I Know What He Said

Dee Richards
4 min readSep 28, 2022

CW: Assault, domestic violence, sexual assault

This week, #IAmAmberHeard was trending with countless stories of abuse, sexual violence, and physical violence. As I am very verbal in my own experiences with domestic violence and sexual violence (much of my writing involves my experiences) I joined in with the following Tweet:

#IAmAmberHeard because my 1st abuser convinced people in my life I deserved what he did to me & told others that I abused him. He went on to be charged twice with assault on women, only to be acquitted. The system worked as intended: to protect the oppressor and blame the victim.

I have gotten some hatred and ignorance my way, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. One of the dumbasses wanted to “know more” about my situation so that they could more pointedly tear down my lived experience. However, I will say that (oh, yes) there’s A LOT more to the story. That is not a short story. I could actually fill an entire memoir (and intend to, one day) about the experience with my first abuser alone. I also hope to explore how my life up to that point prepared me for abuse, socially and emotionally. How the culture of Reagan’s America and the fallout of it empowered patriarchy through rampant consumerism and out-of-control capital. More importantly, how these elements created the human rights nightmare women and women-adjacent people live in today.

Honestly, my experiences aren’t really up for debate. I have already stomped out gaslighting, so I am more than prepared to ignore those who will try and tell me that what I went through wasn’t real. A keen eye might notice that I say “my first abuser”, which in this case is my first to commit physical violence against me. I was born to my very first abuser, and that was MUCH harder to break free of. In Kyrie McCauley’s “If These Wings Could Fly”, the narrator says: “The wait was sometimes so unbearable because it’s the anticipation that hurts the most.” The narrator goes on to say that, at times, it was better to provoke the “storm” (physical violence) she knew was coming from her father. Carmen Maria Machado’s “In the Dream House” says how she had wished in her abusive relationship that there were a bruise or black-eye to prove her abuse was real. It is not the violence that hurts nearly as much as the fear. And you really can’t prove how painful fear is.

I really don’t care whether or not Amber Heard pooped in a bed, was too obstinate, or even yelled at him. Nothing any woman-identifying person in any sort of relationship with a male-identifying person does will EVER justify physical or sexual assault. NOTHING. Nope, not even that. As a socialized-female person, I am already in a system of institutional abuse every day. Despite my larger body, despite my often non-binary appearance, even despite what I am wearing, men (in the worst sense of the word) STILL accost me regularly. Online, in person, and systemically. A man (particularly a white, cis, hetero man) is NOT born into institutional abuse, so he already wields more power and influence by nature of his existence than his female counterpart.

Violence from a man in response to a woman’s bad attitude is NOT an excuse for that violence. Violence from a man in response to a woman’s insults is NOT an excuse for that violence. Violence from a man in response to a woman’s disinterest or boundaries is NOT an excuse for that violence. There is no excuse. I will go so far as to say that interpersonal violence almost never has an excuse. Not in heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, polyamorous relationships, friendships, familial relationships, etc.; interpersonal violence belongs nowhere. I didn’t “deserve it” as my family said I did. I didn’t “make him so mad” that he “had to hurt” me. His drug addiction was not an excuse. Another’s repressed sexuality was not an excuse. Another’s extremely depressing life conditions before we met were not an excuse. Though I have heard ALL of these reasons to explain why it was excusable to punch me, kick me, choke me to the point of thinking I would die, slap me, push me down, and force me into sexual acts I was not comfortable with. There’s no fucking excuse for that shit. Not even because I’m mouthy, stubborn, and can’t “leave well enough alone.”

I know the tactics of abusers. To discredit you is the first fucking page in the book I am nearly convinced all abusers get. After TWO successful cases proving assault, Depp brought in all of America’s anger directed toward women and talked everyone already inclined to disbelieve a woman into thinking Heard deserved it. I know the tactic of “she was the abusive one” because I literally almost went to jail for life because he alleged that I was the abuser and tried to kill him. Photographic evidence told a very different story and the case had to be abandoned. I know the tactic of making a victim feel ashamed to step up, that’s why I kept it all to myself for fifteen goddamn years. It is why I still get anxious to tell people my story, to go online and post on these topics. I am so goddamn sick and tired of the world telling us that we’re full of shit or we somehow deserved abuse. No one does. End of fucking story.

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Dee Richards

Dee is a writer, parent & educator. Dee has a BA in English, with honors, from UC Irvine. Dee has 8 anthology pubs & 3 awards in CNF.