So the Depp and Heard trial is over. I listened to most of it in the background at work instead of listening to music. I feel some kinda way about it, but I don't know what is. I don't know that I'll ever know and I'm not invested enough in it to lock myself in a room and work through it. I do have some thoughts though, so here we go.
Fair Warning - there's things in my past I won't dredge up from the bottom. I'll just say I'm familiar with violence, abuse, tempers, rage, and the "monster" that resides in some. I'm not here to validate or invalidate abuse and violence. I am speaking to the broader topic and not an individual or a single relationship - every person and every relationship is unique and therein is the topic of conversation.
Abuse happens in many forms - spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, financial - the list is long. Violence comes in many forms. There are way too many cases out there of horrible abuse and violence. Way too many.
But what about toxic relationships? You know the ones I'm talking about, haven't we all had those friends or family where two people, despite their best effort, bring out the absolute worst in each other? To the point of abuse and violence? Who's the abuser and who's the victim? What if those roles change day in and day out because they're just fire and gasoline together and the toxic is what keeps them going?
I was reading a book last night about a girl who had been trafficked when she was younger and while she had grown up and been to therapy, she still wanted rough, violent hard core sex. On its surface, it was absolutely domestic abuse and violence but it was consensual, her boyfriend obliged (because she begged for it), and they looked like professional boxers when it was over. Violent sex was like her heroine fix and chased her demons away (books words, not mine). I'm guessing if the cops were called, they'd both be going to jail. Lots of sex addiction looks like this, and many times results from prior trauma, but if that's who a person is and it's a conscious mutual adult decision, who am I to judge them? Or get involved? They're grown adults.
A piece of the conversation around abuse and violence that the Depp v Heard trial opened up, at least to me, and I hope others is the topic of accountability. One of the things that stuck with me from that trial was Heard's pursuit of Depp when he tried to walk away multiple times. When we are young, we push people's buttons. It's part of growth and maturing. Somewhere along the way, you learned a lesson about pushing buttons and it didn't go well. Your parents, your partner, a stranger in a bar. You pushed someone too far or someone pushed you too far and it got ugly, whatever form that lesson took on for you, you've encountered it and hopefully learned to respect someone's space and boundaries. What about when it happens in a relationship? Should we step in (criminally, legally)? Abuse isn't consensual. Or is it (at times)? Some people crave a hotter fire so to speak? They thrive and get off on it. Some people call it passion. Others call it drama. Yeah, I know I'm saying it. I'm not justifying unwanted abuse and violence but what about the couples who do want it? Who are they accountable to besides themselves and each other? Us? Me? You? The world?
So what happens in relationships when their favorite foreplay is pushing each other's buttons? Who's the abuser and who's the victim? Is there a case of abuse there? Or is just a lack of ending something you know is toxic? Who owns the blame? Is it 50/50 or do we divide it up now based on the collateral damage of two people making piss poor decisions? Or are they piss poor decisions because they're choosing to stay there? Matthew McConaughey has talked at length about how his parents showed their love for each other through violence. Both of them. Equally. It took him years and a commitment to himself to be better but were his parents wrong? I don't know. They're grown adults. Yeah they had the potential to create a vicious horrible cycle with their kids, very true, but...
I'm reminded of a story and a lesson my Dad taught me growing up. The story - Dad was at a bar. Guy was outside slapping his girl around. My Dad being him intervenes, throws the guy off her. The girl ends up on my Dad's back punching and clawing him. It took two of his buddies to get her off him because he wouldn't hit her. She went psycho on him. I hear you. Victims can become advocates for their abusers. It's textbook. Okay. What does that mean for everyone else trying to help? And when does her decision to become a protector of her abuser meet accountability? A lesson he taught me - if a girl is willing to stand toe to toe with a grown man and swing, she should be prepared to be hit like a man. That is super old school south for you, but he wasn't wrong in my opinion. I know a LOT of men who won't hit back but I can't exactly blame a man for defending himself either. It's messy.
Relationships are messy, at least some of them. There's a whole myriad of gray in there that we don't discuss anymore. We don't have hard conversations. There's a whole lot of subtle quiet abusers out there but there's a handful of victims who don't own their own actions also. We have a nasty habit in this country of the answers always being yes/no, right/wrong, and either/or. It's part of the reason I think we're losing our society and our community. It's easier than having hard conversations. We NEED to do the work. Don't TRUE victims deserve that from us?
I am only speaking to mutual abuse, violence, and toxicity here. I am not speaking to the defamation and the aftermath of it. That was the jury's job. I am starting a conversation around abuse and when validated - accountability. That's it. And I KNOW you've had experience in something like this or someone close to you has. It's the thing in the back of the closet no one talks about in our polite society.
I'll end with this quote from an article I read (Vox) and it sums up how I feel about the trial and brings home what I'm talking about here.
"In the end, perhaps that's what's damming about the larger conversation around this trial: the inability to handle the ambiguities. Faced with a portrait of a relationship in which there's compelling evidence of violence and toxic behavior on both sides, our culture seems unable to accept that we may be simply looking at a story without heroes."
Take it light y'all.