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He Said, She Said: When Society Praises the Abuser and Shuns the Victim

It’s the twenty-first century, and we’re still living in a patriarchal society. Some people might deem this statement laughable because modern women “do not” experience the same hardships women did in the past. Back then, women were not allowed to work, speak up, think, feel, or simply be human and equal to men. Of course, that is only a summary and does not encompass the collective abuse inflicted on them. However, within those inequalities, there are millions of stories left unsaid, yet they’re all connected by the same struggle. 

They may not be the same struggles from the past, and we might enjoy some “privileges” in the present, but modern hardships against women exist. By “privileges”, I mean that to call something that is a human right, a mere privilege deprives the contemporary woman of her individuality and the importance of her existence. 

By definition, privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.” Modern women do not have privileges; they have the rights that belonged to them all along. Those women in the past that fought for the ‘us’ that exists today opened a liberating path that only knows how to expand. Now, it is time for modern women to do the same thing for future generations, but with today’s issues. 

Among all the recent hardships, from equal pay to femicide, there is one in between that is recurrent in most discriminatory practices—the physical and emotional abuse against women. This type of problem mostly happens in romantic relationships composed of a man and a woman. However, it is not only limited to this kind of relationship. 

Emotional abuse can happen everywhere—in the workplace, at home, or even in public spaces. Since it is the “less violent” of the two, it is common to see it normalized. You might find it in a joke that your boss made (“Settle down, honey, it’s only a joke!”,) a “supportive” comment made by your boyfriend (“I was just messing around with ya, but it wouldn’t hurt to lose the pounds!”,) or in a passive-aggressive suggestion made by that one machista family member (“How are you ever going to be a wife if you can’t cook?”). 

Women are becoming more vocal about the abuse they’ve endured, be it from a celebrity or normal person’s account. However, this action comes with a price. I’ve noticed that every time a female star shares her story, be it days, months, or years after the abuse happened, she’s met with backlash instead of support. She’s labeled a liar, an attention-seeker, a misandrist feminist, and a dramática. 

She is often encountered by comments (made by both men and women) like: “That happened a long time ago, get over it”, “Stop talking about it, we heard you the first hundred times!”, “It took her three years to say something, makes you wonder if she’s making all of this up”, “She must have something coming up and needs the publicity,” or even “She’s saying it to increase her album sales!”, minus their ever-present typos. All the while, when a celebrity man admits to being abusive (but he’s “so, so sorry!”,), he’s considered to be brave, kind, and deserving of a second chance (everyone makes mistakes all the time, don’t we?). As if it’s a mistake to emotionally or physically abuse someone you claim to love.  

This is the case for Selena Gomez. After a tumultuous, eight-year-old on-and-off-again relationship with Justin Bieber, where she was cheated on, manipulated, lied to, and gaslighted, she decides to speak up about the emotional abuse she suffered during her relationship by saying: “I do feel I was a victim to certain abuse.” She receives comments like the ones previously mentioned. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber corroborates her story by stating: “I started doing drugs at 19 and abused all of my relationships. I became resentful, disrespectful to women, and angry.” To society, he’s so brave for sharing his story, so deserving of forgiveness because he goes to church, and so vulnerable for accepting his fault. What about the victim? Doesn’t she have the right to share her story to move on? Isn’t she allowed to talk about something as traumatic as abuse to prevent other women from going through the same thing? Is protecting an abuser just because he’s oh so dreamy and a superstar all it takes to sustain an ignorant mentality and a patriarchal society? 



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If Selena Gomez goes through this, as well as celebrities like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, just imagine how the hatred spreads when it’s a normal, no-big-name girl. As soon as a woman reports any type of abuse—sexual, physical, emotional, or mental—she is bombarded with hateful questions, and comments like: “What was she wearing?”, “She provoked him!”, “Why was she out so late?”, “Was she drinking?”, “Is she a virgin?” “She asked for it”, “Why did she stay?”, “She chooses to stay”, “Why is she speaking about this again?”, and “At least he didn’t hit her!”. Then, they dare to ask why women are afraid to come forward months or years later without realizing that the fear of receiving hatred is precisely one of the reasons. How can they share something so brutal with a society that praises the same men who perpetrate this kind of evil? 

On the other hand, there is a present stigma in society against men who suffer abuse at the hands of women. Since our society has a patriarchal mentality, it believes that men are stronger by nature and that it’s impossible for a man to become a victim of abuse. For society, it’s unfathomable to think that a woman can ever be abusive and that a man is incapable of “fighting back”. (Toxic) masculinity has to do with being an “alpha-male”—i.e., loud and above women by nature. If a man does not fall into this definition, then he is “Not a man”, “Not man enough,” or “A disgrace for males everywhere”. A man who is brave enough to make known and/or report his abuse is ridiculed, a laughing stock, an exaggerator, and a liar. 

This is the case for Johnny Depp. A few years ago, his ex-wife (Amber Heard) accused him of physical abuse. Everyone believed her, especially given the photo “evidence” she presented for the court. The pictures showed bruises that were allegedly made by Depp. As a result, Depp got “cancelled” (gotta love this cancel culture, right?) and was instantly labeled an abuser. Nobody cared about what he had to say—not when he denied the abuse or how his exes claimed he was no abuser. Depp collected years of evidence—tapes, phone calls, pictures, and eyewitnesses—and in 2020 made it public. The pictures show bruises on his face and a severed finger, among other things.



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In one recording, you can hear Amber Heard telling Depp the following: 

“Tell the world, Johnny, tell them… ‘I Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence… and see how many people believe or side with you.”

She later adds: 

“You’re bigger, and you’re stronger… I was a 115lb woman… You’re going to get up on the stand, Johnny, and say, ‘she started it?’ Really? I have never been able to overpower you… there’s a jury, and there’s a judge [that] will see that there’s a very big difference between you and me.” 

Depp has been called a liar multiple times. His abuse is dismissed as if he’s not allowed to voice his story just because he’s a man, and men “don’t get abused.” Meanwhile, Heard receives comments like: “Well, she’s still hot!” and “She can abuse me any time she wants.”

We, as a society, have to do a better job of listening to those who suffer from abuse without judgment. They were brave enough to share it with the world, and it’s our turn to support them. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Do we have to wait for someone to die to empathize with them? Have we turned into a society that’s so caught up in its quickness and individuality that it has no regard for others? We still have a lot of things to work through—still being a patriarchal society and all—but the big changes in history come from the small acts that begin to accumulate, little by little. These small acts always grow into something greater than the hatred victims face.