Boru: Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse

But only the victim deserves justice.


by Luul Boru

Editor’s note: This article discusses domestic abuse. If you or anyone you know has experienced abuse or assault, the Aurora Center’s 24-hour helpline can be reached at (612) 626-9111.

Johnny Depp won a civil suit against his ex-wife Amber Heard on June 1 after a jury unanimously decided that Heard defamed him in a 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post.

The quotes that Depp’s legal team alleged were defamatory during the televised trial in Virginia were as follows: “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change,” she wrote. “Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” she continued. “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”

After 13 hours of deliberation, the jury found her liable and awarded Depp a little over $10 million in damages. Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages for countersuing Depp’s former lawyer, Adam Waldman, who called her allegations of abuse a “hoax.”

Heard’s op-ed doesn’t mention Depp by name, though Depp sued her alleging she was referring to him. Evidence for and against both sides was monumental and each denied allegations of abusing the other. As evidence of both abusing the other came to light, it became less certain to me who was going to win the case.

Shockingly, it seemed that Heard was tried not only in the court of law but also in the court of public opinion.

Some social media users painted Heard as an abusive liar while the trial was still in progress. But who should we believe to be telling the truth when both deny that they had abused the other? No one knew what the verdict would be until it was announced, yet the court of public opinion reached its decision long before the jury.

The stories of abuse presented by Heard were backed by audio and photographic evidence. We saw pictures of Depp passed in a haze of drugs and alcohol and, Heard said, sometimes after abusing her. We also saw pictures of their bruised faces each, allegedly, caused by the other. They claimed they would be physical with each other and then apologize later. Heard said her anger had taken over. Depp blamed drugs and alcohol for his outbursts. Their relationship was so toxic that I felt bad for both of them.

The verdict caught me off guard because, before their trial in the U.S., Depp had sued a United Kingdom-based tabloid, claiming they had libeled him by calling him a “wife-beater.” Heard was able to provide evidence to support the claim the news executive made. Depp lost this suit in 2020 after the tabloid presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate Depp had, in fact, been violent against Heard.

I got the feeling Heard was trying to patch up an already doomed relationship even after, as she alleged, he hit her for the first time and he had an explosive outburst on an airplane. She probably thought there was something to be salvaged, like any wife in love with her husband would. It seemed like life was hell for both of them.

As for why the public was scrutinizing Heard, I think she did not fit the public image of what a victim should look like. Was she supposed to show up bruised and wearing rags? There isn’t any one way to “look like a victim.” I think people forgot this happened years ago. I just hope the right person got the justice they deserved. Everyone deserves justice, and both men and women can be victims of domestic abuse.