“Domestic violence is rooted in power and control, with one partner choosing to abuse in order to gain control over their partner.”
– National Domestic Violence Hotline
Quick recap: In 2016, Amber Heard was granted a domestic violence temporary restraining order against her now-ex-husband. In 2020, a judge from the UK High Court (who wrote a whopping, must-read 129-page document to explain his verdict) and two judges from the UK Court of Appeals found that the ex battered her twelve times and raped her.
In 2022, both were found to have been defamed by a jury in Virginia. He by her for three statements in an Op-Ed (including the title wasn’t written nor approved by her); by his attorney, who claimed she made up a “hoax” to cast her then-husband as a violent, property-destroying abuser. This verdict has been the subject of criticism, including by the likes of CNN analysts and even an attorney from the Supreme Court of India.
The latest on Amber Heard that isn’t clickbait or freeping has gone severely underreported (unsurprisingly so). The devil works hard, but those behind burner sites and 2000s-era tabloid cruelty revivals work harder. They have no time for context, nuance, and professional opinions about a public figure who’s an income resource for Youtube hacks who thrive on disinformation and manufactured hatred (the bots and The Daily Wire spending an ungodly amount of money on anti-Heard stories are to blame for that).
So, what’s the story now?
What isn’t being reported nearly as much as the sensationalised myths? Something actually important that has the capacity to educate audiences about domestic violence so they don’t make a mockery of it again be it in the form of allegations, testimonies, and proven facts? Yes, that’s the winner.
Heard might be at the receiving hand of a lot of social media hate (much of it not organic, as confirmed by Botsentinel). Still, she has received the support of people that actually matter: high-profile experts in the field of domestic violence, advocates, and writers who focus on the topic. I haven’t seen articles mentioning it or any listicle being published and updated on, say, Vulture or even Buzzfeed (that published an article about Heard and her ex-husband’s Instagram posts about the verdict being liked by celebrities, updating his list, but never hers). Maybe it’s because the words of experts have been trashed in favour of populist talk in so many areas for years (ay, Brexit…), and all generations can fall for it.
Here’s what experts, advocates, and journalists who made a career covering domestic violence have said:
- Sexual violence expert Dr. Jennifer Freyd proclaimed to the Guardian that “there has been a lot of DARVO (deny, attack, reverse victim and offender; she coined the term herself in 1997)” used as a tactic to discredit Heard and ruin her reputation in an “overwhelming” anti-Heard campaign on social media (and in the Virginia court, per media lawyer Mark Stephens).
- Lundy Bancroft, author of the book “Why Does He Do That?”, echoed similar sentiments on the podcast “The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast,” along with the host. They discussed the way her evidence “is pretty persuasive if you look at it all carefully and objectively” and the way abusers are very good at muddying the waters to distract from it (i.e., debunked HPD diagnoses being a “classic” tactic to discredit accusers, according to Bancroft) and the courts often allow that. They also noted that “victims of abuse tend not to act very well sometimes because they’re out of their goddamn minds […] she’s gonna be pushing back in some way,” and that does not equate the victim to the abuser, with Bancroft pointing out such conclusions are “very frustrating.”
- IPV advocate Dr. Christine M. Cocchiola has identified Heard as the victim in a piece titled “Reframing Heard/Depp from the Coercive Control lens — She is the victim.”. She wrote: “In the case of Amber and so many victims I have worked with, she was often triggered by Depp’s controlling behavior. When people are triggered, they may fight, flee, or freeze. It just so happens that Amber often responds to her triggers in fight mode. It is not pretty. It is not likeable. But as she said in the trial, she dealt with ‘years of controlling behavior’” and identified Heard’s ex-husband’s behaviour after their break-up as Post-Separation Abuse.
- Julie Owens, a National Coalition Against Domestic Violence consultant, wrote a comprehensive, 27-page analysis of the case. She called the Virginia trial “six weeks of post-separation abuse/coercive control” and added that “the re-victimization of survivors can sometimes be as or more devastating and traumatizing than the abuse itself”, declaring “if you still don’t support Amber after the trial, we are not part of the same movement.”
- Domestic abuse researcher Emma Katz actively supports Heard on the social media platform Twitter, writing she believes her due to her “very extensive understanding of what DA is like, what it involves, & how perpetrators & survivors think, behave and react.” On the same platform, CEO of VictimFocus, Dr. Jessica Taylor, called Heard’s ex-husband a “DARVO king.” Ruth Glenn referred to Heard as an “imperfect victim” and reminded viewers there’s no one way to respond in an abusive situation and to be a victim in the NBC short documentary about the VA trial. The abuse awareness organization Custody Peace has been a vocal supporter of Heard on their Twitter and Instagram pages.
