Last summer, I would not have dreamed of publishing an article where I stated my support for Amber Heard. Truthfully, I was afraid to admit this even to friends, fearing their responses. I wish I had spoken up then, rather than reticently observing the witch-hunt play out. But now I am no longer afraid, and will say plainly: I believe Amber Heard.
I believe she is a victim of domestic violence. I believe Johnny Depp abused her. I believe the words of a woman who spoke about her experience and has been ferociously demonised consequently.
Although the jury ruled in favour of Johnny Depp having been defamed, and Amber settled the case, the implications of it are far-reaching. In a statement on December 19 2022, Amber made it clear that her settling was “not an act of concession”, and the US verdict did not overturn the one reached in the UK court, which found Depp guilty of twelve of fourteen alleged counts of abuse. The result of the case does not mean the discussion is over, nor does it signify a total dismissal of the accusations against Depp.
The April-June 2022 defamation trial was a mess. From live coverage that made the court a media spectacle, to the lack of jury sequestration, to the sensationalised social media reaction, Amber never stood a chance. Depp financially controlled the press, who dictated public reaction, which, in a case this high profile, undoubtedly influenced the jury. Depp’s team used DARVO techniques to shift the blame to Amber, and it worked astonishingly well. Depp’s manipulation of the media to amass a throng of vociferous hatred towards her was abuse itself. The irrevocable destruction of Amber’s reputation, and collaterally her career, is exactly what he wanted.
It would be too extensive to detail the mountain of evidence brought by Heard to corroborate her testimony, but it includes photographs of bruises and injuries, and video and audio recordings of verbal abuse, including those where he admits to hurting her. One text message from Depp to Paul Bettany read:
“Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will fuck her burnt corpse afterwards”
It confounds me that people listened to those words and retained the incessant need to uphold Depp’s innocence. To me, it is no far stretch to believe a man who would write something so grotesquely violent about a woman would also physically lay his hands on her.
Another obfuscation from the trial was the myth of “mutual abuse”, as many people suggested there was equally shared abuser/victim status between Depp and Heard. We must dispel the idea that retaliation by a victim renders them an abuser. The US National Hotline for Domestic Violence states that mutual abuse cannot exist, because “abuse is about an imbalance of power and control”. In this case, Depp, who is 23 years older, and far more affluent, clearly held the power, and proved so when he set out to bankrupt his ex-wife and decimate her public image.
For victims of abuse, Depp’s victory is bleak. Many will be afraid to speak against their abusers, especially if they ever them hit back, in case they find themselves in courtrooms where the narrative is manipulated to blame them. The hostility towards Amber is emblematic of society’s widespread mistrust of women.
I will remind you that a UK judge found Johnny Depp guilty of twelve counts of domestic violence. I will remind you that he is friends with child-rapist Roman Polanski. I will remind you of the photographs showing the injuries he inflicted on Amber.
I will remind you that 61 per cent of all bisexual women experience intimate partner violence.
It’s time to believe Amber Heard.
“Amber Heard” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.