Amber Heard is receiving an outpouring of public support. Nearly six months after losing a highly publicized defamation suit brought by her ex-husband Johnny Depp, more than 130 people and organizations specializing in women's rights advocacy, domestic violence, and sexual assault awareness have signed an open letter of support for Heard. Among them were feminist icon Gloria Steinem, the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Law Center, Equality Now and the Women’s March Foundation.
The letter described the “unprecedented” vilification and “ongoing online harassment” of Heard and those who voiced support for her during and after the trial.
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“Much of this harassment was fueled by disinformation, misogyny, biphobia, and a monetized social media environment where a woman’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment,” the letter noted. "The same disinformation and victim-blaming tropes are now being used against others who have alleged abuse.
In our opinion, the Depp v. Heard verdict and continued discourse around it indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of intimate partner and sexual violence and how survivors respond to it," the letter continued. “The damaging consequences of the spread of this misinformation are incalculable. We have grave concerns about the rising misuse of defamation suits to threaten and silence survivors.”
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The suit centered on an op-ed Heard wrote for the Washington Post titled “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture’s wrath," in which the actress called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Depp was never mentioned by name in the essay, but his attorneys successfully claimed that Heard indirectly referred to public allegations she made against him during their divorce proceedings. Depp uniformly denied the allegations. Heard, however, won part of her countersuit. She was awarded $2 million after the same jury found that Depp's former attorney defamed her by claiming the assault allegations were fabricated. Both Depp and Heard intend to appeal the verdicts.
As NBC News reporters Kat Tenbarge and Kalhan Rosenblatt put it, the letter constitutes “one of the biggest public shows of support for Heard after months of silence from many groups after the verdict.” A spokesperson for the letter's coauthors told NBC she believes “individuals were afraid to speak out" after the trial "because they saw what was happening to the few who had.”
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Heard and Depp wed after meeting on the set of The Rum Diaries. They were married for a little over a year before she filed for divorce in 2016, citing “irreconcilable differences.” A few days later, she also filed a domestic violence restraining order against Depp. She reportedly submitted a photo showing a bruise above her eye as evidence to the court.