The web loathes Amber Heard. That's horrible for home violence victims.

A number of years in the past, I got here to briefly know Amber Heard. The girl I met on the cellphone, then later in particular person, struck me as genuine and honest as she spoke about her function as a Human Rights Champion of the United Nations Human Rights Workplace(opens in a brand new tab). I by no means imagined she’d someday change into the singular focus of influencers and creators desirous to mock and monetize her tears. However for the previous few weeks, individuals have achieved precisely that, obsessively turning her testimony in a defamation lawsuit introduced by her ex-husband Johnny Depp right into a dystopian social media circus, with assist from a shocking variety of celebrities. 

The livestreamed trial is meant to find out whether or not Heard defamed Depp when she wrote in an op-ed that she’d change into a “public determine representing home abuse.”(opens in a brand new tab) Depp denies that he bodily and sexually abused her(opens in a brand new tab) whereas they have been married. As an alternative, he accused Heard of abusing him(opens in a brand new tab) and argued that the op-ed price him a Pirates of the Caribbean (opens in a new tab)(opens in a new tab)movie(opens in a brand new tab), although Heard’s lawyer questioned the timing of his dismissal. Heard additionally launched her personal counter-defamation go well with towards Depp. In 2020, Depp misplaced a libel case towards a British newspaper(opens in a brand new tab) that referred to as him a “spouse beater.” The choose in that case wrote, “I settle for that Mr. Depp put her in worry of her life.”

Although I could not think about it then, the clues that Heard would change into an everlasting goal have been there, again in 2018. Whereas scouring her social media accounts previous to our cellphone interview, I rapidly seen the insults routinely lobbed at her by a military of Depp supporters. After that article was printed, Twitter customers who appeared to again Depp started tagging me in mentions that maligned Heard. A month later, after I interviewed her onstage on the Social Good Summit, an occasion co-sponsored by the United Nations Basis, the United Nations Growth Programme, the 92nd Avenue Y, and Mashable, related accounts once more attacked her. 

After I later commented on Twitter that I appreciated Heard’s passion(opens in a new tab) for human rights, somebody who at the moment tweets repeatedly about Depp and the trial replied(opens in a new tab), “That is as a result of she must do extra time to attempt to make individuals overlook concerning the sort of particular person she actually is.” 

This narrative has pushed a lot of the social commentary, together with memes and movies, concerning the trial: Heard is a manipulative liar set on destroying a great man’s identify. We all know this trope properly as a result of it has historically stored home violence victims silent. However now it is being weaponized by highly effective celebrities and for revenue by the creator financial system, which ought to frighten anybody who cares about justice for survivors of intimate companion violence. 

The conviction that Heard is mendacity is underpinned by the notion that Depp is beloved by his followers and buddies alike, who know him to be a good human being. Primarily based on that familiarity and private expertise, they insist he is incapable of abuse. I’ve written earlier than about how harmful and misguided these character witnesses may be. Acknowledging that somebody you admire or take into account an in depth pal could have additionally assaulted his companion, whenever you’ve by no means seen that aspect of him, is painful. It is a lot simpler to behave as a personality witness vouching for the great character of the accused. 

“Even probably the most horrendous violent particular person isn’t violent towards everybody on a regular basis,” Jackie White, emerita professor of psychology on the College of North Carolina at Greensboro, informed me in 2016, after I requested her about why character witnesses insist on defending the accused based mostly not on an goal studying of the proof however the nature of their private interactions. “It’s extremely probably that there are going to be individuals of their lives for whom the connection has been constructive.”


“Even probably the most horrendous violent particular person isn’t violent towards everybody on a regular basis.”

Such insistence could seem much more justified in circumstances with no so-called excellent sufferer. Heard admitted on the stand to (opens in a brand new tab)putting Depp(opens in a brand new tab). An audio recording additionally captured her taunting and berating Depp(opens in a brand new tab), telling him that the world would not consider a person who accused a girl of home violence. On the stand, Heard was remorseful about insulting him throughout their fights(opens in a brand new tab), acknowledging that she and Depp lashed out at one another usually. 

We must always take significantly any proof that Heard abused Depp, as a result of males may be victims of home violence, but the trial’s revelations do not show Heard is being deceitful about allegations that Depp assaulted her. They reveal what is tough for most individuals to ponder: A lady who says she’s been terrorized by her companion may, at occasions, inflict bodily or emotional hurt on him. However there is not any room on-line to assume deeply or converse with nuance concerning the complexity of violent relationships.

As an alternative, audiences see a person who’s entertained them for years and an attractive girl, a long time his junior, who’s punctured their fantasy of who he’s when the cameras cease rolling. They might blame Heard for this disillusionment, but it surely was Depp’s textual content messages, entered into proof as a part of the trial, that uncovered his musing about Heard ending up as a “rotting corpse” within the trunk of a Honda Civic(opens in a brand new tab). A few of Depp’s private messages to Heard(opens in a brand new tab) additionally depict a person who deeply regrets his habits throughout their fights, even when he’s imprecise about what transpired. 

