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The Depp-Heard trial has made public an issue that most people endure in private


We want to turn our attention to a subject where the lurid details either caught your attention or made you want to turn far away, maybe both. We're talking about the trial involving the actors and former spouses, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Depp, formerly the megawatt star of a lucrative movie franchise, filed a lawsuit against his wife after she penned a Washington Post article describing what she said was her experience of domestic abuse, although she didn't specifically name him. He said her allegations cost him his livelihood. Heard and her representatives have stood by the allegations in trial, but Depp has answered with disturbing allegations of his own, testifying that Heard physically and emotionally abused him during the marriage.

Now, the truth or falsity of these allegations is not something to be sorted out here, but it occurred to us that what celebrities face in public is something that less famous people often face in private. So that made us wonder if there's anything we could learn from this unusually public discussion about patterns of domestic violence. So we called Katie Hood. She is the CEO of the One Love Foundation. That's an organization formed to educate young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships. And she's with us now. Katie Hood, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

KATIE HOOD: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: Could you just briefly explain how the One Love Foundation got started, and what does it do?

HOOD: Sure. Well, One Love was started in 2010 after a young woman named Yeardley Love was killed at the University of Virginia. She was a fourth-year student, about to graduate. She was a Division I lacrosse player. And her ex-boyfriend, who was also a UVA student, Division I lacrosse player about to graduate, broke down the door and beat her to death a few days after they'd broken up. I actually am a friend of the family, which is how I was connected at all. Her cousin is one of my closest friends.

And I can say, having been there at the beginning, that they were absolutely in shock. Nobody saw this coming. Nobody thought she was in an abusive relationship. Nobody ever thought this outcome was possible. But as the dust settled and they started to learn more and people started connecting dots and talking about things that they had seen, they realized that if a domestic violence expert had been dropped into the middle of their friend group, that they would have understood this was an unhealthy and increasingly dangerous situation, and they would have known where to go to help.

So her family really shifted the focus of One Love, which was originally just to honor Yeardley's life, to really, how do we make sure others have the information that could have helped Yeardley, information about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like way before something becomes abuse?

MARTIN: Well, thanks for that. So this trial has been going on for some days now. What signs of unhealthy relationships are you seeing in what has been made public so far?

HOOD: Sometimes in an abusive relationship, there's a clear abuser and a clear victim. And then other times, they're really just sort of - they're doubly toxic both ways. And everybody knows physical abuse is wrong, but that's not usually how it starts in a relationship, and it's not usually the only thing going on. Emotional abuse, which could be intensity or volatility or, you know, demeaning, belittling language and behavior - these are unhealthy behaviors that can become abusive patterns and can really wear someone down. So some of the research has shown that emotionally abusive relationships do even more psychological damage than physically abusive ones. So I think that we're seeing a lot around emotional abuse here that we should all really pay attention to and take seriously.

MARTIN: One of the things that, frankly, has stood out is that Depp claims that Heard battered him and that - would pursue him to batter him when he was trying to get away from her. I mean, there was testimony that he, you know, locked himself into a room at one point to try to get away from her, and she ridiculed him for this. This is what was presented. We're not taking a position about what actually occurred because we don't know, but we don't often hear men talk about being victims of domestic violence, either emotional or physical. And I'm wondering, you know, why you think that is and what strikes you about that.

HOOD: Well, a couple of things. The stats show that over 1 in 3 women, nearly 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 transgender or non-binary people will be in an abusive relationship in their lifetime, which, really, those numbers - when I heard them for the first time, I just thought, well, this is a public health crisis. We - there's no doubt. While the stats around over 1 in 3 and nearly 1 in 3 men are pretty close, it's important to say that physical violence and sexual violence happen more men to women in a heterosexual relationship. Three women a day are killed in this country by their partners or ex-partners. And that stat is not nearly the same for men.

So I guess what I would say is, yes, men can be in abusive relationships for sure. I've talked to many men who've been in abusive relationships. And I don't want to - some men are in physically abusive relationships. But the stats aren't quite as high. I think it's really important for men to recognize - we call this issue a women's issue, and I understand why, because women are at greater risk. And I should say women of color, Black women and Indigenous women are at even higher risk. But we also need to come back to this idea that it's a human issue. Relationships are hard. None of us are taught from the beginning how to have a healthy one and avoid an unhealthy one. And that could really help us all live healthier and less abusive lives.

MARTIN: You've given us a lot to think about here. But in the time that we have here, can you just give us some takeaways? What is it that you would like people to be thinking about, particularly how you would encourage people to identify signs of a relationship that could be unhealthy before it escalates, you know, whether they're a young person just exploring relationships for the first time or somebody who's a little bit more experienced in life?

HOOD: I think it's relevant to all of us because none of us have ever actually been proactively taught about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. And what One Love is trying to do is create awesome learning materials. It's all anchored around our 10 signs of healthy and 10 signs of unhealthy relationships that anyone anywhere can use to educate themselves or people that they love. It's all freely available on our website, joinonelove.org, and it's a great starting place. And the 10 signs in particular are - we have these 10 sign cards that people tell me they use with their kids or they use with their friends to try to identify, well, what are you actually experiencing that is not healthy or not good in this relationship? And down the road, I hope this will be required curriculum in every school in this country.

MARTIN: That was Katie Hood. She's the CEO of the One Love Foundation. Katie Hood, thank you so much for spending this time with us.

HOOD: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.