Amber Heard supporters outraged by defamation trial verdict

Actress's supporters deeply disappointed after trial, with many seeing it as another instance of a powerful man getting away with abuse

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Actress Amber Heard, who was last week found liable for more than $10 million in damages in a defamation lawsuit brought against her by her ex-husband Johnny Depp, called the verdict “a setback for women”.

Her supporters agreed.

Depp brought the suit against Heard over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, in which she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse. Though the Pirates of the Caribbean star was not named in the piece, a jury found it to be defamatory and awarded Depp more than $10m in damages.

The jury also found that Depp had defamed Heard, but awarded her far less in damages.

Amber Heard found liable for $15m, Johnny Depp for $2m in defamation trial

Amber Heard found liable for $15m, Johnny Depp for $2m in defamation trial

Heard's supporters were deeply disappointed in the verdict, with many seeing it as another instance of a powerful man getting away with abuse.

“Amber Heard had photos, video, text messages, audio recordings, eye witnesses, medical notes, therapists notes and she was still not believed,” one Twitter user wrote. “This is a massive setback for women.”

Another user said: “The irony of a woman being sued by a rich, abusive, powerful man for writing about how rich, abusive, powerful men silence women.”

During the trial, Heard -- as well as friends and family -- recounted instances in which Depp allegedly abused her.

But there was widespread criticism of Heard and questions raised about her credibility, particularly on social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok.

One of the witnesses in Heard's defence, Ron Schnell — a social media expert and member of the Berkeley Research Group — said he had seen more than a million negative tweets about Heard and that the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp hashtag was the biggest trending topic throughout the trial.

The jury of five men and two women deliberated for two days before finding Heard liable. Though they were instructed not to read about the case, they were not sequestered and the court house in Virginia was often thronged with Depp fans.

Several pro-Heard Twitter users told Insider that both before and after the trial, they were flooded with misogynistic comments and private messages due to their support of the actress.

Many victims of domestic abuse expressed their outrage over the backlash against Heard's claims of abuse.

“This case is my worst fear playing out on a public stage,” Meghan, a victim of domestic abuse, told Rolling Stone. “[It] tells me that [my ex] was right. If he chose to, he could destroy and humiliate me beyond repair.”

Alexandra Hunt, another abuse survivor, told NBC: “I think this is going to become a playbook for abusers who are powerful people and who use their power to silence people from coming forward.”

Nicole Bedera, a sociologist who studies sexual violence, said the trial had made some woman feel as if they were “losing rights that previously felt pretty well established”.

“Historically, survivors have always been concerned about naming their abusers publicly, but those concerns are intensified after this verdict, and that’s in large part because Amber Heard never did name Johnny Depp publicly as her abuser,” she told NBC.

But throughout the trial, Depp denied he had ever abused Heard or any other partner and instead claimed that Heard had abused him, with friends and former employees backing up his assertions.

Depp said Heard's column had precipitated an "endless barrage of hateful content" that had a "seismic impact on my life and on my career."

"And six years later, the jury gave my life back. I am truly humbled," Depp said in a statement following the verdict on Wednesday.

His supporters see the verdict as a victory for male victims of domestic violence who are often forced to suffer in silence.

“Speaking up for abused women is hard and speaking up for abused men is even harder,” one Twitter user wrote. “Thanks to Johnny Depp and his legal team for breaking the stigma and speaking up.”

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence said that while men can also be victims of domestic violence, it is much more commonly experienced by women.

Heard and her legal team have said they plan to appeal the court's decision.

Updated: June 04, 2022, 2:00 AM