which also dismisses the occurrences of intimate partner violence within non-straight relationships. It is important to recognize that one can also be the abuser or toxic person in a relationship and to identify those traits. Abuse does not have to be physical, but can also manifest itself as emotional. Recognition of the problem is the first step in determining how to move forward. Almost half of women in America will experience some form of relationship violence or abuse during their life and a majority of women experience it before they are 25. This makes it even more important to talk about in a college setting.


Take the time to get to know your relationships and understand their dynamics. If a trait or action sends up a red flag, it is okay to address it. As college students everyone is still figuring out what they want in a relationship and what they do not. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize and take action against the evolution of toxic and abusive relationships. If needed, the Counseling Center on Meredith’s campus is a great resource for advice and sanctuary. If you notice a friend displaying toxic tendencies in a friendship or romantic relationship, speak up. Addressing it early can prevent a pattern from forming.


By Ell Shelp-Peck, Staff Writer

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