Finally, the world’s most-watched court case has come to a conclusion. Yesterday, a Fairfax, Virginia court jury ruled Amber Heard liable for defaming her ex-husband, Johnny Depp. While it was not specifically a domestic violence case, this verdict has many people wondering and worrying about what will happen to the #MeToo movement and how other domestic abuse survivors will be affected.
What Does The Johnny Depp Verdict Mean For MeToo?
As the Johnny Depp – Amber Heard defamation case raged on, one thing became clear: The general public seemed to be Team Johnny Depp. So much so, in fact, that thousands of people took to writing and shouting horrible things about Heard throughout the case. Yesterday, when the court announced Depp’s victory, thousands more celebrated alongside the actor. (1)
Many are saying that his win is a good thing. Since the MeToo movement took off in Hollywood in 2017, accusations of abuse could effectively end a Hollywood front man’s career. This is essentially what happened to Depp when Heard published an op-ed implying that she was a victim of domestic violence. Though she never said Depp’s name, the implications were enough to have the actor dropped from several multi-million dollar franchises, such as Pirates of the Caribbean.
Read: Opinion: Why do people take so much pleasure in attacking Amber Heard?
Lack of Evidence
While many say this win is restoring the justice system to an innocent-until-proven-guilty state, many others are now fearing how abuse victims will be affected. In Heard’s case, many of her claims were refuted for “lack of evidence”. Survivors of domestic violence have come out saying that their claims, too, were ignored for very similar reasons.
Often there is a lack of solid evidence in cases such as these. Frequently survivors don’t seek help or hospital for fear of repercussions. Particularly in Hollywood, where still powerful men reign, many women are afraid of what speaking out will do to their careers. On top of that, they are dealing with shame and the many mental health problems that come along with abuse. The public squashing of Heard’s side of the story was also something all-too-familiar.
“We tend to discount her credibility and boost or inflate the credibility of the man,” law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer said. “It is extremely difficult for women to come forward with accusations…and she said she didn’t come forward because she understood what she was up against.” (2)
Many experts say that the public nature of this trial will do damage to the MeToo movement. In particular, it will discourage women who don’t have the means that someone like Amber Heard does from coming forward.
“There seems to be this entertainment angle that is minimizing what happened in that relationship,” said Ruth Glenn, CEO and president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “When we begin to put on a show like we have with this it becomes more of entertainment. And by having it brought this way to the general public we’re allowing for assumptions and conclusions and things that don’t allow for us to really dig into the dynamics of domestic violence.”
Maybe The Opposite Effect
Other experts say that it could actual have the opposite effect and bolster the movement further.
“I always think back to Anita Hill when she accused Clarence Thomas. She was treated so poorly by the senate judiciary committee and was portrayed in the media as a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty,” said Carrie Baker, professor in the program for The Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. “People thought, uh oh, women aren’t going to report sexual harassment anymore because they will be intimidated but exact opposite actually happened.”
After Hill’s case, there were other women who began coming forward, and people started believing them.
Nicole Bedera, a sociologist with expertise in sexual violence at the University of Michigan Tweeted of the verdict:
“It’s a reminder of why we need #MeToo in the first place. For feminists, this should be a radicalizing moment, inspiring us to push for structural changes to the systems stacked against us.” (3)
This verdict is not a surprise—and it doesn’t signal the death of #MeToo.— Dr. Nicole Bedera (@NBedera) June 1, 2022
It’s a reminder of why we need #MeToo in the first place.
For feminists, this should be a radicalizing moment, inspiring us to push for structural changes to the systems stacked against us.
If you are a victim of sexual and/or domestic abuse, don’t let the results of this trial discourage you. Just because one person wasn’t truthful or wasn’t believed doesn’t mean you won’t be. You do not have to continue living with abuse and it is not your fault. Speak out – it could save your life and someone else’s.
Keep Reading: Ashley Judd says mom Naomi shot herself moments after asking her to stay with her
- “:How Will the #MeToo Movement Be Affected by the Amber Heard Case?” The Mighty. Megan Glosson. June 2022.
- “Experts divided on what Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial could mean for #MeToo movement.” The Hill. Kelsey Carolan and Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech. May 4, 2022.
- “Amber Heard defamation verdict could complicate #MeToo movement.” The Hill. Shirin Ali. June 1, 2022.