The trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

On April 12, the libel trial of Johnny Depp versus his ex-wife Amber Heard officially began.

Initiating in 2019 when Depp sued Heard for defamation, when one party making a false statement about the other results in harm, after she published an op-ed in The Washington Post.

Heard’s article, titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change,” does not mention Depp by name, merely alluding to her ex-husband, according to the New York Times.

Highlighted within her op-ed, Heard states that her career suffered after she became associated with representing victims of domestic abuse in Hollywood.

“Friends and advisers told me I would never again work as an actress — that I would be blacklisted,” Heard said within her feature.

In the two weeks since this trial began, Depp maintained his innocence on never hitting Heard or any other women he’s come into contact with. Rather, Depp accuses Heard of allegedly being the aggressor and instigating verbal bouts of assault that quickly turned physical.

Depp testified in favor of multiple acts of violence against himself, such as Heard throwing a handle of vodka at him, causing an open fracture on his middle finger.

Yet, testimony on behalf of Heard’s attorney reveals a more complex story, revealing a clip of violence between the couple.

“The next move, if I don’t walk away … it’s going to be a bloodbath, like it was on the island,” Depp says on the recording. In another, he can be heard cursing at Heard, saying, “You stupid f-,” according to CBS News.

Despite neither party appearing seemingly innocent, individuals weigh in on the evidence before them.

Simmons’s University Sophomore Annamay Brown believes there is more to the dispute than the media portrays.

“I think there is some truth to both sides. There definitely seems to be evidence of abuse at the hands of Heard which is unacceptable but it also seems like some of the texts and things coming out in the trial are showing that he [Depp] also made some poor choices,” Brown said.

Both Depp and Heard have remained adamant in their innocence against one another despite evidence surmounting against them both.

Ben King, Heard and Depp’s property manager, recently testified to the state of the ex-couple’s home after one of their altercations, describing the residence as a scene of shattered glass, blood and fractured countertops, according to the New York Times.

As for the outcome of the legal proceeding, Brown remains certain that Depp will face stricter consequences to his life and career.

“I think that this trial will end with some compensation going to Depp because I do believe that he endured some abuse which eventually led to him being limited in his career,” Brown said. “I think it would be very difficult for Depp to return to his former position in Hollywood because of the polarizing nature of this trial and the risks his presence plays in association to it.”

DePaul Sophomore Lauren Lantz indicated mixed feelings on how widely this case is covered and projected through social media.

“I think the amount of press it’s getting could be positive, but it also has negative effects such as choosing sides and victim blaming,” Lantz said.

Victim blaming is a form of condemnation, discouraging survivors from coming forward, but also altering the focus away from the individual who is actively harming them, according to the Sexual Assault Center of Edmonton.

Lantz fears that the contrast between the mass amount of publicity and lack of each individual’s knowledge regarding the trial will create a harmful environment for survivors to come forward in the future.

“I honestly feel like some people hear about this situation and don’t know what to believe, it could definitely cause some harmful notions, especially about believing women,” Lantz said.

Enida Flowers, a survivor of domestic abuse and crisis line worker for the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, expressed the plausible cause and effect the trial will have on survivors of domestic abuse.

“Sometimes seeing other survivors come forward gives others the courage to let them know they are not alone and not the only ones who suffer domestic violence,” Flowers said. “Yet, for others it makes them recoil further into the hands of their abuser.” As a crisis line worker, Flowers conveyed the importance of treating survivors with respect and recognition for their bravery when initially calling for help.

“When a victim comes forward, the first thing we do is congratulate them because we know that it is one of the most challenging moments in their lives,” Flowers said.”So often when survivors come forward, they are not thinking of themselves, but their children. It is our job to let them know that there is protection, and a life beyond the abuse they have endured.”

In terms of Depp and Heard, Flowers believes it isn’t a matter of one party being correct nor a means to victory or celebration.

“We will listen to both sides of the story and we will not know who is right or wrong,” Flowers said. “But still, no man, no woman, no being has the right to hit their partner. Not ever.”

Although the phrase “mutual abuse” has begun its circulation through social media, experts such as Ruth Glenn, the president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, argue that there is always an instigator, according to NBC.

Despite Depp’s time on the stand coming to a close, the legal proceedings are far from complete, with Heard set to testify on May 2.

While there may be a victor, in this legal case, it is crucial to understand the public will never truly understand what happens behind closed doors.

For more support or resources, visit Sexual & Relationship Violence Prevention, or contact the National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-7233 for free, confidential help.