The coverage of the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp lawsuit did not address sexual identity or vulnerability. Bisexual women have a significantly higher prevalence of rape, sexual assault, and IPV. Hypersexualization and discrimination against heterosexual and queer communities contribute to violence.
The defamation lawsuit between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard ended two weeks ago. However, in its aftermath, both actors are still battling to shape public opinion — their lawyers did high-profile sit-downs, Depp joined TikTok, and Heard’s “Today.” show interview aired this week. While the trial sparked countless conversations about the dynamics of abuse, the relationship between survival and freedom of expression, and the power of social media, at least one discussion is still largely absent: how Heard’s identity as a bisexual woman influences her marriage. It may have affected the case.
Depp won the defamation lawsuit he filed by accusing Heard of defaming him in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she did not name him but referred to herself as “a public figure who represents domestic violence.” Heard partially won her counter-charge after comments from Depp’s former attorney Adam Waldman when he called her allegations of abuse a hoax.
The verdict came on the first day of Pride Month, which this year takes place against anti-LGBTQ violence, anti-LGBTQ laws, and fear and isolation among LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ people are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ people to become violent victims, and bisexual women are particularly vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence.
Nearly half of bisexual women say they have been raped, and 75% say they have experienced sexual violence other than rape, including sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact. According to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, bisexual women had a significantly higher prevalence of rape and sexual assault by perpetrators and intimate partners than lesbian and heterosexual women. Most bisexual women who experienced sexual and intimate partner violence had only male perpetrators.
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“It’s pretty amazing when we look at the numbers,” said Dr. Nicole Johnson, a professor at Lehigh University who studies violence against women and those of marginalized sexual or gender identities. “It still hasn’t become a national conversation, a national concern of, ‘What’s going on, what are we doing about it?’… The general conversation around sexual and intimate partner violence is so heteronormative.”
Heard’s sexuality wasn’t an explicit part of the process. While experts say they were happy to see her bisexuality not being used against her, they wish coverage could have addressed how a person’s sexual identity can contribute. to vulnerability.
Experts say bisexual women, who face biphobia from both straight and gay communities, are particularly vulnerable to violence, both because of discrimination that suggests their sexual orientation is invalid or unbelievable and because of hypersexualization, which falsely positions bisexual women as promiscuous. . This can be used as an excuse for sexual acts. In intimate partners, it can manifest as jealousy due to the belief that both men and women pose a threat to the relationship.
Bisexual women of color, bisexual women living in poverty, bisexual immigrant women, and bisexual trans women face additional stigma and barriers to support. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 40% of LGBTQ people of color identify as bisexual, and about half of the transgender people describe their sexual orientation as bisexual or queer.
For bisexual women, a double exclusion
Despite being the bulk of the LGBTQ community, people who identify as bisexual say heterosexual and queer communities often discriminate against them. They are told that they are confused or that their bisexuality is a phase. In many cases, they have been historically erased.
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“Identities that don’t conform to these rigid and clear boundaries and binary numbers make people feel uncomfortable,” said Catherine Shugrue dos Santos, deputy executive director for programs at the New York City Anti-Violence Project.
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Johnson says this double exclusion can lead to feelings of loneliness and cause bisexual people to question or question their identity. Both can contribute to mental health problems and substance abuse, increasing vulnerability to violence.
Johnson says the biggest contributing factor to violence is the myth of bisexual women’s hypersexuality, which leads people to assume that bisexual women are constantly willing and create a sense of entitlement to their bodies.
“It’s an excuse for the behavior of offenders who say things like, ‘She wanted it,’ or ‘she told me she was bi,'” she says. Validate and support.”
In intimate relationships, Johnson says, the perception of a bisexual partner as hypersexual can fuel jealousy.
“Jealousy can evolve into compulsive control, into, ‘I need to know where you are at all times. I need to check your phone. I need to question everything about you,’ which is one of the biggest predictors of intimate partner violence,” she says.
During the trial, Heard testified when Depp exercised control over her interactions with women or expressed her jealousy. Heard testified that during the Met Gala in May 2014, Depp accused her of flirting with another woman and then pushed, grabbed, threw a bottle, and punched her in the face. Heard said she had to “haggle” with Depp during their relationship about taking certain roles because he was jealous of her male co-stars.
‘We reinforce this idea that certain people deserve violence.’
Experts say discrimination against survivors in general and specifically LGBTQ people is embedded in systems. Johnson says legal systems are unaware of trauma, and so is the wider culture. Law enforcement officers still lack proper training in sexual assault and IPV, she says.
“One of the things we see all the time at AVP is the way abusive partners use social stigma, bias, discrimination, and violence in the world to strengthen their control in a relationship,” says Shugrue dos Santos. “They say things like, ‘Nobody else wants you because you’re bisexual or transsexual’ or ‘Nobody will believe you because you’re bisexual.’
Shugrue dos Santos says that while there is more data on situations where men cause violence against women, there needs to be a broader understanding of how people across the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation are affected by intimate partner violence. For example, a bisexual woman whose female partner is mistreating her should be taken seriously by the people who respond if she chooses to press charges.
“How do you justify violence against other people?”
Johnson says the whole structure of how society responds to violence needs to be rethought.
“Our culture is still embedded in violence, and it feels like it’s perpetuating itself,” she said. “Even if there are cases where survivors achieve a particular outcome they want, then a perpetrator is thrown into a carceral system that then victimizes that person, and often perpetrators themselves are the victim.”
Shugrue dos Santos says research shows that criminal responses to intimate partner violence have not diminished. That’s why she says tackling violence means creating communities that recognize the dynamics of power and control and refuse to tolerate abuse.
Johnson says everyone should explore how they can contribute to a culture that allows and condones certain forms of violence against certain people. During her interview with Savannah Guthrie on “Today,” Heard said, “I’m not a good victim. I’m not a sympathetic victim. I’m not a perfect victim. I get it. But I asked the jury to see me.”
“We’re contributing to a culture where people are allowed to hit certain women or get away with things because we reinforce this idea that certain people deserve violence or that certain people are liars or not the perfect victims,” Johnson said. Say. “Even if you don’t believe Amber Heard, for example, how do you justify violence to other people by saying hateful things about her or seeing other people say hateful things about her? World of difference.”
You may also be interested in the following:
Suppose you are a victim of domestic violence. In that case, the National Domestic Violence Hotline allows you to speak confidentially online or by phone with trained attorneys, which they recommend to those who believe their online activity is being monitored by their abuser (800-799-7233). They can help survivors develop a plan to achieve safety for themselves and their children.
The Safe Horizon hotline provides crisis counseling, security planning, and shelter assistance at 1(800) 621-HOPE (4673). It also has a chat feature that allows you to request help from a computer or phone confidentially.
Survivors can also call the 24/7 English/Spanish hotline of the New York City Anti-Violence Project at 212-714-1141 and receive support. If calling is not secure, but emailing is possible, please report it at avp.org/get-help and leave certain contact information, and someone will contact you.