Depp, Heard & Domestic Violence: Timing is Everything

Depp, Heard & Domestic Violence: Timing is Everything
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This post was written by my colleague, Sodoma Law attorney Amanda Cubit:

Pop culture and social media are abuzz with the recent news of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's split - even more so, over Amber's allegations of domestic violence. Just days after filing for divorce, Amber filed for a restraining order claiming Johnny was abusive throughout their relationship and, most recently on May 21st, Johnny threw a cell phone which hit her in the face.

People have been quick to attack Amber's credibility and motives. These attacks include comments such as: "It's all blackmail"; "Poor Johnny. She just wants his money"; and "I don't even see any marks" (in pics taken between divorce & restraining order filings). There were some comments in support of Amber, but most seem to take issue with the sequence of events.

The truth is there are likely only two people who will ever know what happened on the night of May 21st. Two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth. I'm certainly not here to figure out what happened based on news articles and Instagram photos, but even though we can't solve the mystery of this relationship gone wrong, we can learn from it. Here's what you need to know:

Time is of the essence. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should file for a restraining order as soon as possible after an incident of domestic violence occurs. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to collect and preserve evidence. It also becomes increasingly difficult to convince the court of the urgency of the matter. Many judges find it contradictory to ask the court for protection, to claim you are fearful of your partner and in danger, if you delay in filing. Your credibility is at issue the moment you walk into a courtroom. Do what you can to preserve that credibility and ask for help as soon as possible.

On May 21st, Amber did ask for help. She called the police. When officers arrived, they did not make an arrest and they did not file charges. Why? As of now, news reports state it is because they saw no visible signs that a crime occurred. A mere two days later, Amber filed for divorce. Four days after that, she filed for a restraining order and presented photos of her bruised eye and cheek, which can now be found all over the internet.

If the situation was dangerous, Amber likely did what she thought she needed to do to remove herself from that situation. Even still, she is being criticized for her delay in filing for a restraining order. Victims struggle with the decision to come forward for a number of reasons. Some are embarrassed; others want to protect their loved one even though he or she is the reason for their pain; many fear that no one will believe them. It can take time for a victim to process through this wide range of emotions before taking action. Nevertheless, that delay can negatively impact the perception of a victim and, consequently, the relief that victim is afforded.

What about the assertion that Amber had no visible injuries on May 21st, but the internet is now inundated with photos of Amber's bruises? Some have called Amber's mental stability into question, claiming she caused these injuries to herself. These are just some of the obstacles that victims can face.

If domestic violence in fact occurred, Amber lost credibility because: she did not seek a restraining order at the earliest opportunity, and because the police declined to take action when there were no visible injuries immediately following the incident.

Unfortunately, a decision NOT to act by the police is NOT uncommon. It's also NOT uncommon for bruises to take hours or even days to appear. When the police arrive, with no injuries to observe and, oftentimes, no witnesses to attest to what happened, it's the victim's word against the abuser's. Sometimes the victim's rendition of events is enough to convince the police to take action, but sometimes it's not.

Even if the police do not take action, and arguably even more so if the police do not take action and you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important to seek protection through alternative means, such as a protective or restraining order. Preserve your credibility. Be strong in your position. Strive for the peace and protection you deserve - without hesitation or delay.

The silver lining? Most of us will not be ridiculed for how we handle our personal matters in dozens of magazines and websites and on every social media forum on the internet. Nonetheless, every victim will have to convince a judge that he or she is in need of protection, and the easiest way to preserve your credibility is to not hesitate.

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