Will women think twice about facing courts after Depp trial?

The outcome of the Johnny Depp defamation trial is a huge setback for women, so says Colette Sheridan
Will women think twice about facing courts after Depp trial?

SUFFERING IN THE WITNESS STAND: Actor Amber Heard testifies in the courtroom during her defamation trial

APART from the terrible disappointment that Amber Heard experienced when she lost the defamation case taken by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, the outcome of the tortuous (but compelling) trial is a huge setback for women.

Now, every time a female victim of domestic and sexual violence thinks about reporting abuse, she will fear not being believed. In other words, women, always conscious of accusations of histrionics, may be silenced, having witnessed the filleting of Heard.

It’s cruel in that it confirms attitudes to women that should have been consigned to the bin a long time ago. But prejudice runs deep and misogyny is something that we live with.

Some women have internalised misogyny and support men, wanting to be on the winning side at all costs. They don’t gravitate towards the sisterhood, preferring instead to stand with men, perpetuating the imbalance.

At least, that’s the only way I can explain the women on social media that rowed in behind Depp. It was depressing to see them succumb to the cult of Johnny Depp.

I read a great description of him somewhere saying he’s a high-living boho wastrel. That about sums him up, with his vast consumption of booze and drugs, as evidenced from audio and video clips at the court case in Virginia.

Much of his wealth, squandered on noxious substances and a high maintenance lifestyle, has been lost.

While Heard was accused of not being good on the stand during direct examination, with her tendency to look like she was performing her misery rather than reliving it, some of us believed her. And why wouldn’t we?

There were savage text messages from Depp to Heard, referencing rape and murder fantasies. There were recordings of Depp verbally accusing her and there were also photographs of Heard with cuts and bruises.

But Heard has been accused of faking it, of setting out to stitch up Depp in a pre-meditated way, recording the man to whom she was briefly married in the hope of positive publicity and a big pay day.

But, as one of Heard’s lawyers, Benjamin Rottenborn, implied, women can’t win. 

“If you didn’t take pictures, it didn’t happen; if you did take pictures, they’re fake,” he said.

 “If you didn’t tell your friends, you’re lying; and if you did tell your friends, they’re part of the hoax. If you didn’t seek medical treatment, you weren’t injured; if you did seek medical treatment, you’re crazy.”

But diminish women’s pain and you end up condoning it.

Last week, we read about and heard the details of the gross attack on a teenage girl in the midlands rape trial. There were five guys and one girl.

How many more cases of sexual assault and physical violence are going to happen before males shout stop? Because it’s up to them.

Yes, a small number of women are violent and abusive towards men, but it’s mostly men (a minority of them) that do appalling things to women.

What is at the root of this behaviour? Are boys not reared to respect girls? Is exposure to pornography to blame?

The Depp/Heard case is deeply disturbing. Depp unsuccessfully took a libel case against the Sun newspaper a couple of years ago when the tabloid called him ‘a wife beater’. In that case, the judge found that 12 of Heard’s 14 abuse accusations as presented in court were proven to be ‘substantially true’.

So in one jurisdiction, Depp is deeply tarnished.

Domestic violence and abuse is all too common. One in four women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner, according to Women’s Aid.

A 2014 EU-wide study by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency reported that 14% of women in Ireland have experienced physical violence by a partner since the age of 15. Some 6% of Irish women have experienced sexual violence and 31% of women have experienced psychological violence by a partner (current or former) since they were 15.

Stalking is something that 12% of respondents had experienced (including cyber-stalking.) In half of the cases, the stalker was a partner (current or former).

And 41% of Irish women know someone in their circle of family or friends who has experienced intimate partner violence.

And then there is femicide, with 43 women aged between 18 and 25 killed in Ireland since 1996. Of the resolved cases, 52% of women were murdered by a boyfriend or former partner.

There is something terribly wrong at the root of some intimate relationships that go from deep love to hatred. Why?

Shouldn’t everyone be doing intimate relationship courses? This used to be the preserve of the church, prior to marriage. Maybe it should be broadened out to teenagers.

It’s too late though for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

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