Some people scorn celebrity-fronted PSA videos. Even if the video in question is a towering symbol of strength, even if it’s defiant and hopeful and seeks to highlight a day that aims to eliminate domestic violence against women. Actress Amber Heard fronted such a video this week, to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and it was powerful and meaningful. Yet, some of the online ire scoffed and once again sought to vilify the public figure who was a victim of domestic abuse by her former husband, Johnny Depp. Nothing was proved, yet Heard drew on her experiences to give hope to other women; to shed light on the subject that remains a massive, and frequently unspoken about, problem.
Domestic violence affects about one in five women in Ireland, and not only does it remain unreported by both the victims and in the official statistics, a new survey revealed that issues of violence should be “kept within the family.” Women are reluctant to speak out when such abuse takes place and as well as this; they have little chance of refuge once this occurs. According to figures from Safe Ireland, domestic abuse services revealed that they were unable to meet up to 14 requests every day from women looking for safe accommodation recently. This is a daily average amounting to nearly 5,000 unmet requests from women over a full year. This is shocking and sick-to-the-stomach frightening, so the bottom line is, we need more to speak out. Yes, even beautiful, famous women. Because domestic violence never discriminates. Not if you’re young, pretty or rich; it can happen to anyone, at any time. And it does.
Heard is proof of this and in the clip, she is brave, defiant and speaks of how convincing herself that she was not a victim was to her detriment, and how telling someone of her abuse was an act of choosing herself. She also points out that if a stranger had been the abuser, her situation would have been more obvious – even though the UN says that the 70 per cent of women who experience violence do so from those closest to them.
She points out violence against women is “not limited to actual physical violence.” “It is also how we deal with it and how we talk about it in the media and in our culture. Us taking responsibility for it is what really needs to change … the only way that people are going to feel comfortable in coming forward, raising their voices and standing up for themselves is if we change the system in place that keeps them quiet.”
Heard’s message is resilient and strong: “Speak up. Raise your voice. Your voice is the most powerful thing and we together as women – speaking shoulder to shoulder – cannot and will not, any longer, accept silence.”
Focus on that. Read, remember and share those words, rather than the headline stories that portray Johnny Depp as the wronged good guy.