When news broke last Thursday that Amber Heard may have been abused by Johnny Depp, I was already having a pretty disturbing day. I had just learned that Blake Leibel, for whom I had worked for as a proofreader and writer until last December, had murdered his girlfriend. And now seeing that one of my favorite childhood idols quite possibly used his bisexual wife as a punching bag, it suddenly seemed like no matter how well you know someone — whether they’re a celebrity or someone in your personal life — they can always turn out to be someone you never expected.
But the attacks Amber Heard received for being bisexual were entirely expected. The media suddenly painted her as an evil gold digger who was cheating on Johnny with other bisexual celebrities — like Cara Delevingne (convenient, much?).
A particular disturbing article in Hollywood Life blamed Heard’s “bisexual tendencies” for the marriage falling apart. FYI — bisexuality isn’t a “tendency.” It’s an identity. One that doesn’t make you any more likely to cheat on your partner than someone of any other orientation.
Suddenly, everyone from tabloids to Depp’s biggest fans on Twitter were telling us that marks on her face were not real, that she used stage makeup to fake the bruises. And the PR machine for the massive movie star allegedly sprung into overdrive to paint Amber as a fraud, a victim who suspiciously cracked a smile once she was finally free of her abuser at a party the next day — because, don’t you know, domestic violence victims are only allowed to sulk. But she got criticized for that, too, after she left a court hearing “pretending” to be really upset while sporting a bruise on her cheek.
Aside from a few articles, the media seemed to skim over Depp’s penchant for getting wasted and allegedly growing biphobically paranoid about his queer wife’s friendships with gay women like Tillet Wright. The media have unnaturally focused on the blond bisexual actress who dared to make us think yucky things about one of our favorite movie stars, the quirk master in general. And after all, her bruises weren’t that big. No, they were just shaped like the cell phone she claims he threw at her.
But what the media’s not telling you about Amber Heard is that she’s just another statistic, a casualty of the high rates of abuse that everyday bisexual women face. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013 found that 61 percent of bisexual women have a lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner — as opposed to 35 percent of heterosexual women and 43 percent of lesbians.
If that’s not enough for you, try this — 49 percent of bisexual women have a lifetime prevalence of severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., being hit with a fist or something hard, slammed against something, or beaten), as opposed to 23 percent of heterosexual women and 29 percent of lesbians. In other words, there’s an epidemic of violence against bisexual women that no one in the media seems to care to report — even with a celebrity news peg.
No one in the media seems to know about these numbers, let alone question why they are so high. But the answer can be seen clear as day in Amber’s case — in the abuser’s mind, a bisexual woman could be cheating on him (or her) with anyone. This leads to more frequent instances of irrational jealousy from the abuser that also serves to isolate the victim from allies and friends of the same sex.
So you can cry for the injustice of it all — that a middle-aged man landed a woman half his age and might have to give her some of his $400 million for the suffering that he caused her. Or you can tell your friends about the horrific abuse statistics for bisexual women and try to carve out some empathy for a community no one seems to deem relevant enough to mention.
For me, and thousands of other bisexual women like me, it’s a no-brainer — #ImWithAmber.