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Fame and celebrity

Amber Heard on divorcing Johnny Depp: ‘I felt our culture’s wrath for women who speak out’

  • Actress was told she’d never work in Hollywood again. She changed her phone number weekly because of death threats, and could barely leave home
  • Domestic abuse victims need more protection, she says, and hails the #MeToo movement and the election of more women to the US Congress
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 3:17pm

Actress Amber Heard, the ex-wife of Johnny Depp who accused the actor of beating her up, posted a column in The Washington Post this week lamenting the consequences she paid for speaking out and urging the United States Congress to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act.

Two years ago, she wrote, she “became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.

Johnny Depp talks drugs and spending US$5 million on a rocket for ashes

Heard, 32, was told she’d never work in Hollywood again. Her role in a movie was recast. The company that hired her for a two-year gig as the face of a global fashion brand dropped her. There were doubts about whether she would keep her role as Mera in Justice League and the just-released Aquaman, although in the end she did.

She had to change her phone number weekly because of death threats. For months, she rarely left home, and when she did she was pursued by camera drones and photographers on foot, on motorcycles and in cars. Tabloids posted mean pictures of her, she recounted.

She was on trial in the court of public opinion, with little control over how people were judging her, she said.

“I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse,” she wrote.

Heard said she wants to ensure that women who come forward to talk about domestic violence receive more support, and that now is the “transformative political moment” to do it.

She said the first thing to do is reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act, the 1994 law she described as “one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to fight domestic violence and sexual assault”.

She suggested that recent changes proposed by US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rules governing the treatment of sexual harassment and assault in schools and colleges might weaken protections for sexual assault survivors.

And she said US President Donald Trump, whom she attacked for his statements and behaviour regarding sexual misconduct, has provoked women around the country to organise to oppose him and fight sexual violence.

“The president of our country has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, including assault and harassment. Outrage over his statements and behaviour has energised a female-led opposition,” she wrote.

Imagine a powerful man as a ship, like the Titanic. That ship is a huge enterprise. When it strikes an iceberg, there are a lot of people on board desperate to patch up holes – not because they believe in or even care about the ship, but because their own fates depend on the enterprise
Amber Heard, in a possible reference to Depp

“#MeToo started a conversation about just how profoundly sexual violence affects women in every area of our lives. And last month, more women were elected to Congress than ever in our history, with a mandate to take women’s issues seriously. Women’s rage and determination to end sexual violence is turning into a political force.”

She said more representatives in Congress know how deeply women care about these issues. “We can work together to demand changes to laws and rules and social norms – and to right the imbalances that have shaped our lives,” she said.

The Depp-Heard divorce, after less than two years of marriage, was one of Hollywood’s most toxic in 2016, an ugly affair featuring allegations of physical abuse, restraining orders, media-mobbed court hearings, leaked texts and cellphone pictures of facial bruises, plus duelling lawyers and publicists.

Heard claimed the Los Angeles police went to their downtown loft the night of the alleged altercation and documented the abuse. But the police told reporters they found no evidence of a crime when they arrived.

Depp denied beating her then and denies it to this day.

After a summer of sniping, Heard withdrew her allegations that Depp, 55, abused her, and her request for a permanent restraining order against him, and the two settled their divorce out of court in August 2016. They issued a joint statement to the media.

“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the statement said. “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm. Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future.”

Heard eventually donated her share of the divorce settlement, about US$7 million, to a charity focused on fighting domestic abuse of women. In addition to her thriving acting career, she is now an ambassador on women’s rights for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Women’s rage and determination to end sexual violence is turning into a political force
Amber Heard

Heard did not name Depp in her column but there was one passage that might have referred to him.

“Imagine a powerful man as a ship, like the Titanic. That ship is a huge enterprise. When it strikes an iceberg, there are a lot of people on board desperate to patch up holes – not because they believe in or even care about the ship, but because their own fates depend on the enterprise,” she wrote.

Now the #MeToo movement is making a difference, she said.

“In every walk of life, women are confronting these men that are buoyed by social, economic and cultural power. And these institutions are beginning to change.”