On Wednesday, a jury in Virginia decided that actor Johnny Depp had been defamed by ex-wife Amber Heard and her 2018 op-ed published by The Washington Post. Depp was awarded $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages but could only legally receive up to $10.35 million.
Heard did win one claim in the case and received $2 million. “I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband,” Heard said in a statement shortly after the verdict was announced.
“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously,” she elaborated.
If the mistreatment of a wealthy blonde haired, blue-eyed white actress is ridiculed by the world, what does that mean for Black women?
For six weeks, Heard testified how Depp not only sexually abused her but also physically assaulted her throughout their relationship. She claimed that he head-butted her as well as punched her and dragged her around by her hair. Heard maintains that everything she wrote in the op-ed, entitled “I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change,” was true. Depp denied all allegations of abuse.
For Black women, who do not have whiteness or fame or money to protect them, Heard’s words of the verdict as a setback ring especially true. Whether you believe her or not, the way the world treated Heard was downright cruel and uncalled for. Not only were her bruises placed under a microscope by forensic experts during the trial, social media joined in on the skepticism.
Heard was turned in everything from memes to murals mocking the validity of her abuse. Some even believed Depp when he said that she was the aggressor in the relationship. If all of Heard’s privilege couldn’t protect her from such viciousness, Black women—like always—remain even more vulnerable.
What happened to Heard is another vile reminder to women—particularly Black women—that nothing can guarantee our safety.