The Only One Setting Back Abuse Survivors Is Amber Heard (And The Media That Propped Her Up)
Johnny Depp has finally won his defamation case against Amber Heard. The jury decided that he proved Amber Heard intentionally defamed him with malice on every count and awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
However, because Virginia law caps punitive damages at $350,000, Depp will receive a total of $10.35 million. While Heard won one count of defamation in her countersuit with an award of $2 million in compensatory damages, this was for a statement made by Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman and is indicative of a compromise verdict that will make it very difficult for her to appeal.
Six long years after Heard walked into a courtroom to obtain a temporary restraining order against Depp while he was not even in the same country, Heard put on her slim-fitting black funeral dress for one last time. She previously wore it to the 2020 trial in the UK, where Depp sued The Sun. Perhaps she thinks of it as her lucky black dress, but her luck came to an end on June 1, 2022. Fittingly, it was Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day when seven jurors decided to give Depp his life back and punish Heard’s defamatory campaign against him.
The Only One Who Has Set Back Survivors of Abuse Is Amber Heard
Following the court’s ruling, Heard released a statement through Instagram saying she is "disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously." She also claims that "the mountain of evidence wasn't enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of [her] ex-husband." This statement is such a slap in the face to real survivors of abuse.
If anyone has set true victims back, it’s Amber Heard. This case exposes major errors in the court of public opinion and media smear campaigns that run with “guilty until proven innocent” sentiments. There was no “mountain of evidence” as she and her lawyers claimed. We were told she had brutal injuries such as broken ribs, a broken nose, a split lip, black eyes, and cuts on her back and feet. We were provided with no corroborating photographs of these injuries, no medical reports, and conflicting eyewitness reports. What little photo evidence we did have was manipulated and put through a photo editor so it can’t be corroborated as authentic, and this is the evidence that’s supposed to destroy a man’s life?
Mainstream media has bent over backward to cover for Heard’s abusive actions and unsubstantiated claims.
We were told that Heard was sexually assaulted with a (potentially broken) bottle that didn’t require medical attention and that she didn’t recall feeling pain. No evidence has been presented to corroborate this story and, if it happened the way she described, it would have required emergency medical treatment. Heard’s allegations against Depp have been wild and unsubstantiated. They have only grown more outrageous as time went on, adding new accounts of violence that were never previously reported, such as the rape-by-bottle incident.
The most damning evidence presented in court was that of the audio recordings which exposed the relationship for what it was – Heard repeatedly acting aggressive, degrading Depp, admitting to physically abusing him, and shaming him for always running away. True victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have overwhelmingly sided with Depp, and that’s not by accident. They recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse reflected in the relationship, but not on Depp’s part. There were countless eyewitnesses, including police officers trained to respond to situations of domestic violence, who say Heard had no bruises when they saw her after the alleged abuse and they did not believe her to be a victim of domestic violence. The only recorded medical injury throughout the relationship was sustained by Depp, whose finger was cut off.
Will We Learn To Restore the Presumption of Innocence?
The mainstream media has gaslit male victims of abuse as well as those who have been falsely accused, for years. The Washington Post is complicit in Depp’s defamation, as they posted the op-ed Heard wrote accusing him of being an abuser without knowing the intimate details or legitimacy of those claims. Mainstream media has bent over backward to cover for Heard’s abusive actions and unsubstantiated claims. Never mind the fact that Heard has never presented compelling evidence to prove her claims, we’re supposed to accept her version of events by virtue of her genitalia. “Believe all women,” they say. Implicit in that statement is the belief that a woman can not and does not lie. The #MeToo movement, for all the good and bad that it has done, has exposed something deeply troubling at the heart of our media and larger society – the infantilization of women.
To assert that a woman is not capable of defamation, malice, or lying, is to ask us to deny the reality of human nature. It actually reeks of a deep lack of respect for women and all of the complexity they have to offer. Women are, as feminists rightly claim, capable of anything that a man can do. This encompasses, of course, the good and the bad. The notion that we must take a woman’s word before being presented with evidence has been one of the most detrimental effects on our society, and it’s no trivial matter. Depp may have prevailed in his defamation suit, but how many other men have Amber Heards at home who attempt to ruin their lives based on hearsay and never get the opportunity to defend themselves? This issue is rampant on college campuses, where kangaroo courts were allowed to prevail under Title IX, denying countless young men their right to due process if they were accused of sexual assault. This win sets a precedent that there are consequences for false accusations.
