Justice

How Amber Heard Defines Herself After an Abusive Relationship

December 14th 2016

By:
Laura Donovan

Actress Amber Heard's personal life has been in the spotlight since she filed for divorce from Johnny Depp in May, while accusing him of spousal abuse.

Now, the actress has written an open letter in Net-a-Porter magazine addressing her experience in an abusive relationship, and why she does not want to call herself a 'victim'.

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"I never felt like anyone would or could rescue me, so naturally I resented the label of 'victim'," Heard wrote in Porter magazine, as reported by Harper's Bazaar. "As I write this today, I can promise every woman who is suffering in silence, you are not alone. You may not see us, but we are there."

Heard also noted in her piece that women who report abuse are often shamed or doubted. For example, critics argued over the summer that Heard was only divorcing Depp for money, prompting her to donate the $7 million settlement she received to charity in order to clarify her motivations.

"Let's start with the truth — the cold, hard truth," Heard wrote in Porter magazine. "When a woman comes forward to speak out about injustice or her suffering, instead of aid, respect and support, she will be met with hostility, skepticism and shame. Her motives will be questioned and her truth ignored."

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There's a larger conversation about the use of the term "victim" among women who've been abused.

Those who have experienced abuse sometimes define themselves as a "survivor," as the term is generally more empowering.

"Being a 'victim' implies helplessness and pity, which might not adequately describe the experiences of some people who experience sexual assault," writer Gwendolyn Wu wrote in a March 2016 piece for HelloFlo. "Experiences vary from person to person, after all. However, what’s so different about the term 'survivor' is that it implies that people are able to take control of their own lives. 'Surviving' conveys that the person is still fighting, whether through the judicial system in order to bring justice to the perpetrator, to gain awareness for the cause, or to learn to live after experiencing an assault."

Not all individuals who have experienced abuse take this approach, though. An anonymous writer argued in an April 2016 piece for xoJane that that being pressured to call herself a survivor trivializes the pain of experiencing abuse.

"I prefer the word 'victim' because it places the focus back where it belongs: on the fucking rapist who turned me into a victim by raping me," the anonymous writer explained. "I had no choice in that, and I don't have much choice about how I respond to it either. It's always been strange to me how proponents of survivor rhetoric so often push 'survivor' as the most appropriate thing for all victims, going so far as to explain in-depth why calling yourself a victim is a no-no."

[H/T Harper's Bazaar]