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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ulatowski

Opinion: What Johnny Depp & Amber Heard's Defamation Case Looks Like To An Abuse Survivor

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

I usually don't enjoy speaking on highly public and controversial current events. However, I simply can't hold my silence any longer on the ongoing case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. While social media is having a field day making memes of Heard's crying faces, making TikToks out of portions of her testimony, and attacking Johnny Depp's 22-year-old daughter and everyone else who isn't "supporting" him, this case has left me sad, angry, confused, and scared. As an abuse survivor myself, this case is terrifying. No one seems to understand the precedent this case is setting by allowing an alleged abuser to relentlessly sue an alleged victim and bring them to court multiple times in an attempt to get them to refute their allegations. No one understands the toll that this case is taking on silent victims as they watch Heard get dragged through the dirt by millions of online individuals who know nothing about her, just because she dared to speak.

When I first began hearing of the case, I actually thought I would be on Johnny's side. This is because I have more experience than I care to admit with terrible, abusive, manipulative, narcissistic women in my life. Then, I saw social media's atrocious response and immense hatred for Heard. I also saw that it's not because they have any evidence that Heard did anything at all. It's not even about their suppose love for Johnny. Why the internet is obsessed with this case is because they absolutely love that it has given them a supposed "excuse" to victim-shame and express sexist and misogynic views. They are pouncing on it and savoring every minute of getting to call a woman a liar, relentlessly harass a victim of abuse, put an abuser on a pedestal, and launch a smear campaign against a woman.

Please keep in mind, I am not saying Heard is innocent. I am not saying I believe her 100%. What I am saying is she hasn't been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be lying. She is an alleged victim attempting to recount her abuse. Are we really no longer even allowing victims a chance to state their case before they are viciously attacked and called liars?


The Beginning - Heard's Washington Post Op-ed

Lets go back to where this whole thing started, because that's where I started when researching this case. The problem here is that Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2018 in which she detailed being a survivor of domestic abuse. I encourage everyone to read it, regardless of their opinion, because it is actually a very good article. It is also ironic. In the article she talks about how her life was upended and how she was deeply punished for speaking out about being a sexual assault and domestic abuse survivor. After speaking out, she got death threats, was cast in a negative light, and almost had her career destroyed. She spoke poignantly and heartbreakingly, not of just one abuser, but of being a victim of multiple abusers and having been assaulted numerous time before she even made it to college.

Heard didn't make the article about her. She didn't say that she was a victim. She merely stated that she spoke and society attacked and, because she fears other women experiencing the same thing, she spoke out again. In 2019, every single word of op-ed was proven true when Johnny sued Amber Heard for defamation. She is getting sued and she is facing society's full wrath, merely because she spoke. The exact circumstances she described going through are being repeated by this court case.

Heard did not mention Johnny in her article. She did not name him, she did not call him a wife beater, and she did not put in explicit detail any instances of abuse. All she said, was that she was a survivor and wrote an article speaking out in support of women. Not to get attention, not to talk about Johnny - just simply to identify as a survivor and to help others in her position. If a tabloid read the article and decided to call Johnny a wife beater and if everyone assumed the article was about Johnny, how is that Heard's fault? Society made Heard's op-ed about Johnny, not Heard. Is she really not allowed the mere act of vaguely identifying as a survivor, because of a man's career?

Why don't we believe Heard?

In 2018, Depp sued The Sun's publisher for libel due to an article they published about him being a wife-beater. The issue went to court and the case was dismissed, because there was evidence that Heard's allegations were substantially true. Of course, Depp wasn't satisficed with this and turned around and sued Heard. Many feebly try to explain this previous case being dismissed by claiming Johnny isn't believed because he's a man and men can't be victims of abuse. Most choose to ignore the case altogether.

Lets be clear - Depp made his case and he lost. The evidence favored Heard. This is not an instance of Depp not being believed and his case dropped because he is a male victim. This is an instance of a woman not being believed because society doesn't want to believe victims. Because we refuse to believe a victim, we're making a victim go to court again. We're making her restate her case, relive her abuse, and go through highly public, humiliating, and exhausting court proceedings again, simply because, even though a court already ruled previously that her allegations were true, we refuse to believe a victim.