Depp’s celeb supporters someway overlook these particulars and have helped gasoline the discourse that Heard is mendacity. Podcaster Joe Rogan, whose personal tangles with the reality are well-documented, referred to as Heard a “loopy girl.”(opens in a brand new tab) In a current standup routine, comic Chris Rock reportedly joked(opens in a brand new tab), “Imagine all ladies, consider all ladies…besides Amber Heard.” In a current live performance, Paul McCartney projected a video of Depp enjoying his music My Valentine(opens in a new tab)(opens in a new tab), from a efficiency he directed a decade in the past. 

If McCartney’s gesture appears benign, take into account that one notable particular person within the viewers — Jill Vedder, spouse of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder and a World Citizen ambassador — determined to show the second right into a social media publish(opens in a brand new tab) backing Depp. “And whereas I assist ladies and the ME TOO motion / I additionally know some ladies who’ve destroyed the lives of harmless & good males,” she wrote. Mannequin Eire Baldwin shared an identical sentiment in an Instagram story(opens in a brand new tab), commenting that she is aware of “ladies who’re precisely like this” who “use their very womanhood to play sufferer and switch the world towards the person.”

By no means thoughts that these misogynistic speaking factors sound loads like males’s rights activism; the general public would not know these circumstances, cannot choose their deserves, and private data of them merely would not quantity to proof that Heard is mendacity. 

At a Pearl Jam live performance in Oakland final week, Eddie Vedder personally rattled off an anecdote about having partied with Depp and the Rolling Stones years in the past, pausing to notice that Depp had been a “full gentleman.” The sector, which has a capability of greater than 19,000, cheered with approval, a daunting spectacle provided that it was successfully collective approval for labeling an alleged sufferer of home violence a liar. 

What’s unusual is that Vedder is considered one of few rock stars who’s unapologetically outspoken about gender equality and girls’s rights. He even famously wrote an empathetic music(opens in a brand new tab) a few girl in an unhealthy, maybe abusive relationship. However perhaps when it is your pal who’s accused and the trigger feels righteous, loyalty issues extra. Standing shocked within the viewers, with an N95 plastered to my face, I questioned: How many individuals right here now really feel that if a person they respect, identified for his gender equality advocacy, can dismiss claims of home violence based mostly on gratifying experiences with the accused, they will, too? 

Celebrities could not perceive or care concerning the depth of vitriol aimed toward Heard day-after-day, however they need to know higher than to present cowl to followers desirous to tear down a girl for sport or vengeance. Depp’s well-known buddies supply no firsthand proof of Heard’s alleged deceit — simply their testimony as character witnesses. It’s a disturbing lesson to the general public: If sufficient individuals say a person is sweet and respectable, then the sufferer have to be mendacity. The reality is usually extra sophisticated, and generally darker, than that.


What’s to maintain the typical TikTok person defending an accused abuser from creating clips that insist the sufferer is mendacity?

Tragically, character witnesses can provide anti-fans, who construct a web based identification and neighborhood round despising a well-known particular person, precisely what they crave: a spark to additional gasoline their hatred. Because the Atlantic (opens in a brand new tab)not too long ago famous, anti-fandoms characteristic “parts of a brand new paranoid fashion,”(opens in a brand new tab) and conspiracy theories can dominate consequently. Girls within the public eye are generally targets of anti-fandoms, and Heard is not any exception. (One debunked idea(opens in a brand new tab) about Heard’s testimony is that she stole traces from The Gifted Mr. Ripley to make use of as her personal.) 

It is no leap to recommend non-famous home violence victims shall be consequently topic to related obsessive scrutiny in their very own communities. What’s to maintain the typical TikTok person defending an accused abuser from creating clips that insist the sufferer is mendacity? Depp vs. Heard has made that each worthwhile and permissible. 

Primarily based on my private expertise, I can’t choose how Heard behaved with Depp. Clearly she and Depp had a unstable relationship. In an expert setting, I discovered her to be curious, real, and deeply caring, together with after I wasn’t taking notes. However I additionally perceive that individuals are complicated. I would quite let the authorized system prevail, with actual proof that is much more compelling than my impressions of her character. 

What I can say is that the general public should not cheer the digital abuse Heard has endured, nor the general public mockery she’s experiencing now. And if her haters and detractors, together with Depp’s celeb buddies, will not cease for her sake, maybe they will take into account what their habits will imply for home violence survivors whose names we’ll by no means know. 

When you’ve skilled home or intimate companion violence, you’ll be able to name the Nationwide Home Violence hotline at 1−800−799−7233. Extra assets can be found on its web site(opens in a brand new tab).

Originally posted 2022-05-19 09:00:00.


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