If you think abusers deserve to be abused, you’re part of the problem

As she fights to prove her claims that estranged husband Johnny Depp struck her in the face with an iPhone, actress Amber Heard now faces a new obstacle.

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Reports surfaced Monday that she was once arrested for domestic violence against her ex-partner, Tasya van Ree. According to TMZ, Heard was arrested and booked for misdemeanor domestic violence after getting into a heated exchange with van Ree at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in September 2009. It’s been reported that Heard grabbed and struck van Ree in the arm.

If Heard abused her ex, there’s no excuse for that. But it has absolutely no bearing on what she’s currently going through. Depp hasn’t yet publicly responded to his estranged wife’s claims (although his lawyer has slammed them as false), but Heard’s testimony (and the bruises on her face) were enough for a judge to grant her a temporary restraining order.

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Those who are using this to somehow discredit Heard’s story should be ashamed of themselves. Does the fact that Heard was once arrested on domestic violence charges somehow mean she deserves to be the victim of abuse herself? Of course it doesn’t. There’s never justification for domestic violence, and trying to take the heat off Depp by painting Heard in a bad light is a sad reflection of the struggles abuse victims too often have to endure to be believed.

Promoting the belief that abusers deserve to become abuse victims themselves does nothing to break the cycle, by suggesting that it’s somehow the victim’s fault that they are being abused. A victim of domestic abuse — be it physical or emotional — may already blame themselves because their confidence and self-belief have both been ground down by their abuser.

There’s never any excuse for domestic violence. But people can change for the better by admitting their behavior is wrong, taking responsibility for their problem and getting help to fix it.

Let’s not forget that in this case, Amber Heard is a victim. What came before is irrelevant.

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