Angelia Jolie is in a tumultuous legal battle with her ex-husband, Brad Pitt. The two are at odds over a French winery they own together, Chateau Miraval. Earlier this month, Jolie filed a countersuit against Pitt that has the whole world reckoning with how we respond to allegations of physical assault and abuse.
In the countersuit, Jolie expands on allegations of abuse from a 2016 lawsuit the actress filed against Pitt. The recent filing describes a physical and verbal eruption by Pitt. He “grabbed Jolie by the head and shook her” before “pushing her into the bathroom wall.” Pitt is also accused of physically hurting his children. He allegedly choked one child, hit another child in the face, and poured alcohol on them and Jolie. Although there was an investigation into the alleged attacks, the actor was not criminally charged.
The new countersuit is bringing more details of the reported physical violence into the court of public opinion. People around the world are commenting on the countersuit. Some have sided with Jolie and her children, showing empathy and compassion for the actress. On the flip side, many people have also taken to social media to share their support of Pitt and bash his ex-wife.
The way that the public is responding to “Brangelina” is reminiscent of the backlash Amber Heard experienced in her defamation trial with Johnny Depp. At the end of the trial, Depp was found not guilty of abuse. The jury determined that Heard acted with malice when she wrote her op-ed about the abuse she suffered. However, both parties were awarded damages.
Although we may never know what really happened in Jolie’s or Heard’s cases, people are watching how we react. The way we respond to allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault matters. As victims of physical and sexual violence watch in horror as the public jokes about these matters, we must look ourselves in the mirror and come to terms with what this means culturally.
The public’s response shows that our society is still dismissive of women’s accusations. This misogynistic response also tells victims of abuse that they should stay quiet. If victims speak up, they’ll be called liars, have their character questioned on trial, or receive death threats just as Heard did.
If progress is to continue in the #MeToo movement, we must reevaluate our reactions to abuse allegations, even when celebrities are involved. Plus, we need to be aware of our own double standards when it comes to questioning women’s motives in physical or sexual assault cases. After all, our children are watching and listening.