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How Will the #MeToo Movement Be Affected by the Amber Heard Case?

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It seems like the entire world has watched the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial over the past several weeks. And, after three long days of deliberation, the jury finally reached a verdict on Wednesday. While some are calling the results a “mixed verdict,” one thing is definitely true: the jury decided that Amber Heard “knew her claims of abuse were false” when she published her 2018 op-ed essay in “The Washington Post.”

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Although Heard never used the phrase “me too” in her claims, she did claim to be “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” In fact, this may have been one of the most high-profile sexual assault or domestic violence cases to take place since the #MeToo movement really took off in 2017. As a result, many people are wondering how this verdict will impact the #MeToo movement going forward. Now that the verdict is here, the question remains: what does this ruling mean for others who are waiting in the wings?

As a survivor of abuse and a woman who has also received conflicting diagnoses of borderline personality disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), I have watched the case unfold with anticipation and fear. I avoided taking a personal stance on the case as I didn’t feel it was my place to say whether or not Heard’s claims were valid. However, I did have moments where I reflected on times in the past when my own claims were invalidated due to “lack of evidence” and others providing character vouching for my abuser.

In my case, it wasn’t a jury deliberating over my case, but rather, school teachers and a guidance counselor during my childhood. Yet, somehow, it all played out in much the same way — and I ultimately lost.

It took me over 20 years to finally come to terms with the two-and-a-half years of verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse I lived through in middle school. I had to undo decades of fear, shame, and questioning the truth to finally accept what happened to me and remove the power it held over me. Unfortunately, this was incredibly difficult due to the invalidation I went through multiple times as people dismissed my claims as false, much like the jury just did with Amber Heard.

When I finally found a trauma therapist willing to work with me and listen to my story, it took us months to unpack everything. At first, I attached others’ claims to my memories and dismissed my emotions. I told myself things like “I deserved what happened to me,” and, “I’m probably remembering it wrong anyway.” The more I opened up and my therapist validated my claims, though, the more I remembered — and the more I realized I was in fact abused whether or not those adults I confided in were willing to see it.

In Amber Heard’s case, the events were much different. Yet, somehow, I still can’t help but think about how this verdict will impact people like me in years to come.

Some are saying that this trial simply shows that our justice system serves its purpose and eventually uncovers the truth. Others are claiming that this may be the end of the #MeToo movement altogether.

While I don’t necessarily feel it’s necessary for me to weigh in on whether or not Heard’s claims were false, I do think that both of these beliefs about the verdict can be true.  Justice may have been served and people may find it even harder to speak out about abuse and sexual assault as a result of this case — only time will tell.

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Originally published: June 1, 2022
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