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The Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Trial Is Used As An Excuse To Not Believe Women


The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial is over. Depp has won his libel case – over an article in which his ex-wife claimed he abused her – and has been awarded $15 million in damages. The jury said Heard’s statements were ‘false’ and that she acted with ‘actual malice’. Though the jury also found Depp had defamed Heard via his attorney, and she has been awarded $2 million.

The case has gripped the world, largely because the world had access to the details of a very high-profile domestic violence case, because the trial was televised. The media coverage was inescapable. Clips of Johnny taking the stand went viral on TikTok, sparking much needed conversations about domestic violence – specifically, how men are also victims. I’m not here to write about the legalities or the verdict or about the intricacies of their relationship. I’m here to talk about the impact.

What I want to address and unpick are the ways the case has been – and will continue to be – weaponised by misogynists to fuel the narrative that women are not to be trusted or believed. To me, the case has highlighted that a lot of men do not actually care about male victims of abuse, because they are using it to ‘prove’ that feminism is ‘toxic’ and to discredit women who are victims of abuse, rather than showing support or standing up for victims. I’ve not seen a single man share resources on how to spot signs of abuse or encourage people to donate to domestic abuse charities, what I have seen, though, is endless vitriol towards women. 

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Twitter users have commented that ‘Amber Heard has single-handedly set the feminist movement back by 50 years’. The phrase, ‘Believe ALL women…REALLY??? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve Amber Heard’ has already become popular, and there are whole Reddit threads titled: ‘All this Amber trial and Johnny Depp trial is revealing is how feminism and other groups can ruin the country’. During the trial, and even more so now it’s over, the case is being used as a proverbial stick to beat women who talk out against domestic violence and sexual abuse. Amber Heard has been officially crowned as the top trump card to play whenever women talk about systemic male violence or abuse. 

We’ve all heard the rhetoric before: ‘false accusations could ruin a man’s career’; ‘she’s probably lying for a pay out’. It’s worth pointing out here that while Depp won his libel case – from a jury who was not sequestered and had access to the constant media coverage – the actor was found guilty in a UK court in 2020 for physically abusing Heard on at least 12 counts. Yet Heard is still seen as one of these anomalies, and the sad truth is that society cares more about the anomalies than the systemic nature of gendered violence.

1 in 3 women globally experience violence  yet in England and Wales, just 1.6% rape allegations actually end in a conviction. Rape crisis estimate that 1 in 5 women have been raped, and that 1 in twenty men have been raped. Only 2-10% of rape accusations are proven to be fake, argued the authors of a 2010 US study. These stats show the epidemic that is gendered violence, how women are overwhelmingly the victims of abuse, and that false rape allegations are few and far between; yet if you looked at the comments on social media surrounding this trial, you’d think the opposite is true. 

People would rather believe that all women who speak out against gendered violence are liars, then admit that one woman can be the exception; not the rule. The trial is being held up as proof that most men are ‘good guys’ and that women aren’t really being abused or sexually assaulted at the rate we say we are; that the real victims are nice guys who are tarnished by a few ‘bad apples’. But bad apples don’t exist when it comes to violence against women – the whole basket is rotting, diseased from the patriarchy and sexism – but they do exist when we reverse the situation. Because reverse sexism cannot and does not exist; oppression flows in one direction only, from the oppressor to the oppressed. As long as men are the dominant group, with the most power, they cannot be victims of sexism. 

So, I will continue to believe women. Which, contrary to misunderstandings on the internet, does not mean blindly supporting and believing all women, but believing the collective that is women. Because women have historically, and still are presently, not heard, supported or believed. I can deplore women who abuse men, while still standing strong on the fact that women – on a systemic, institutional and global level – need to be believed. 

If these men commenting about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial truly cared about domestic abuse, and the ways in which our society silences male victims, they would be in the camp of believing all survivors and supporting feminism as a way to undo the toxic masculinity that tells men they cannot be abused by a woman. But they do not, they only care about discrediting women.


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