On Wednesday, a jury in Fairfax, Virginia, found that Amber Heard had defamed her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post and awarded the Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) star $15 million.
Depp owes Heard $2 million in return, as the jury found him liable for defamatory statements by his former attorney Adam Waldman.
Mr. Depp was not present in the courtroom when the verdict was read as he was still in the U.K. following making a surprise appearance at a Jeff Beck gig. Shortly after the verdict, he released a statement, writing, “The jury gave me my life back.”
Ms. Heard, who was present in the courtroom on Wednesday, also released a public statement in which she referenced the libel trial Depp lost against The Sun in the United Kingdom in 2020 after they called him a “wife-beater.”
“I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American – to speak freely and openly,” Heard wrote.
Ruth Glenn, chief executive officer of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and a survivor of domestic abuse, spoke to the magazine, saying she “has never seen anything like” the public reaction to the trial between Ms. Heard and Mr. Depp.
Due to “his longevity in the celebrity world [and] his ability to have the resources to deploy PR machines… he’s been able to control the narrative and this trial,” Glenn said.
Dr. Jessica Taylor, a psychologist, forensic psychology Ph.D., and author of books on misogyny and abuse, is concerned that this is “the death of the whole movement” to protect domestic abuse victims.
Taylor noted that she’s already had “hundreds” of survivors reach out to her, wishing to retract public statements about their abusers in fear of defamation suits of their own. Even worse, Taylor says, some have started pulling out of court cases against their abusers.
“Survivors watching this will rethink everything they say out loud about what happened to them, and the potential of being sued and dragged through a court process for saying something they know is true, but they could be found guilty of defamation,” Taylor said.
Rolling Stone also spoke to anonymous victims of domestic abuse, who reported feeling “hesitant” to share their stories with people close to them who previously expressed support for Depp.
“People who have decided women are liars, and abusers are equal victims, won’t be swayed. And the damage to victims in terms of silencing and scaring them has already been done, so Johnny Depp’s PR machine has won,” one survivor told the magazine.
The same survivor worried this trial further pushed the narrative of “the perfect victim.” “People look at women fighting back [against] abuse and use it as evidence to play into the abuser’s narrative that both parties are equally wrong,” the survivor said.
Glenn expressed similar concern, worrying that the trial pushed the theory of “mutual abuse, which Glenn argues does not exist.
“There is no such thing [as mutual abuse]. You have a primary aggressor and a primary victim,” Glenn told Rolling Stone. “What could be happening is you have a survivor doing what they need to do to defend themselves… but when you have clinicians framing it as ‘mutual abuse,’ it’s very harmful.”
What do you think of the outcome of the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard?