LBC Views: Amber Heard's attackers need to remember victims of domestic violence

27 May 2022, 10:19

Rachael Venables attacks the treatment of Amber Heard on social media
Rachael Venables attacks the treatment of Amber Heard on social media. Picture: Global
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

In November 2020 I sat in the High Court in London, as a judge ruled the actor Johnny Depp was a wife beater.

I'd covered the case for LBC in depth for weeks, reporting on the outlandish allegations of violence; from a severed finger; drug and booze binges; to faeces left on Depp's bed.

All of which fuelled lurid front page headlines around the world.

For those not legally trained, you need to know that as a defamation case, the burden of proof was very much on the defendant (the Sun) who were being sued for calling Depp a 'wife beater' in an article in 2018.

He was the assumed victim - his good character besmirched - and it was up to the paper's lawyers to materially prove their allegations against him were true.

They won. The High Court Justice Andrew Nicol found the allegations against Depp were “substantially true,” that he'd assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard “on a dozen occasions” and “put her in fear for her life three times.”

That makes Johnny Depp a court-certified abuser, but for the millions now sharing memes and jokes while raking over the lowest moments of his victim's life, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was the other way round.

Has Heard covered herself in glory in this case? No. Has she lied and defamed her ex-husband by making this all up as he claims? That's up to the jury.

But the USA's quirk of allowing cameras in their court room has been a gold mine of cruel content.

It's a reality TV show on steroids; as a woman cries in the dock about alleged sexual abuse and violence, a million memes are born.

People mock and insult her, shouting "HA this PROOVES she's lying!" Any concept of judicial oversight is lost in the endorphin-buzz you can only get from kicking a woman when she's down, and the moral righteousness a sassy tweet with a laughing emoji gets you.

Everyone from viral TikTok videos to US TV show ‘Saturday Night Live’ is parodying the case, with their fake judge declaring: "this trial is for fun."

When Amber Heard cries, people laugh. And then they click 'share.' That's the crux of it.

Whether on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter or YouTube; social media platforms have gorged on this case, and they’ve been decidedly one-sided about it.

On her final day of evidence Heard said she now receives death threats "regularly, if not daily".

Thousands, she said, since the trial has started, and people "mocking her testimony".

Crying, she said: "I just want Johnny to leave me alone. I just want him to leave me alone."

No doubt, she wants the trolls to leave her alone as well.

Ultimately, we don't know the truth, we're not in the court room and we certainly weren't in that exceptionally toxic relationship.

But what I find most sickening is the way the public have responded.

Whether you genuinely think Heard is the real villain, or you just enjoy mocking a woman brought low, remember that victims of domestic violence (of both sexes) are watching, and probably learning a few hard lessons about what speaking up does for you.