COLUMN: Regular people may be affected by Heard-Depp ruling

Kasey Rhone

I don't like Amber Heard. I say this upfront because I want to be clear that my dislike of her does not negate her struggles and any kindness she may have shown others.

However, what happened to her, in regard to the defamation case Johnny Depp brought against her, leaves me feeling unsettled - and frankly, we all should be as well. At issue was whether Heard defamed Johnny Depp by identifying herself as a public-facing survivor of domestic abuse. I think there are some key things the public has forgotten about abuse.

Abuse isn't just physical. We all know this. Heard abused Depp, and from the evidence, it would appear she probably left an unpleasant gift for Depp on his side of the bed. She also mocked him, and degraded him. Everyone heard evidence of these things. However, Depp would black out and rage against Heard, saying awful things and punching walls.

He says he doesn't remember, but not being able to remember doesn't mean it didn't happen. If we are willing to call Heard's verbal and mental abuse against Depp what it is - abuse - it also means he verbally and mentally abused her as well. A British court found it was true, and he lost the case there. Less talked about as well is that while he won, it was also found that he defamed her, too.

Often, we forget people can be terrible to each other. Heard's abuse of Depp is absolutely wrong on every level, and she was proved a liar on other topics, but it doesn't negate that he was also abusive to her, and that it really isn't a lie to say she survived domestic abuse.

I wish verbal and mental abuse was more widely recognized. While hitting your spouse - or anyone - is illegal, it's not illegal to terrorize your partner with words, and it's not illegal to isolate them, or make them feel so small that they are a shell of their former selves. That doesn't make it not abuse. While both Heard and Depp are both richer and more famous than the average person, the ruling from this can put average people at risk.

What this means is that for someone who discloses abuse, even if they don't explicitly name their abuser, they could be sued if their abuser self-identifies or someone else assumes it means them. How many people will just decide not to speak up now? How many abusers will go on to hurt more people, because their victims are afraid they'll be sued if they even disclose what happened to them even without naming their abuser?

Amber Heard isn't a perfect symbol of domestic abuse, and frankly, neither is Johnny Depp, but that doesn't mean they both weren't victims and abusers.

Kasey Rhone is the public programs and engagement manager at Ahha Tulsa.

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