- Journalist Amanda Kippert, who’s covered domestic violence for nearly the past ten years, wrote an article for domesticshelters.org titled “Has Johnny Depp Gaslit Us All?”. She wrote about how he gaslit the jury, likening his behaviour to making someone believe a sauna is chilly and making them put on a sweater: “The jury missed this. They missed how Depp’s claims that it was her who was abusive, not him, was a common abuser magic trick. Those texts he sent, where he fantasized about killing her and then… doing more —’ I will f*ck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead’—were just jokes, and it was Heard who was emotionally overreacting. The jury fell for it. They put on their sweaters inside the sauna and admitted it was cold. Depp awarded them with a smile.” She concluded the article affirming: “Depp’s manipulation of the courts has done a disservice to true male victims of abuse who already face stigmas stepping forward. He has laughed in the face of a woman whose “rotting corpse,” he once wished, “was decomposing in the f–king trunk of a Honda Civic.” He has shown the freedom money can buy and has proven a fact most women were already well aware of: we are on trial the moment we say ‘no more.’”
- Domestic abuse survivor and advocate Leslie Morgan Steiner published this statement on her Instagram account: “Like most abusive relationships, this one is contradictory, confusing, and disturbing… Although she was afraid, emotional, at times violent, ashamed, confused & hysterical (as I was, and as most victims are), I see no evidence that Amber Heard was the abuser. I hit my ex at times. I screamed horrible things at him. That didn’t make me the perp. I was reacting – “overreacting” if you must — to being tortured and manipulated. We were victims of a crime. Would you fault a kidnap victim for fighting back? No. You’d call her a hero.”
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence published a blog post declaring to be “appalled” by the verdict, adding that “as an organization, we try to have faith in this nation’s systems, including its judges and jurors, to recognize domestic violence and hold an abuser accountable. Clearly, that was not what happened in this courtroom. […] What spilled out of the courtroom and into the media, including social media, was an abuser exerting control and manipulating the media and a loyal fan base to attack his victim on his behalf. […] Already, we are hearing anecdotal reports of abusers threatening their victims — “If you speak about this to anyone, I’ll pull a Depp on you.”
So, maybe next time, when you see already debunked information, or you read a piece of anti-Heard propaganda, think of what the experts had to say. Not just in regards to Heard, but also others who came forward with similar stories who are being attacked for speaking up.
Microsoft Word – draft trial judgment as distributed with corrections.docx (judiciary.uk)
The Daily Wire Spent Thousands of Dollars Promoting Anti-Amber Heard Propaganda (vice.com)
Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and The Cyrillic Russian Spiders From Mars – The Geek Buzz
Lundy Bancroft – The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast | Podcast on Spotify
‘Debunked’ psychological diagnoses of Amber Heard must be discounted, prominent psychologist warns (yahoo.com)
Reframing Heard/Depp from the Coercive Control lens — She is the victim. | by Dr. Christine Marie Cocchiola, DSW, LCSW | Jun, 2022 | Medium
Julie Owens (domesticviolenceexpert.org)
Emma Katz on Twitter: “Listening Amber Heard’s testimony. I believe her. I believe her because of my careful assessment of this case, and my very extensive understanding of what DA is like, what it involves, & how perpetrators & survivors think, behave and react. https://t.co/RP4apBrpAU via @BBCNews” / Twitter
Dr. Jessica Taylor on Twitter: “Look, men can and do get subjected to domestic abuse and interpersonal violence, but Depp is not the poster child you’re all looking for. He’s just another abuser, & king of DARVO.” / Twitter
A Marriage on Trial: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and truth in the age of social media (nbcnews.com)
(2) custodypeace on Twitter: “Depp fans continue to viciously attack/harass friends of Heard, DV & Law experts, survivors & DV orgs who share their evidence-based views that oppose theirs — they are doing this on his behalf. Did we miss the memo where he requests that they remain kind? #postseparationabuse” / Twitter / Custody Peace (@custodypeace) • Instagram photos and videos
Has Johnny Depp Gaslit Us All? (domesticshelters.org)
Leslie Morgan Steiner (@lesliebooks) • Instagram photos and videos
NCADV Appalled by Depp/Heard Verdict, Concerned for Future of #MeToo and #SurvivorSpeaks
Coercive Control and the Depp/Heard case (survivorsbeheard.com)