IIn one of the most famous public trials between a divorced couple to date, all eyes were on Johnny Depp and Amber Heard – two Hollywood actors who fell in love, claiming that the other committed acts of violence against them.
But the jury’s mixed verdict was largely in Depp’s favour, and the court of public opinion appeared to be overwhelmingly siding with the actor best known for playing a mischievous but lovable pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Investigators and Internet influencers have gone to great lengths to dismantle Heard’s testimony in support of Depp.
But advocates for domestic violence survivors called the entire trial a spectacle, causing more harm than good, and saw no reason to celebrate at its conclusion. Instead, they warned, the trial’s course – and outcome – had hurt the cause of tackling domestic violence and helping its victims.
Covering the experience is inevitable — it’s visible everywhere from cellphone screens to televisions in doctors’ offices to newspapers and magazines in grocery store checkout lines, said Michelle Sachs, director of training for the Houston Women’s Center. For some domestic violence survivors, it has been a catalyst – especially for those considering giving their stories for the first time.
“I’m sure it triggered a lot of emotions. So, if you think about survivors who have tried to recover in private — that definitely, you know, can trigger a shock reaction sometimes,” she said.
She said she hopes the outcome of the trial will not affect those who want to tell their own stories.
“Just because the jury decided it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I think it’s really important to cross – just to believe anyone might reveal something to you. And if you know someone is suffering, just tell them it’s not worth it, that it’s not His fault, and that there are services available. It doesn’t have to be anything current.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner violence, while one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical intimate partner violence.
Some online commentators on the track suggested that both parties were wrong and traced it back to a highly toxic relationship, where responsibility should be shared equally. But Sachs said relationship violence isn’t always so simple.
“I will tell you now that there is always, always a primary aggressor. So sometimes, what we see is that if there is some kind of violence on both sides, you may have the primary [aggressor] And that secondary is just a response to what is happening.
“It’s not easy trying to figure it out. I’m not saying there is this magic formula. It definitely takes a lot of work to try and figure it out.”
It’s important to consider power dynamics, said Marta Prada-Pelez, executive director of Domestic Violence Prevention Services in San Antonio, Texas. This strength can be determined by who is physically bigger, more famous, or richer.
Johnny Depp is a Caribbean pirate. he is [Edward] scissors. It’s a wonderful beast. There is an element of empathy that you develop because the character was made to do that to you emotionally. So I think he took advantage of that. In a relationship where there is domestic violence, there can be neither aggressors nor victims. This does not happen. This is not domestic violence. Domestic violence has only one aggressor.”
Despite her best efforts to avoid prosecution, Pelayes described it as an unnecessary spectacle where there were no winners and the only losers being victims of domestic violence.
She said she hoped the trial would not affect survivors or turn them back emotionally, and states that this was a trial determining whether someone had been defamed, not whether or not someone had been physically abused.
“We cannot allow victims to back down from any intention to seek help and seek resources just because this happens. It will be much more difficult.
They really lack confidence in the system. All systems have failed over and over again.”