On Wednesday, the defamation trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard concluded after weeks of hypothesis, sensationalism and salacious headlines. Both sides received, and each side misplaced. But Heard misplaced essentially the most — she is now on the hook for over $10 million in damages owed to a person she says verbally and bodily abused her. (Depp was ordered to pay $2 million.)
It was a shattering end result for girls and survivors of domestic violence all throughout the nation.
It was a shattering end result for girls and survivors of domestic violence all throughout the nation. As a Black lady, survivor of domestic abuse and author who has penned work detailing the abuse I personally suffered by the hands of a former associate, I’m amongst those that might be haunted by this verdict and its implications for years to return.
The jury awarded Depp his hundreds of thousands in damages regardless of the compelling proof put forth by Heard’s authorized workforce, together with testimony from a number of witnesses, photos of the bruises Heard sustained and textual content messages and video and audio that captured Depp’s erratic and aggressive conduct. The unanimous verdict meant that jury members declined to substantiate any of her claims.
Given this, the jury’s decision despatched a really loud and clear message to survivors like me — that we must always by no means converse up in opposition to an abuser, particularly not a well-known or highly effective one. This message feels all of the extra damaging within the wake of the reversal of quite a few good points and protections for girls, just like the upcoming Supreme Court determination that’s anticipated to reverse Roe v. Wade. Only just a few years faraway from the start of the #MeToo motion, and the concept girls ought to really feel empowered to take a stand in opposition to abuse, a jury has now made it clear that, in truth, we may very well be punished for doing so. (In the context of rising violence against women for the reason that starting of the pandemic, this message is very disempowering.)
Indeed, the jury’s failure to seek out Heard’s a number of, documented allegations of abuse credible factors to an ongoing tradition that does not imagine girls, together with not solely Heard but in addition her sister, her make-up artist, actress Ellen Barkin, and even the couple’s personal therapist, who testified that there was “mutual abuse” of their relationship. Heard, who’s wealthy, white, and a celeb who was capable of rent costly legal professionals to defend her in Depp’s defamation swimsuit, was nonetheless failed and villainized in a courtroom of regulation.
And what does that imply for girls who aren’t wealthy, millionaire celebrities?
Unlike Heard, many victims of abuse can’t afford costly authorized protection groups, ought to their abusers try to punish them for talking their reality. Defamation is much from the one authorized technique. Abusers can already weaponize the courtroom system in opposition to their victims to proceed to keep up management and energy — a technique that’s typically known as “vexatious” or “abusive” litigation, or “post-separation abuse.” It shouldn’t be assumed that ladies can afford to combat again — and this case underscores the truth that even when they do, they won’t be assured justice.
I’ve firsthand expertise with the best way the courts will be manipulated on this method.
I’ve firsthand expertise with the best way the courts will be manipulated on this method. And the monetary burden induced by this kind of manipulation creates extremely dangerous secondary penalties. Sadly, far too many ladies are usually not lucky sufficient to have entry to monetary or authorized assets like Heard or myself. I worry far too many ladies will stroll into courtroom in opposition to their abuser with nobody of their nook.
Soon, Evan Rachel Wood will be forced to go through the identical disgusting circus, as she fights her personal defamation lawsuit introduced by Marilyn Manson. Let’s hope that trial is not going to be televised. Manson’s and Depp’s defamation lawsuits really feel like a cultural inflection level. Is this the dying of #MeToo, or the start of a brand new rallying cry?
Clearly, we should do extra to arrange in assist of ladies and abuse survivors. Otherwise, actions like #MeToo could very effectively be bringing weak girls to the entrance strains of a battle in opposition to them with out protections. Though painful, I hope the Depp verdict acts as a catalyst.
Abuse survivors should know that they don’t seem to be taking a stand alone.