Jun 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Domestic violence groups speak out on Depp v. Heard verdict

US actress Amber Heard testifies as US actor Johnny Depp looks on.

Actress Amber Heard testifies as actor Johnny Depp looks on during a defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on May 5. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP via Getty Images

Domestic violence organizations and advocates are speaking out on the Depp v. Heard verdict, arguing the case's ruling could prove further stigmatizing for survivors of domestic violence.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, a seven-person jury determined that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp after she wrote a 2018 Washington Post op-ed, claiming she was a victim of domestic violence.

  • The jury awarded Depp $15 million on Wednesday — $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages — before a judge later lowered the punitive damages to $350,000, which is the maximum under Virginia law, NBC News reported. Depp was awarded $10.4 million in total.
  • Heard received $2 million in compensatory damages after the jury found she proved defamation from statements made by Depp's lawyer, Adam Waldman. Heard had filed a countersuit against Depp in 2020, alleging that he defamed her when Waldman released statements calling her abuse allegations a hoax.

What they're saying: "Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people, who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed. All in the blink of an eye," Depp said in an Instagram post.

  • "And six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled," he added.

Heard said she was "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," Heard said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday.
  • Heard’s lawyer Elaine Bredehoft told the "Today" show that the actress could "absolutely not" afford to pay the $10.4 million.

Domestic violence organizations also suggested the verdict could make it difficult for survivors to come forward with their stories. Survivors expressed concern too about seeing the trial unfold on screen.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence president Ruth Glenn told NPR that the verdict "adds another barrier to what victims and survivors have to deal with, as they're determining how to get the support and safety they need."

  • Glenn did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) director of media relations Erinn Robinson told Axios in a statement that “the outcome of this case may surface an array of emotions for survivors watching."

  • RAINN has urged "anyone needing support in the wake of this verdict" to call their 24/7 hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or to visit its website.

The MeToo Movement said in a Twitter statement that "so many survivors — women, in particular — will feel defeated in this moment. Healing often can’t be found in the court room or in a jury decision…. but it’s still possible."

Women in Film — a nonprofit advocating for careers of women in the film and TV industry — said it was "deeply concerned the Depp-Heard decision will set precedent exacerbating barriers victims face in coming forward."

  • "The trial and its reception demonstrated a regressive trend of retaliation against those who speak out about violence or abuse perpetrated by those in power," the organization said.

Several survivors of domestic violence also told Rolling Stone they were "sickened" by the verdict. One said, “This case is my worst fear playing out on a public stage."

Dozens of celebrities have liked Depp's statement about the trial verdict. Less than five have liked Heard's reaction post, per BuzzFeed News.

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