The defamation lawsuit between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in the United States and its television broadcast will have a “potentially catastrophic” impact on victims of domestic violence, say women’s advocacy organizations.
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The six weeks of court proceedings in Fairfax, near Washington, turned into a major exposure of the private lives of the Hollywood star couple who accused each other of violence.
Jurors found in favor of the “Pirate of the Caribbean” on Wednesday, awarding him just over $10 million in damages, ruling that the 36-year-old actress had defamed her ex-husband by presenting himself as “a personality representing domestic violence.” . in a column published in 2018, although Johnny Depp was not mentioned.
Judge Penney Azcarate decided to allow hearings to be broadcast on television in this highly publicized case, despite the opposition of Amber Heard’s lawyers.
For Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford University and an activist against sexual assault on campus, it is “the worst decision made by a court in decades for the victims” that shows “a deep misunderstanding of sexual violence by part of the judge.
According to her, Amber Heard had to “describe her alleged rape in crude detail on television. It is shocking and should offend all women and victims, whether or not they agree with the verdict.”
The last time a rape victim was forced to testify publicly was in 1983, he said.
“There is no public interest in this case that can outweigh the harm done,” Michelle Dauber said, saying that now “every victim will think twice about coming forward and asking for a restraining order or telling someone about the abuse they have suffered”. ”.
“Women can be hurt, even killed, because they don’t ask for help. This case was a complete disaster. It is potentially catastrophic,” she concludes.
The trial has fascinated a global audience not used to seeing accusations of marital sexual assault and that, regardless of opinions on the verdict, is a problem, also warns Ruth Glenn, president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). ).
“I think our society still doesn’t understand the dynamics of domestic violence,” she told AFP.
This crucial context was not discussed enough during the court proceedings, she believes, saying that for her there is “no doubt” about the types of abuse that were revealed at trial.
“We have to make sure that the people present to understand this. But as long as we don’t do that, let’s not show this stuff on TV,” she warns.
The insulting messages that Michele Dauber received for commenting on the lawsuit on Twitter also illustrate, according to her, the growing opposition to women’s rights in the United States, in the context of threats to the right to abortion by the Supreme Court.
Public opinion supported Johnny Depp while his accuser was subjected to “openly misogynistic” insults and taunts on social media, she believes.
Amber Heard suffered “metaphorically the ordeal of tar and feathers”, says Michele Dauber, while the sentence was hailed by the American right.
The case also raises the question of the future of the #MeToo movement, a hashtag born in 2017 to encourage women to report perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault.
“It’s impossible not to see this as a #MeToo backlash, women have gone too far. Ladies, we hear you and we condemn some men. Don’t be too greedy,” one user wrote on Reddit.
But Tarana Burke, founder of #MeToo, assures on Twitter that “this movement is completely ALIVE”, calling to focus on the bravery of millions of women who have spoken out against violence instead of legal battles, won or lost.
Ruth Glenn wants to see in the lawsuit a “reminder of the work we still have to do.” “It’s a perfect example of a case that influences a culture,” she explains.
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