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Johnny Depp Fans’ Attacks Against Amber Heard Expose An Ugly Truth About How We Talk About Abuse Victims

Photo: Matteo Chinelltao / Shutterstock
Johnny Depp, Amber Heard

Inside a Virginia courtroom, Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard is the latest battle in a years-long war over allegations of abuse.

The trial has been filled with many conflicting, often contradictory allegations from either side.

Heard has accused Depp of repeated physical and sexual assaults, often committed in a drug or alcohol-fuelled rage.

Depp has denied ever hitting Heard and countered with his own claims, accusing Heard of severing his finger with a glass bottle among other allegations.

RELATED: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard & The Myth Of The Perfect Victim

The many hours of footage from the highly-publicized trial have been cut, spliced, edited and broadcasted across social media, made into memes, TikToks, and countless tweets.

And, as social media users find themselves debating the case from behind their screens, an even darker battle is playing out across the internet.

Johnny Depp’s fans have been mercilessly attacking Amber Heard on social media.

When Heard’s earliest allegations against Depp emerged in the form of a 2016 restraining order in which she alleged he had struck her with a phone, vitriol against the “Aquaman” actress soon followed.

Depp has maintained a cult-like following since his earliest appearance on-screen so leveling such an accusation against a beloved Hollywood heartthrob was always going to be an uphill battle for Heard.

But, on the cusp of the #MeToo movement, there was at least some support for Heard from those seeking to dismantle a culture of disbelieving women who come forward with similar allegations.

Fans found credibility in Heard’s claims in 2017 when Depp’s lawsuit against his management company over allegations that they mismanaged his funds revealed that his staff was aware of an alleged incident of domestic violence against Heard.

Still, Depp faced few repercussions until Heard’s now-infamous 2018 op-ed in “The Washington Post” in which she spoke about being a survivor of domestic abuse without naming Depp directly.

Soon after, Depp was dropped from a sixth installment of the “Pirates Of The Caribbean” franchise.

By 2019, Depp had launched his rebuttal. At first, this came in the form of a libel case against a British tabloid that branded him a “wife-beater” — a case he lost in 2020.

RELATED: A Couples Therapist Explains How Johnny Depp & Amber Heard's Traumatic Childhoods May Have Triggered Mutual Abuse

In the trial, Heard submitted witness testimony, texts, emails, diary entries, and photographs of her bruises taken over the course of their relationship.

Depp continued to deny the allegations and filed his own defamation lawsuit that targets his ex-wife directly.

With Depp’s counter-attack has come a renewed disbelief in Heard’s claims.

On TikTok, the #justiceforJohnnyDepp tag has been viewed over 7 billion times. #IStandWithAmberHeard and #justiceforAmberHeard have just under 30 million views combined.

When similar hashtags claiming to support Heard trend on Twitter, they are drowned out by Depp’s supporters who used the tags to further their defense of the actor.

The commentary around Heard’s claims is laced with deep-rooted misogyny. 

At the time of writing this article, searching Heard’s name alongside the word “b-tch” on Twitter retrieved over 20 tweets made in the last five minutes alone. 

Heard’s every movement in the court is dissected by millions. 

While Depp is labeled an icon for his doodles on paper and mocking of Heard’s legal team, it is Heard’s “crocodile tears” and “bad acting” on the stand that is nit-picked.

RELATED: How TikTok's Coverage Of Amber Heard & Johnny Depp Radicalizes Young People Against Women

   

   

Depp’s fans claim Heard’s allegations lack “proof,” resorting to language so often weaponized against abuse survivors. Why did she stay? Why is she only coming forward now? Why didn’t she report him to the police?

Attacks against Heard have escalated to the level of out-and-out death threats. 

In the earlier half of the Virginia trial, two of Depp’s fans had to be ejected from the courtroom after allegedly making threats against Heard online.

“I Can’t Wait For The Day I Kill Amber Heard,” one allegedly wrote, calling her “that mermaid ‘c—t” in another post, referencing her role in “Aquaman.”

“My legs are strong enough to break your face…Threaten johnny depp again and you’ll see what I mean,” said another.

Amongst the vitriol, there is genuine concern and productive conversation around what the trial means for how we view domestic abuse.

Many point to a recording of Heard in which she highlights how male domestic violence survivors are treated. 

"Tell the world, Johnny," she can be heard saying. "Tell them Johnny Depp, I, Johnny Depp, a man, I'm a victim, too, of domestic violence."

But this debate is most often drowned out by less nuanced criticisms of Heard.

In a trial that has created an opportunity for a shift in the way we respond to sexual, physical and emotional abuse, social media has instead regressed to a cruel mimicking of a woman whose allegations (true or not) echo the lived experiences of many abuse survivors.

By continuing to degrade Heard, fans reinforce distorted perceptions of abuse and further a narrative that women lie about these allegations and deserve to be punished for it. 

Heard and Depp may never see your cruel Facebook comments and abusive tweets, but survivors in your life will.

If you or anyone you know may be experiencing intimate partner violence, please do not hesitate to keep this list close to develop a safe exit strategy. There are also tons of free resources for individuals experiencing intimate partner violence — you are not alone.

Understanding the nuances of all the resources can be overwhelming, however you can get started with the National Domestic Abuse Hotline any time of day by calling 1−800−799−7233. Local organizations in your area, like Women Against Abuse in Philadelphia or Connections For Abused Women and Children in Chicago, as well as RAINN are availble to help you online or in person.

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Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.

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