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Experts say Depp / Heard trial can be triggering for victims

Depp / Heard trial triggering for domestic violence and dating abuse victims

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – As the Johnny Depp - Amber Heard Trial plays out, people in the business of helping domestic violence and dating abuse victims are speaking out.

The founder of the Santa Barbara-based "What Is Love" – an organization that helps teens and young adults – said social media is blowing up with opinions that often shame victims.

Christy Stillwell said, "I have been seeing a lot of disturbing things."

She said it is important to listen to survivors and believe them.

"We tend to want to blame the victim when we hear stories about domestic abuse, and it does feel that this is the sort of some of the language and messaging that is getting around."

Stillwell said there is usually a distinct pattern or history of violence that can be with current and previous relationships.

"It does feel like these two people were definitely caught in a cycle of abuse. What that looks like is that there is this beautiful honeymoon phase when everybody is being kind to each other, and then tension builds and then an explosion happens whether that's verbal or physical or sexual or maybe even financial."

She said appears these two people who have had this traumatic and loving relationship are fighting for their careers in a public way.

As unfortunate as that is, Stillwell said it is an opportunity to talk about what a healthy relationship is and to talk about the warning signs and what can be done to prevent abuse.

She said it is important to listen to people who say they have been hurt.

"So a few red flags; some examples would be a person who is really jealous, and really possessive and wants to know where you are at all times, or is going to ask questions like are you going to wear that or who are you going to be hanging out with tonight, " said Stillwell.

"What is Love" works with young people in high school and college to help them build healthy relationship to prevent abuse.

To get good information they can follow What is Love Teens on Instagram, and they can text: 741-741 if they are dealing with any of these things or if this is bringing up big emotions around what they are watching right now.

The Executive Directer of Domestic Violence Solutions, Marilyn Simon-Gersuk, said watching this trial can be triggering.

She said it's not okay to be "team Depp or team Heard!"

"When they are watching this trial they have to realize that both sides could be victims – you don't know what happened in someone's home, and both people got hurt. You can't place blame on just the one side, and they should not be made into a spectacle. It is people's real lives and people are being hurt emotionally and physically, it is not okay."

She is concerned about the jokes being made by comedians including Chris Rock and the latest opening skit on Saturday Night Live.

"For them to see it be made a joke of on television and to hear comedians make jokes about domestic violence, yesterday someone said to me 'I'll just slap them around' nope-we don't make those kind of jokes," said Simon-Gersuk.

Shelters have been busy.

"Our shelters are full. We are getting calls off the hook these days. Our crisis line is ringing a lot. There are so many people in need, and we are trying to help as many as we can and we are here for everybody so we want people to know [they can] call the crisis line even if you just want information because you are not ready to do something, you just want to know what is there for you as a resource in the futures."

For more information visit whatisloveteens.org or dvsolutions.org.

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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