Four things I took away from the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial
The trial that concluded on Jun 1 was the catalyst for conversations about domestic abuse.
If you are active on social media, you’ll probably be bombarded with content surrounding Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation trial. If not, here’s a quick timeline summary for the uninitiated.
It began in 2018 when actress Amber Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, describing herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” and implying that she was physically and sexually abused by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, during the period they were married.
In 2019, Johnny Depp proceeded to sue Amber Heard for US$50 million (S$68.7 million) in defamation and false implications, claiming that what she wrote had cost him his role in the lucrative Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Amber Heard then countersued Johnny Depp for defamation over statements that his attorney made about her abuse claims.
The case officially kicked off in April 2022 after delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The final verdict was made on Jun 1, 2022 in favour of Johnny Depp where a total compensation of US$15 million (S$20.6 million) was awarded to the actor, while Amber Heard received US$2 million (S$2.7 million).
As both parties are well-known actors, this trial became a strong topic of interest to many. The trial was also live-streamed to the public, leading to clips of the trial circulating and trending on social media, some even turning into memes.
Whether you side with Amber Heard or feel glad that Johnny Depp won the case, here are four lessons I think youths can take away from the whole trial.
1. Men get abused too
While the case originally began due to claims from Amber Heard that she was abused by Johnny Depp, evidence was presented to the court that Johnny Depp had also faced abuse from her.
Incidents included a time where he lost his finger during an altercation where she allegedly threw a bottle at him and caused his finger to get cut off. There were also audio recordings of their conversations made public during the trial in which Amber Heard admits to hitting Johnny Depp and saying that she cannot promise to not get physical again.
She was also recorded saying that if Johnny Depp were to announce to the public that he got abused by her, no one would believe him.
While there are indeed more instances of women facing abuse than men, it does not override the fact that men also do face abuse as well — as seen from Johnny Depp’s case.
In fact, most male victims do not voice out on the abuse they face. With society’s reluctance to recognise that men can be victims, along with the stigma that men should be strong and not show weakness, many male victims of domestic abuse may not want to speak up so as to not appear unable to stand up for themselves.
If anything, the trial has provided a safer space for male victims of domestic abuse and false allegations to come forward with their truth.
Victims of abuse aren’t only women. Just because it may be a rarer occurrence for men to be victims doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.
2. You don’t have to burn bridges once a relationship is over
One of the most notable testimonies that helped with Johnny Depp’s case was when his ex-girlfriend, Kate Moss, was brought into the picture and testified about her experience during their relationship.
Kate Moss denied claims that Johnny Depp had ever committed any form of violence towards her during the course of their relationship, and also affirmed that he never pushed her down the stairs — a claim that Amber Heard brought up.
Kate Moss’ testimony further supported the claim that the violence Amber Heard accused Johnny Depp of was unheard of and uncharacteristic of him according to his previous girlfriends.
If anything, this shows that sometimes, it’s good to remain on good or neutral terms with your ex, especially if your relationship didn’t end too sourly.
Of course, it probably won’t be as serious as having them testify for you in court, but you never know when you might really need their help with something in the future.
3. Cancel culture is toxic and often rides off claims instead of facts
Before the trial, the whole situation was a case of he-said-she-said.
Amber Heard was accusing Johnny Depp of abuse, while he was insisting she was the main aggressor. Claims were brought up and fingers were pointed, but with the traction of the #MeToo movement, along with social media emphasising the importance of believing victims first, it wasn’t surprising that Amber Heard initially saw strong support.
Johnny Depp quickly got cancelled online, losing many of his fans. Companies and brand deals also dropped him, with him allegedly losing a US$22.5 million (S$30.8 million) payday after being dropped from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
However, the trial that followed showed that netizens may have been premature in cancelling someone without even giving him a chance to speak, with sentiments online soon turning in support of Johnny Depp.
With compelling evidence from both parties being presented during the trial, the public soon realised that there was much more to the story than we initially thought.
When it comes to serious allegations like abuse where the aggressor could even face legal prosecution and incarceration, simply taking the word of one party will not cut it.
Thus, instead of being quick to judge and cancel someone who is accused, we should probably wait for more concrete evidence or even a statement from the accused before reacting.
4. The trial should not dissuade abuse victims from seeking justice
When the case closed on Jun 1, the final verdict was announced by the jury stating that Amber Heard had defamed Johnny Depp in her op-ed published in the newspaper, and Johnny Depp was awarded compensation.
In response, Amber Heard posted her thoughts on the matter in an Instagram post.
In the post, she states “I’m… disappointed with what this verdict means for other women… It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”
However, her statement was met with much backlash from netizens saying that violence against women is not taking a back seat just because violence against men is getting attention.
Amber Heard’s statement should not discourage victims of abuse from coming forth because even though she did not win the case, it does not mean that her accusations were ignored.
And although Johnny Depp may have won his case, it was clear from this trial that he was not completely innocent in their relationship either.
Whether you support Amber Heard or Johnny Depp, a big takeaway from the case is that domestic violence and abuse is difficult to talk about, regardless of a victim’s gender.
And if we seek to be a society that better supports victims of abuse, then there are still many important conversations that we need to have to have on this matter.