A few months ago, I followed the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation case pretty closely. In a lot of ways, to me, it represents the core of what I do at work, and what I’ve come, personally, to care a lot about.
In general, we don’t put much faith in the things that women say.
You’d think that things like the #MeToo moment would have changed this, but it just doesn’t seem that way. When you pit a woman against a powerful man, it’s often the powerful man who controls the narrative.
I’m not saying I believe Amber Heard. I’m not saying that I don’t believe Johnny Depp. I don’t actually know either of them – I know, shocking, right? – and it’s very little skin off my back either way. I’m just saying that domestic violence doesn’t always look the way we think it ‘should’, and that it can be very difficult to tell from the outside looking in. I’m not saying that I’m on either person’s side, but it is shocking the way Amber Heard has been treated in the court of public opinion. It sends a really damning message to any woman who feels tempted to accuse a powerful man of any kind of wrongdoing.
Even things that are blatantly, patently untrue – like that she quoted movies in her testimony – were passed around like they were the Gospel, while things that were proven about Johnny Depp – like that he said to Paul Bettany that he wanted to, well, sleep with her dead corpse to prove that she was dead – were glossed over. Poor Johnny – he lost his role in the Pirates movies, do you know how much of himself he put into Captain Jack Sparrow?
Maybe Amber Heard is telling the truth. Maybe she isn’t. But until we know for sure – and how could we? – don’t people realize how incredibly harmful the narrative against her has been? It’s terrible, especially if you think about the way it will influence other women who may need to accuse a man of some kind of abuse.
We see these power dynamics play out all the time in the military. The wife is abused, but she’s scared to speak up for fear of what might happen – will her husband fight her to the death on spousal support, or refuse to give her access to the benefits that she’s entitled to? Will he threaten her? Worse, will her reporting her abuse mean that her husband loses his job – and, with it, his ability to provide any kind of support for the family?
Military wives are in a really tricky position, and have to tread carefully when it comes to allegations of abuse, protective orders, criminal action, separation, and divorce. There’s a lot at stake, and its even worse when you add in these real-world fears about how you’ll be perceived afterwards. Will people believe you? Will they mock you? Will they spread lies or rumors about you – to your friends and family, to your church, to your kid’s school? It’s a terrible way to feel.
It’s especially important, in a military divorce case, to have a plan of action, and to be prepared for everything you might encounter. You’ll probably want to expect that you’ll encounter some resistance, especially since everything from his military housing to his BAH and more is impacted by his status including dependents. A divorce could potentially change a lot for him, and when you add in the fact that the possibility of deployments, of a permanent change in duty station, or more might keep him away from his kids, well, anything could happen.
You’re right to take it seriously. You’re right to want to get advice direct from a Virginia divorce and custody lawyer, who can also help point you in the right direction as far as any criminal action or protective order might be concerned. You’ll want to avoid visiting the JAG office, probably, since they’re not Virginia licensed attorneys who are able to practice in courts in the Commonwealth – and, at any rate, have been known to give terrible advice in these types of situations.
You should know everything you can about separation, divorce, spousal support, child custody and child support, as well as protective orders, whether to work with JAG attorneys, and what happens in case of a deployment or permanent change of duty station.
You’re also wise to request a copy of a divorce book geared specifically towards military women. The more you know, the better position you’ll be in when it’s time to start calling the shots and standing up for the happily ever after you already know you deserve.
For more information, to download our military divorce book, or to schedule a consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.