Depp’s win sets a precedent that there are consequences for false accusations.
The stark contrast in Heard’s and Depp’s public statements is like night and day. "I hope that my quest to have the truth be told will have helped others, men or women, who have found themselves in my situation, and that those supporting them never give up. I also hope that the position will now return to innocent until proven guilty, both within the courts and in the media,” Depp said in an Instagram post. The first noticeable difference is how Heard’s statement banks on gender ideology and radical waves of feminism that will uplift her story precisely because she is a woman. Heard only ever references women, while Depp says he just wants the truth to prevail, no matter who, men or women, are in his shoes.
Keep in mind, it wasn’t Depp who asked for this media and legal circus. Heard is the one who filed for a temporary restraining order and divorce right after Depp’s mother died and while he was out of the country. Morgan Tremaine testified in court that it was Heard who leaked videos of Depp slamming cabinets and who tipped off paparazzi so they would photograph her bruises. Then, she wrote an op-ed two years later, where she defamed him. The media pounced on Heard’s claims as if they were scripture, printing stories labeling Depp a “wife-beater.” The media presumed Depp to be guilty without ever asking for his side of the story.
During his testimony, Depp was asked what he lost as a result of Heard’s claims against him, to which he responded, “Nothing less than everything.” Is this what we stand for, as a society? This is justice? Now that Depp has been vindicated in the court of law, mainstream publications are in full damage control, claiming that Heard has been bullied and treated terribly for no other reason than being a woman who dared to speak out. I’ll tell you the reason Heard is being met with such understandable vitriol by the public. We watched for six years as a B-list actress spouted out claim after claim of unsubstantiated abuse while the actual evidence in question not only failed to corroborate her claims but explicitly demonstrated the opposite. “Please tell people it was a fair fight and see what the jury and judge thinks. Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them, Johnny Depp...I, Johnny Depp, a man, I'm a victim too of domestic violence, and you know, it's a fair fight, and see how many people believe or side with you." That’s what Heard says on those audio recordings.
She never believed Depp would hold her accountable. Well, Depp did tell the world he, a man, was a victim of domestic violence, and the jury heard him and believed him. They found that Heard did not tell the truth about a single incident of violence throughout the entire relationship. Not only that, but they found she lied intentionally and with malice, and they wanted to punish her, which is why Depp was awarded $5 million in punitive damages. Comparatively, Heard only won one count of defamation in her countersuit which pertained to very specific statements made by Depp’s lawyer, who made claims about Heard and her friends conducting the hoax in an elaborate and specific way that cannot be proven. They granted that this statement made by Adam Waldman was defamatory because it couldn’t be proven, and they awarded her $2 million in compensatory damages but $0 in punitive damages.
Heard can be overheard admitting to slicing Depp’s finger off with a bottle of vodka. She repeatedly taunts him for not acting like a man and fighting with her. She admits, repeatedly, to punching him, hitting him, and that she “can’t promise [she] won’t get violent again.” If it were Depp on those audio recordings making the same statements, yelling, “I’m sorry I hit you like this, but I did not punch you, I did not f**king deck you, I f**king was hitting you,” and calling Heard a baby who should “grow the f**k up” for “b****ing about it,” that would be the end of the story. The media, for all of their talks of shaming “imperfect victims” has no sense of irony in their coverage of this trial.
Depp is a man who suffered from intense childhood abuse at the hands of his mother, according to himself and his sister. This kind of abuse would have a lifelong impact on a child as they grow into adulthood. It’s no wonder why Depp was primed to stay in an abusive relationship with a woman, after witnessing his own allegedly psychologically and physically abusive mother attempting suicide after his father finally mustered up the courage to leave her. Why, then, is it perfectly acceptable to victim blame a male abuse victim? The amount of false equivalence I have seen on social media and in news coverage is sickening. We should be extremely wary of any movement that asks you to ignore the wrongs of an individual in the hopes that it won’t take away from the goals of the political movement they represent. They’re justifying Heard’s admission of physical abuse while accusing a man of those very violent acts without evidence. We never once hear Depp admit to hitting Heard. Every time we do hear him speak, he’s trying to run away, which only enrages Heard more.
