Actress Amber Heard was recently granted a temporary restraining order against her mega-star husband, Johnny Depp, as part of their divorce case, after alleging several instances of domestic violence throughout their marriage and when they were dating. Heard and Depp previously made headlines when they illegally brought dogs into Australia in violation of that country’s quarantine laws and had to issue a video apology. That incident has now taken a backseat to Heard’s explosive allegations, which include photos of her bruised face and details about Depp’s temper.
(Update: The allegations now include a video which allegedly shows a verbally abusive–and seemingly inebriated–Depp)
The release of Heard’s allegations has led some from Depp’s camp to question her motivation and/or veracity. Part of their argument is that she leveled the abuse charges at a time when many divorce-seeking celebrities stop talking to the press. Instead of keeping details close to the chest in an effort to resolve the divorce quietly, her team has pursued what appears to be a calculated strategy of going public, offering photos and details about her situation.
The couple reportedly has no prenuptial agreement, so tarnishing Depp’s image, possibly with threats of more details to come, arguably gives Heard additional leverage in the divorce settlement; Depp’s team, meanwhile, likely wants to protect his image (and assets) by squelching this story as quickly as possible. But none of this should minimize the trauma Heard suffered. Her lawyers might be leveraging the situation, but it also seems they have evidence for their allegations.
Heard is not alone
Domestic violence is a concern for women in all walks of life, even someone married to a multimillionaire like Depp. According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States, and one in three women have been victims of some form of physical violence from an intimate partner.
Meanwhile, domestic violence, which can include physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse, is part of a systematic effort by the abusive partner to control the victim.
Getting to safety
Anyone who experiences domestic abuse needs to have a safety plan that helps protect them, whether they choose to leave or to remain in the relationship or return to the abuser (and many victims do). A person in immediate danger should call 911. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide advice and information about how to get to a domestic violence shelter and obtain legal assistance.
Victims of abuse can seek a restraining order against the perpetrator in family court, and they don’t need to have a divorce in progress to do so. A victim can also report the abuse to the police, who may arrest the alleged abuser. In those cases, a restraining order can be issued by the criminal court.
Courts are likely to grant temporary restraining orders with little evidence—testimony of the victim is usually sufficient, because the court’s overriding concern is to prevent further harm. A long-term restraining order can be granted after a hearing or if the parties agree to it.
Evidence of abuse can include testimony by the victim and witnesses, along with police reports, photos, videos, and hospital records. Photographs provide powerful evidence, so victims should have someone photograph their injuries as soon as they safely can. Making sure there is documentation by police and medical professionals is also extremely important.
Justice for all
Finally, unlike Heard, most abused wives find themselves in family or divorce court fearful for their lives, and with limited financial resources. These women also deserve good legal counsel, especially since it is their safety (and that of any children) that is at stake.