The evidence is against Johnny


Social media has been distorting this case since before it even began. They claim that Heard has no evidence, that she is lying, and that Johnny and his attorneys are "destroying" her. That's not true. While there was likely mutual abuse, far more proof of Johnny's abuse exists. After all, are we really just going to ignore that Johnny sent text messages fantasizing about killing Heard and raping her dead body? Are we going to ignore that he stated, on their wedding day, that he could now punch Heard whenever he wanted? Are we going to ignore the neighbor who said Johnny screamed and spit in his face? Are we going to ignore that he outright lied that Heard caused his finger injury when in text messages he admitted he cut it off himself? Are we going to ignore the disgustingly misogynistic, vile, and derogatory way he speaks about women, including Heard and his ex-wives?

Meanwhile, what's the evidence against Heard? Lets just compare this - Depp had text messages speaking of killing Heard as evidence against him. Heard had her private love letters to Johnny read out loud as supposed evidence against her. She also had the fact that Johnny wouldn't look at her in court somehow used against her. What do her love letters to Johnny and him not looking at her currently, have to do at all with her abuse allegations against him? Do you even understand how insane it is that her love letters are being used to try to show she's the abuser?

Heard's testimony isn't accurate for a reason

Yes, there are some inaccuracies being gleefully pointed out in Heard's testimony. You want to know why? Because abusers don't remember the exact date, time, place, and circumstances of when they were abused. I was viciously abused by my mother over a period of 17-years. I can clearly recall instances of abuse in detail. What I can't tell you is when every single incident occurred. With many of these instances, I couldn't even tell you the year they took place. Meanwhile, I do remember wearing long-sleeved shirts and makeup to cover up bruises and claw marks. However, I can't tell you what brand the clothes were or what brand the makeup was I used.

If you were abused, I'm sure you wouldn't remember those details either. Yet, when you attempt to make a case against an abuser, you are forced to try to remember. You have to came up with concrete dates, times, and have physical evidence and pictures that align with the alleged incidents. I have never tried to press charges against my abusers because I know that I don't have the evidence that I would be required to have. I didn't compile evidence and I didn't make mental notes of every incident. If I went to court, I'd have my word against theirs and that's it. This why a lot of victims do have inaccuracies, because they are expected to provide dates, times, and details when it just isn't always possible to remember 100% when something occurred or how something occurred. So, yes, I have no doubt that there are inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Heard's testimony. It is beyond absurd that us abuse victims are expected to recall every single detail and produce concrete evidence of the worst, most painful, most humiliating experiences of our entire lives.

No, victim-shaming is never just "a joke"

Associated Press

Lets go back again, to the present. The present where Heard is being called "Amber Turd" and is the butt of every other joke on social media that you read. Why? Please, I want to know why. Why are we doing this to someone who hasn't been proven to not be a victim? What if every single word Heard said is true? Would you feel no shame that you've spent the past months brutally attacking her and laughing at her recounting horrifying abuse? Even if Heard is lying, think about what your actions are doing. Think about the mother of three who already fears for her life at the hands of her husband if she speaks out, but now she also has to fear for her life from people who will send her death threats for speaking out. Think about the 13-year-old on the stand testifying against her father, who has to be careful what faces she makes otherwise she might become a filter on TikTok.

We do not attack victims before they can even finish their testimonies. We do not immediately call a victim a liar with no proof. We do not relentlessly harass and make fun of victims to intimidate them into silence. We do not laugh at a victim's testimony or how they look when they cry recounting instances of abuse. Regardless of what you think is true or what you think of Heard, that does not give you a right to harass an alleged victim of abuse.

Justice for Johnny, for what?

As for Johnny, I'm glad you are all so concerned about him. He's not concerned at all, so I guess someone has to be concerned for him. No, he actually seems to be having the time of his life. Why? Because even as horrifying allegations against him rise, as derogatory and disgusting comments he made about women come out, even as details of his crazed and erratic behavior and poor parenting come out, he's still getting praised. He knows this and that is why he is sitting in court without a care in world - smirking, laughing, drawing pictures for his attorneys, and happily waving to his supporters. He's not bothered, because no matter what comes out against him, it will still be justice for Johnny. If he did abuse his wife, he must be so, so smug sitting there right now watching the world tear her apart, while he gets put on a pedestal for being an abuser and attempting to silence his victim. And you know what, he does look real smug for someone whose also allegedly been abused and had his life destroyed. I wonder why that is.


As a survivor of abuse, all I can say to anyone reading this is - do better. Be better. A world where victims of abuse can be silenced, taken back to court dozens of times until the verdict is ruled against them, where victims are terrorized for speaking - is a scary, scary world for me to have to see playing out before my eyes. I never got justice for my abuse. Not an inkling of it. I never even got a "sorry." That happens to a lot of us and now society apparently wants it to keep happening. It hurts.

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