Verdict of Depp-Heard trial is a backward step for domestic abuse survivors

British Herald | Bing

British Herald | Bing

Samantha Sollitto

The verdict of the Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard defamation trial is already proving to have negative consequences for survivors of domestic abuse.

Depp sued Heard for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she had published in The Washington Post, wherein the actress alleged to be a victim of sexual violence. Heard countersued, claiming damages of $100 million.

The high-stakes defamation case involving A-list celebrities and scandalous insight into their private lives enthralled the public since it began in mid-April.

This fascination, however, is proving to be immensely harmful for people who have experienced domestic violence.

Many people who watched the trial were quick to turn against Heard, citing her allegedly harmful behavior toward her ex-husband as justification for their dislike of the actress.

While people are entitled to their feelings, it was clear that the overwhelming hatred Heard received after taking the standran much deeper than the trial.

Heard was immediately portrayed as a monster, even though the situation was far from black and white. It was clearmisogyny that played a role in how the case was reported, which consequently trickled into the public’s perception of trial.

A juror recently spoke out as to why he ruled in favor of Depp, claiming that Heard’s constant crying and exaggeratedfacial expressions made everyone in the courtroom very uncomfortable.

The public generally echoed this sentiment, with many agreeing Heard’s tears seemed ingenuine and overdramatic.

Whenever Depp showed any emotion, however, spectators and jurors alike reacted sympathetically.

It’s important to note this contrast and consider how it may have ultimately impacted the decision reached by the jurors.

Both parties were, to an arguable extent, victims of domestic violence. The deep emotional trauma Heard was forced to endure and then relive through this trial might have affected her actions in court.

Nevertheless, Heard was vilified in a way that her male counterpart was never subjected to.

People such as James Franco or Ansel Elgort, who have both been accused of sexual assault and denied the allegations, have not had to face even half of what Heard has experienced in the past two months.

While Heard was berated online by Depp’s supporters for lying, Elgort and Franco were able to deny allegations and continue their careers without having their integrity questioned constantly.

Thus, Heard’s treatment by the public and the jury will likely discourage women from speaking out against their abusers,out of fear for their livelihoods and reputations.

Some spectators of the trial have already taken to Twitter to call for action against women who have spoken out about celebrities, such as Brad Pitt and Marilyn Manson, who have committed acts of violence towards themselves or their families.

This sort of backlash discourages survivors from speaking out, especially if the man who abused them is influential, such as Depp.

But women were not the only community negatively impacted by this trial. While Depp’s win could be seen as a step forward for male victims of domestic violence, this community has also been harmed by the media and public reaction to the trial.

Men are often overlooked when it comes to being victims of domestic or sexual violence. People have used the misogyny Heard experienced as an excuse to belittle the idea of men being victims and defend the actress.

Many articles speaking in defense of Heard note the idea of Depp becoming a poster child for male survivors of abuse.

They believe that while men do get abused, it’s not as serious as women because the overwhelming majority of abuse is directed from men toward women, not vice versa.

While this may be statistically true, undermining any survivor is extremely harmful toward anyone who experienced such abuse.

Men and women alike can be abused, regardless of the statistics. This sort of mindset is what discourages victims from speaking out against their abusers.

The negative effects of this trial can be attributed to one major factor: social media. Many regarded the proceeding as a source of entertainment rather than respecting the very real trauma both parties and the portion of spectators who may have survived domestic violence, too.

During this time, the public should divert their energy from the Depp-Heard trial to offering support to victims by creating and providing survivors with safe outlets where their integrity and story will not be questioned or invalidated.