Amber Heard exits a building and the wind blows her hair, wearing a black shirt and multiple necklaces.

This Is a Devastating and Dangerous Day for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

At the end of a six-week-long trial, Johnny Depp won his civil defamation case against Amber Heard. Amber Heard also won her countersuit against Depp, in which she claimed he defamed her for calling her allegations of domestic abuse a hoax, but unsurprisingly, it’s Depp’s win that is making up the vast majority of headlines.

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In 2018, two years after Depp and Heard divorced, Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in which she wrote about having “been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age,” as many women have. The essay was about systems of power designed to protect powerful men, including Donald Trump, who was then president. The essay discussed the importance of the Violence Against Women Act and called out the devastating policy changes then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made, weakening Title IX protections for victims of sexual assault.

The essay also included this sentence: “Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” That is what Depp sued Heard over, despite her never mentioning him by name.

There is currently much celebration happening online among Depp stans claiming the actor has been “proven innocent.” That is not what happened. This civil verdict did not undo the decision of a UK lawsuit that found 12 of 14 instances of alleged domestic violence had occurred. What this verdict did say is that Heard was not allowed to talk about it. And that—no matter what you think about any of the rest of this case—makes this a devastating, terrifying day for other survivors of abuse, past and present.

In closing arguments, Heard’s attorney said: “Think of the article’s purpose. The purpose of the article was to promote legislative measures designed to protect victims of domestic abuse. Designed to protect people who did exactly what Ms. Heard did—to speak out.”

This is a heartbreaking day for anyone who is or who has ever experienced domestic abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline online or by calling 1-800-799-7233.

(image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)


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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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