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The Verdict In Johnny Depp V. Amber Heard No Longer Matters — Abuse Survivors Face The Harshest Sentence

Photo: Tinseltown / Dennis Makarenko / Shutterstock
Amber Heard, Johnny Depp

As the trial that gripped the nation comes to a close, a jury determined that Amber Heard did defame Johnny Depp in an essay about domestic violence.

In a 2018 essay for The Washington Post, Heard claimed she was a survivor of domestic violence, igniting a years-long legal battle between the exes that, in recent months, has been played out across every corner of the internet.

The trial online is about much more than the essay presented to jurors, it has become more about tearing down Heard than it has been about proving Depp's innocence.

And in that public trial, a much more damning verdict was reached long before jurors in Virginia even began deliberating.

Amber Heard has been sentenced to merciless threats and harassment online.

While giving her final statement, Heard emotionally described being "harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day" during the trial, which is thanks to the overwhelming amount of people on the internet who have aimed their pitchforks at her. 

RELATED: Amber Heard’s Case Is Actually A Perfect Example Of How Patriarchy Works

Twitter users have consistently gotten #JusticeForJohnnyDepp trending along with #AmberHeardIsLying.

Under these tags, people have berated Heard, started petitions to get her kicked off of her upcoming movies, and undermined her claims of being an abuse survivor.

Depp, on the other hand, has received the love of the public once again. He's been made into a martyr for men's rights groups to use as a way to pivot society's urge to "believe all women." 

People are camping outside of the courthouse, showing up with presents for Depp. They are referring to Heard as a "monster" who took advantage of Depp. 

This has turned into a phenomenon that stretches even farther than simply Depp and Heard.

This entire trial has shown how quickly the world can go from supporting the cause of #MeToo and supporting women who come forward to invalidating their abuse stories and laughing at their tears.

People have misconstrued the actual realities of abuse, that sometimes victims aren't "perfect" and they fight back. That doesn't mean they aren't victims anymore. 

Even if Heard has lied about every aspect of her claim, what message are we sending survivors by pillorizing a woman online before she has received a fair trial?

This verdict and the response Heard received long before it is enough to strike fear into the hearts of abuse survivors who have watched the unforgiving landscape Heard walked into when she first spoke out.

Much of the social commentary made about the trial doesn't even align with the evidence shown in the courtroom.

While on the stand, Heard described dozens of incidents where Depp was violent towards her, all of which Depp denied, calling them "insane." 

He even labeled himself as "a Southern gentleman who had respect for women," despite texts he sent to his friend, Paul Bettany, in which he called Heard a "worthless h--ker." In others shown in court, Depp "joked" about wanting to burn and rape her dead body.

Heard's every movement throughout the weeks of the trial has been analyzed and picked apart.

People have accused her of snorting cocaine while on the stand because she blew into a tissue. They've accused her of trying to intimidate Depp by copying his courtroom outfits.

RELATED: Justine Musk Weighs In On Amber Heard, Johnny Depp & The Power Dynamics Of Abuse

But for Depp and his odd behavior, people have chosen to turn the other cheek. When he grins and smiles while snacking on candy in the courtroom, people coo at him on social media as if he's a child. 

Depp's casual demeanor is praised, while Heard is accused of being "too nonchalant."

An influx of people have tuned in to watch the live coverage of the trial, seeking to jeer at a woman and reveling in the idea that someone is lying about abuse allegations.

Heard's critics argue that she has undermined the entire MeToo movement when, in reality, bullying a woman who came forward with an abuse allegation instead of letting it play out in court does complicate the movement and hurts other survivors more than anything else.

Cries on social media for Heard to go to jail for lying have filled up feeds across all platforms. It doesn't even seem to matter that being wrongfully accused of sexual assault rarely happens, and the majority of sexual assault cases are never reported.

And it definitely doesn't seem to matter to anyone that this isn't even a criminal trial about abuse but, instead, a defamation lawsuit over an article that does not even name Depp.

How Amber Heard has been treated will hurt all abuse survivors.

Monica Lewinsky, who, at one point in time, was experiencing the same hate that Heard is going through right now, wrote an op-ed for Vanity Fair in which she condemned the public scrutiny of the trial.

"This legal spectacle would be sad enough if it just impacted the personal lives of Depp, Heard, and their loved ones," Lewinsky writes. "It would be sad enough even if we just considered how it has impacted domestic violence survivors or those who have sought strength in the #MeToo movement."

"However, it’s the larger implications for our culture that concerns me the most: the ways we have stoked the flames of misogyny and, separately, the celebrity circus."

The public perception of Heard is bleeding into other survivors of abuse who have watched the world turn against Heard, now fearing that the same fate will befall them if they choose to come forward.

Ten years from now, will we look back with regret at the way they treated Heard online? Many will retract the hurtful and awful things they shouted at her from behind their phone screens. But will it be too late? Is the damage already done? 

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

Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.

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