The defamation case of Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard and her countersuit against him are not family law cases. However, they present many of the same sordid claims we often hear in family courts around the world – albeit to a much more public extent.
Depp alleges that she psychologically and physically abused him to the point of cutting off his fingertip with a broken bottle. He denies that he ever hit any woman, but he does admit to serious addiction issues.
Heard alleges that he physically and sexually abused her. She denies cutting off his fingertip, but she does admit to hitting him in the face and pooping on their bed.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Shannon Curry, an expert for Depp, has testified that Heard has borderline and histrionic personality disorders.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Dawn Hughes, an expert for Heard, disagrees with Dr. Curry’s diagnosis and has testified that Heard is suffering from PTSD as a result of violence she experienced during her relationship with Depp.
What’s a person to think? What’s the truth of the matter? What should a jury consider?
4 Types of Domestic Violence
For open-minded people who really want to know what has happened, there are four types of domestic violence that we often confront in family court and that should be considered in this case.
1. Coercive controlling violence involves an ongoing pattern of power and control in the relationship that creates fear in the victim/survivor and may involve bruises, broken bones, and other physical injuries. There may or may not be a history of visits to hospitals and calls to the police as the fear factor often causes victims/survivors to hide the abuse they are experiencing or even fabricate stories about what happened to them (“I accidentally fell down the stairs/ran into a door,” etc.). This is most commonly caused by men, especially when there are serious injuries, but women engage in this behavior in perhaps 15% of cases.
2. Situational couple violence occurs when both parties contribute to pushing and shoving and generally lack conflict resolution skills. This may be the most common type of physical abuse. There usually isn’t a pattern of control by one party or fear by the other. There are less likely to be substantial injuries, but sometimes it can get out of control. Both genders seem to engage in this behavior fairly equally.
3. Separation instigated violence is when there is no history of violence, control, or fear, but one or two incidents of violence occur at the time of separation.
4. Violent resistance is when a victim of coercive controlling violence fights back with violence.
In this case, each party has reported fear of the other’s pattern of behavior (perhaps coercive control), but also contributions by both parties (perhaps situational couple violence) that got really wild).
Who Do You Believe: Johnny Depp or Amber Heard?
In these types of cases, people often have their own presumptions that interfere with finding the truth. Johnny Depp has more fans because he has an extensive movie history as a likeable character. He must be telling the truth.
Amber Heard has many supporters who identify her as a more likely victim of domestic violence as a woman dealing with a very wealthy man. She must be telling the truth.
It’s a divorce case in substance, so they must both be lying.
But to have such presumptions can cloud your view of the case and cause confirmation bias, which occurs when you prove what you always believed to be true. The better way to figure this out is to consider at least three theories of the case.
…presumptions can cloud your view of the case and cause confirmation bias, which occurs when you prove what you always believed to be true. The better way to figure this out is to consider at least three theories of the case.
3 Theories of the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard Case
1. Johnny is telling the truth and is an abused man. She could be someone with borderline and histrionic personality disorders, which would help explain wide mood swings and violent outbursts, although these are not always the case with these personalities. She may have done all of the things he accuses her of, and he may be someone who was never violent with any woman, as he has claimed. He may have been a passive victim, similar to the role he took growing up with an abusive mother. This must be fully considered.
2. Amber is telling the truth and is an abused woman. He admits to heavy alcohol and drug use, which can often lead to violent behavior and an altered memory of what has happened. She has reported over a dozen incidents of violence against her in great detail and a pattern of coercive control of her relationships with others. This must be fully considered.
3. They both are lying or at least exaggerating. This is a common family law belief by many lawyers and judges. With drugs, shaky personalities, and endless money, it is possible that both parties got quite wild during their relationship and got used to distorting reality. Both may actually believe what they are saying and therefore may appear credible as witnesses, even though their statements are not accurate. It is possible that their behavior was so mutually out of control – even by the incidents they both admit – that neither one should be believed, both are culpable, and their cases should both be denied. This must be fully considered.
What is the Likely Outcome?
As of this writing, the defamation case is still ongoing. Frankly, neither party’s testimony is likely to be a very reliable source of information. Remember, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are both actors. I would want to hear what friends and neighbors say and what the patterns of daily behavior in their relationship were.
- Who made most of the decisions?
- How did they treat each other when others were around?
- How was money spent?
- What is each one’s history of truthfulness or lying to friends and family?
- How did they treat their hired help?
- Did either one seem to have two personalities: a public persona and a very different private reality?
Overall, the most important outcome of the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard case may be an awareness of the dynamics of domestic violence and that it can happen to anyone, regardless of how much money they have or how attractive they are.
What All Family Lawyers Should Know About Domestic Violence
Domestic violence experts offer family lawyers 5 approaches to really help families where there have been domestic violence allegations.