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Will Depp-Heard Verdict Chill the #MeToo Effect on Sex-Abuse Cases?

When Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against Amber Heard ended in his favor on Wednesday, some observers worried that the verdict might have a chilling effect on the #MeToo movement. The circumstances surrounding this case seem to support those fears, raising the prospect that some victims may now hesitate to speak out about their experiences or distrust the courts as an avenue for justice. Others said that #MeToo – a global outpouring of anger about abuse suffered by women that resulted in actions against many high-profile men would continue to expose injustice and would not be halted by one case that many saw as unique, reports The Guardian. Depp sued Heard over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described being an abuse victim. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor alleged that Heard sullied his reputation, and thwarted his career, even though she never mentioned Depp’s name.


Heard countersued Depp, saying that his attorney, Adam Waldman, defamed her by describing her allegations as a “hoax”. In a six-week trial in Virginia, the seven-member jury awarded Depp more than $10 million in damages, finding that three statements he sued over were defamatory. The jury also awarded Heard $2 million finding that one of the three Waldman statements was defamatory. Tarana Burke, founder of #MeToo, disagreed that the trial’s outcome would end the movement, saying, "When you get the verdict you want, ‘the movement works’—when you don’t, it’s dead ... This movement is very much ALIVE." Several attorneys said this trial was dramatically different from the overwhelming majority of proceedings involving abuse, which led them to believe it wouldn’t be a death knell to the movement. Still, Leigh Gilmore, author of “Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives,” told the Washington Post that the verdict drove home just how vulnerable survivors can be to smear campaigns when they come forward with allegations. Ruth Glenn of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, is also unhappy, calling the Depp-Heard case "a huge disappointment ... “The feeling as a survivor today is ‘Here we are, once again.' "

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