The verdict in the defamation lawsuit between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard “sends a chilling message” to survivors of domestic abuse that their experiences are “invalid and open to public scrutiny”, the chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge has said.
Ruth Davison said the UK charity is “extremely concerned” after Hollywood actor Depp, 58, won his multimillion-dollar defamation case against former wife Heard over an article she wrote in the Washington Post.
He sued the 36-year-old Aquaman star for $50 million over the 2018 piece, titled: “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
The article does not mention Depp by name, but his lawyers said it falsely implied he physically and sexually abused Heard while they were together.
Following six weeks of evidence and roughly 13 hours of deliberation, jurors returned a verdict in favour of Depp on Wednesday.
In a statement, Davison said: “As the largest specialist provider of support to women and children experiencing domestic abuse, Refuge is extremely concerned by the Depp-Heard trial.
“The verdict sends a chilling message to many survivors of domestic abuse that their experiences are invalid and open to public scrutiny.
“Refuge stands in solidarity with all survivors of domestic abuse and believes that all survivors must be believed and supported.
“Sadly, this trial has shown us that this isn’t always the case.
“We worry that survivors will stop collecting evidence and be hesitant to report their abuse to the police.
“Additionally, we are deeply concerned about how the coverage of the trial, including the disclosures of serious abuse and trauma, were used for global entertainment purposes.
“Over the last few weeks, many survivors have spoken to our team about how the unavoidable coverage retraumatised and humiliated them.
“The impact of a women losing a defamation claim in this way is enormous and we worry it will discourage survivors from speaking out about their experiences in fear of defamation claims.”
American actor Depp will appear at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham on Monday as he joined musician Jeff Beck for the remainder of his UK tour.
Depp, who collaborated with Beck on the 2020 track Isolation, previously surprised audiences and fans when he joined the musician on stage in cities including Sheffield and at London’s Royal Albert Hall.