Be wary of any movement that asks you to ignore the wrongs of an individual in the hopes that it won’t take away from the goals of the political movement they represent.
Vogue posted an article titled “Why It’s Time to Believe Amber Heard.” As they detail how the internet is allegedly harassing Heard baselessly because we’re all just die-hard Depp fans who have no interest in truth or justice, they make an ironic statement. Writer Raven Smith says, “I don’t want to think about what this is saying to victims of abuse who are considering coming forward.”
The implication here, of course, is that Depp isn’t the victim – but what is the basis of this belief? Depp can’t be a victim because he’s a famous and rich man in a position of privilege and power. That’s the central argument that the media has made. The justifications made for Heard’s behavior in the court – snickering as Depp recounts the alleged daily psychological, emotional, and physical abuse he had to face – are deeply disturbing. Smith writes, “And regardless of what Heard did or didn’t suffer at the hands of Depp, isn’t the relentless memeing of her a form of violence in itself? Is the pummeling by social media not a type of psychological assault? Are we not witnessing a modern-day witch trial?”
I can’t believe I have to say this, but no, having TikToks made about you where teenagers and twenty-somethings re-enact your very bizarre behavior in court and re-enact your lies does not constitute "a form of violence in itself."
Has the media considered for even a moment how damaging and traumatizing it is for male abuse victims to see them drag Depp through the mud and disbelieve him despite presenting a mountain of evidence he was abused and Heard admitting to it herself? The media doesn’t care about the truth or abuse victims, they care about promoting a narrative that advances their ideological causes. Domestic violence statistics report that 1 in 7 men are victims of interpersonal violence (IPV). However, not only do male abuse victims have to suffer in silence for fear of being seen as effeminate or disbelieved – on top of that, they’re also often falsely accused of abuse by their very own abuser. Mainstream media is more horrified at mean words being hurled at a woman over the internet than they are about a man saying he has been horrifically abused for five years while his mother was dying.
The Mainstream Media Is Complicit in Defamation
It’s tragic to watch male victims, who are never spoken for and for whom there are virtually no domestic violence shelters, finally feel seen because of this trial being televised and the truth being spread. Think about all the men who deal with Amber Heards behind closed doors and the vitriol they would be met with if they ever spoke up about it. #MenToo and #AbuseHasNoGender trended on Twitter, where male victims took the opportunity to tell their own stories of surviving domestic abuse. If you only read mainstream news, however, you’d never know it.
The mainstream media have long used the excuse that Depp was found guilty of 12 incidents of abuse in the UK trial, but this statement is purposely dishonest. Firstly, Heard was not a party to that trial, she was merely a witness and Depp only lost a case against The Sun, not against Heard. Secondly, The Sun only had to demonstrate there was a 51% chance that Depp committed acts of violence to win the defamation case, which is exactly what happened. If your son, brother, husband, or some other male loved one was falsely accused, would you feel comfortable with their fate being left in the hands of what is essentially a coin toss?
Where before they merely ignored the evidence, now they explicitly spit on it. Mainstream media see themselves as arbiters of truth that get to dictate how we’re supposed to feel about Amber Heard, a woman with a very troubled past, who has been diagnosed with multiple personality disorders by a clinical psychologist, and who has previously been arrested for domestic violence against another partner.
I’m a woman who doesn’t believe Amber Heard. I believe the evidence that Depp and his lawyers have presented. I believe the very words that come out of Heard’s mouth on those audiotapes, where she never once sounds fearful that Depp would ever lay a finger on her and where she admits to physically abusing him. I believe the jury has carefully weighed the evidence over the past six weeks and has delivered a just verdict, where they determined Depp was defamed on all counts.
While Heard supporters try to muddy the waters by obscuring the real issue at hand with gender politics, Depp supporters only ask that you look at the evidence and decide what you think for yourself. Mainstream news that propped up Heard as a champion for domestic abuse survivors, serving as an ACLU ambassador for women’s rights and a UN ambassador for human rights, is facing the consequences of that blind faith and support of her allegations. Their arguments rest on tribalistic support rather than an unwavering commitment to the truth. Let them expose their real intentions. Justice for Johnny Depp and all of those, man or woman, who have been subject to domestic or sexual abuse – may you get your justice too.
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