SINGAPORE — The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) has removed from its Facebook page a controversial meme featuring an image of Amber Heard from the defamation suit between the actress and her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp.
The post, which was uploaded last Thursday (May 26) and shared 1,000 times before it was taken down on Monday night, uses a viral moment from Heard’s testimony about Depp conducting a “cavity search” on her — sexually assaulting her with his fingers after accusing her of hiding his drugs.
While recounting what happened following the incident, Heard winces and says her dog stepped on a bee and had to be taken to a veterinarian.
The NCPC’s meme used Heard’s wincing face but replaced her line of “My dog stepped on a bee” with other one-liners that rhyme with “bee”. Similar memes have been appeared on meme sites like SGAG, where one such TikTok video received over 16,800 likes.
The NCPC apologised for the post on Tuesday night. In a statement, it said: “We had used the photo as we thought the expression captured how members of the public might react when they spot the various signs of scams. It was not our intention to demean or insult anyone. We apologise for the post and any offence caused, and will do better in our efforts to outreach to Singaporeans about scams.”
Gender advocacy group Aware warned that such jokes and memes about the Depp-Heard trial, regardless of its outcome, can harm survivors of domestic violence.
In response to ST queries, Ms Kelly Leow, senior communications manager at Aware, says the “sheer ubiquity” of social media content about the trial makes it “practically impossible for survivors to go even one day without encountering such content online”.
She adds: “Those who have experienced domestic violence themselves would likely be re-traumatised by witnessing scenes from the trial itself, in which acts of violence are detailed at length, and also by the outpouring of callous jokes surrounding the trial.”
Ms Rachel Lim, 29, a survivor of intimate partner abuse, has been “troubled” by the deluge of social media content about the defamation case.
“The verdict is not even out yet and even if it was, this is in very bad taste,” the content strategist says.
She adds: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But when you share or create a meme you have to understand your own intentions — are you trying to create a more peaceful world or are you trying to direct hate towards somebody?”
Ms Leow adds that the way that this trial has been presented in the media and on social media tends to erase nuances, turning a complicated situation into a black-and-white, he versus she narrative.
Singapore’s National Anti-Violence Helpline received 8,400 calls from Jan 18 to end-December in 2021. Out of 856 cases seen by the Sexual Assault Care Centre at Aware last year, 197 involved intimate partner perpetrators.
Dr Geraldine Tan, principal psychologist at The Therapy Room, who has worked with clients suffering from the trauma of sexual and physical abuse, says making light of domestic abuse is unhelpful, regardless which side one favours.
She says: “Memes and jokes — no matter who these are directed towards — downplay the gravity of the situation. When everyone is having a good laugh, victims might feel dismissed, belittled or unheard.”
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
- Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.