Amber Heard did everything she was "supposed" to do. As a young woman alleging domestic violence against one of the world’s most famous actors, Johnny Depp, she had no choice.
After Depp allegedly threw a cellphone at her face, striking her in the eye, the 30-year-old actress filed for divorce. She went to court to request a temporary restraining order against Depp, which a judge granted.
She submitted photographic evidence of her bruised face to bolster her claims. Her neighbor signed a declaration stating that the story was true, and that she witnessed Heard "crying, shaking and very afraid of Johnny."
In court documents, Heard alleged that Depp was verbally and physically abusive to her for the entirety of their relationship, which began in 2012. She stated that there was a severe incident in December 2015 when she feared her life was in danger.
"I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him," she wrote. "He is often paranoid and his temper is exceptionally scary for me."
But despite Heard's photographic evidence, her sworn statement, and her corroborating witness, the public's reaction has been one of disbelief.
While she is the alleged victim in this scenario, she has ostensibly become the one on trial. Much of the media coverage around the case has focused on raising questions that purport to undercut Heard's credibility.
So, let’s go through this "evidence" that she couldn't possibly be telling the truth, piece by piece.
If Amber Heard was abused as she claims, why was she photographed smiling on Saturday?
What audacity she has, to crack a smile. Victims of domestic violence are multifaceted, complex human beings. Even if they are upset, they are likely to still smile, laugh and joke around. They may even go to the movies or eat food in public. It’s not our place to police an individual's behavior. Smiling is not evidence of anything other than Heard's humanity.
How can the allegations against Depp be true if his daughter insists he is the “sweetest most loving person” she knows?
Over the weekend, Depp’s 17-year-old daughter Lily-Rose came to her father’s defense in a series of posts on Instagram. Some are taking this as evidence that Depp wasn't violent toward Heard.
But herein lies the truth about abusers: They can be loving and kind to some people in their lives while also being violent toward others. It's not inconceivable that Depp has been a wonderful father to his children, and was also abusive towards Heard. Both these things can be true at the same time.
Believing that all abusers are monsters -- and not every day fathers, friends and coworkers walking among us -- is a dangerous myth.
But one of his exes said he wasn’t abusive, so isn’t that evidence enough?
Vanessa Paradis, Depp’s partner from 1998 to 2012, also rallied to his side in a letter obtained by TMZ.
"In all the years I have known Johnny, he has never been physically abusive with me and this looks nothing like the man I lived with for 14 wonderful years,” she wrote.
Again, violent and abusive behaviors can exist in one relationship and not another. Just because one woman said he wasn't abusive to her doesn’t negate Heard's claims, it only means that dynamic did not exist in their relationship.
Why didn't Heard make an official police report if Depp really hit her with a cellphone?
Heard declined to give the LAPD an initial statement when they responded to the scene on May 21, leading some to speculate why. However, as her lawyers explained, it is very common for victims of domestic violence to want to protect their abusers and not involve police.
In some cases, they may be scared of retaliation. They may not want their abusers to lose their jobs, or their reputations. They maybe embarrassed and not want to be defined as victims.
"Amber did not provide a statement to the LAPD in an attempt to protect her privacy and Johnny’s career," her lawyers said. "Johnny’s team has forced Amber to give a statement to the LAPD to set the record straight as to the true facts, as she cannot continue to leave herself open to the vicious false and malicious allegations that have infected the media. Amber has suffered through years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Johnny."
If it was as bad as Heard says, wouldn’t she have left earlier?
This is the question that domestic violence victims hear over and over again. "Why didn't you just leave?" But it's not unusual for women in abusive relationships to stay with their partners, for reasons that are entirely their own.
Maybe they love their partner. Maybe they think it will get better. Maybe they think they can help fix them. Maybe they don't want to give up on their dreams for the future. Maybe they are scared of what will happen if they leave.
We can’t know exactly what happened in Heard and Depp’s relationship. But her not leaving doesn't prove anything about her truthfulness.
Instead, the fact that we are still asking these questions speaks volumes about how little the public understands about domestic violence.
According to the CDC, one in four women has or will be a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. Around three women a day are killed by intimate partners. And yet, we are still so hesitant to believe a woman when she comes forward.
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