Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial: Why internet is siding with Depp

He’s called his ex-wife a “c**t” and a “stupid f**k”, but the internet is calling for “justice” for Johnny Depp – and there’s an obvious reason why.

During cross-examination last Thursday, a lawyer for Amber Heard read yet another text Johnny Depp had sent about his former wife to the jury: “Hopefully that c**t’s rotting corpse is decomposing in the f**king trunk of a honda civic .”

The two actors – who married in 2015 and divorced 15 months later – are currently in court due to a $50 million defamation suit Depp launched against the 36-year-old in response to a 2018 washington post op-ed in which she identified herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”.

While Heard didn’t name Depp in the piece, given the public nature of their divorce and how central her previous allegations of violence were to the proceedings, he didn’t take much to put two and two together – and the Oscar-nominated actor alleges it ruined his career and branded him an abuser.

She then filed a counterclaim for $100 million in damages, which the jury is also considering. Both Heard and Depp deny the others’ allegations of abuse.

Almost immediately, comments under a YouTube livestream of the trial lit up. Not with horror at Depp – who in earlier messages said he would “f**k” her “burnt corpse … just to make sure she’s dead” – but to laugh at his words and demand “justice” for him.

Comments on news.com.au’s own coverage of the trial have echoed a similar sentiment – ​​with readers deeming Heard everything from a “smug evil woman” to a “narcissist full of revenge” who, after this, “will just move on and destroy some other poor guy’s life”.

“Poor Depp! He will always have my fully [sic] support. I hope this will end soon, so Depp can get some peace,” one wrote, while another declared that the “poor” actor “seems to attract nut jobs”.

All of a sudden, Depp had become the people’s hero, a stunning turnaround indeed.

The case is ongoing. Heard is yet to testify and a verdict is likely still weeks away. But many of those who are following the trial have already decided that Depp is the real victim.

On Instagram and Twitter, hashtags referring to Heard as “Amber Turd”, a “liar” and a “gold digger” have been making the rounds. On YouTube, under the aforementioned livestreams, viewers have accused the Aquaman star of being “manipulative, calculating, and quite possibly a con artist”.

And as for TikTok, well: one viral clip on the platform, directed at Heard, declares: “He could have killed you, he had every right.”

CEO of Full Stop Australia, Hayley Foster, called social media commentary around the trial such as this “extremely distressing”.

“Not only for Heard, but for any victim-survivor observing and seeing the attack that happens when someone speaks about the abuse they have experienced,” Ms Foster told news.com.au, pointing to a March study from Ipsos and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.

The research demonstrated the prevalence of people who think that women who allege they were abused have exaggerated their claims, particularly in Australia, where one-in-five people and three-in-10 men hold that view, the highest of any Western nation included in the survey.

“Whilst we have a moment in time where more survivors are speaking out than ever before, unfortunately these kind of attitudes and myths are a major deterrent for victim-survivors to speak out,” Ms Foster explained.

“This actually happens all the time. In fact, we see thousands of women every year who share this experience of being disbelieved and blamed, and thousands more that never come forward and tell anyone about what was done to them for fear this will happen.

“We also see hundreds and hundreds of cases whereby the perpetrator of violence and abuse claim they are the victim, and they use the legal system to prosecute this narrative.”

The suggestion of “mutual abuse” in Depp and Heard’s relationship also “only furthers this victim-blaming narrative”, Ms Foster said, with fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean star holding him up as proof that men, too, can be victims.

“We need to understand the difference between mutually toxic relationships and abusive ones,” she added.

“Of course, there are toxic relationships where both people use violence and abuse to attempt to resolve conflict, but where it becomes domestic abuse is where one person exploits their disproportionate power to dominate and control the other person.

“In most cases, men in relationships have more physical and other forms of power, and there are social norms that men can and should be in control. These norms create the social conditions for men to use violence and abuse in their relationships – and to get away with it.”

While nobody’s denying that males can be on the receiving end of domestic violence, “power differentials matter” because “we know that domestic abuse is not only about physical violence, but also about intimidation, control, power, and stripping a victim-survivor of their autonomy, independence and self-worth”.

That innate imbalance of power between Depp – a significantly older, and successful, man in Hollywood – and Heard – who met and married him when she was in her early 20s – hasn’t widely resonated with those attacking her on social media.

“When victims of domestic and sexual abuse fight back in a situation where they have less power, it can be seen as mutual abuse, but in actual fact it’s a defense mechanism. Our society has this prevailing idea that real victims don’t fight back. They’re meek, mild, and helpless,” Ms Foster said.

“In reality, however, people who have experienced violence and abuse in their relationships have had to use a range of methods to resist and to survive. This can include fighting back, especially in situations where they face barriers to reaching out for help and support.

“This does not make them the abuser, and it does not make it mutual abuse.”

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