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For 6 Years Depp Was Presumed Guilty

Susan Estrich on

For six years, Johnny Depp has walked around, mostly unemployed, with a new scarlet "A" for "abuser" tattooed to his forehead. There are at least two lessons to be learned from his humiliation.

The first is about us. Guilty until proven innocent he was, for six long years, and that is not Amber Heard's fault. She made the accusation, it is true, but we, the public, reached a verdict long before the jury did. Who is to blame for that? Look to your left; look to your right; look in the mirror. We are all to blame. Quick to believe. Rushing to judgment. Right enough of the time because after all, why would she lie? Why, indeed.

The second lesson is about women who lie. No study to my knowledge has ever shown that women lie about sexual abuse more than men do about other crimes. If anything, the stigma and humiliation involved, still, in pursuing a complaint of sexual abuse have led many studies to find it the most underreported serious crime. But uncommon as they may be, women exist who lie, and we fall for them, myself included. Shame on them for the harm they do to the movement and to the overwhelming majority of women who tell the truth, if they dare.

After the jury had found her liable not only for $10 million in compensatory damages but for 50% more in punitive damages (reduced by the judge to the maximum allowable), Heard issued yet another statement portraying herself as the victim and the #MeToo movement as the losing party in the action.

"It is a setback," she said of the verdict. "It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously."

Not so. Heard may well believe her own lies. I have met such people. But it doesn't matter. The jury heard six weeks of testimony. They concluded that she lied; actual malice had to be shown by clear and convincing evidence. The #MeToo movement wasn't on trial. Amber Heard was. The jury did not reject the cries of survivors everywhere whose voices have not been heard. They rejected the lies of a movie star.

Johnny Depp had every right to turn to the legal system to try to restore his good name, if that is possible. You can't blame him for taking legal action.

You can blame Amber Heard for leaving him no other choice.

 

You can blame Amber Heard for misusing a movement borne out of the suffering of others, to which she has no claim.

I blame the Amber Heards, and yes, sadly, she is not the only one, for taking advantage of the #MeToo movement and risking its legitimacy for their own selfish reasons.

Money, fame, delusion of grandeur or victimhood, I am no expert in the psychological state of women who lie. My experience of the last 40 years has been, overwhelmingly, with women who tell the truth. And I worry that the backlash caused by the likes of Heard may make it even more difficult for real victims to come forward.

I hope Depp gets his career back. But no one is going to give him the last six years of his life back. In trying to get his name back, he inevitably drew more attention to the accusations against him. The trial came at a huge cost to him, even in victory. Realistically, will he be remembered for his turn as a pirate or his trial as an abuser? At best, both. The most he can hope for is that people will remember the outcome.

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To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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