Heard/Depp: A Movement Built on Absence & What I’m Not Saying

14 June 2022

© Screenshot from London Fields (2018) dir. Mathew Cullen

By: Dr Alex Bevan


Trigger warning: This discusses rape and domestic violence in detail.

On the day the Heard/Depp defamation verdict, I naively posted my dismay on Facebook. I knew the post would take my already small circle of Facebook friends and sift it for surprises. Within the hour, one reply led me to delete the post entirely. The replier said they had worked with survivors for x number of years, that they were a survivor, and that I should watch the testimony in full because Heard is a liar and DV victims do not act that way. I got a rap on the knuckles for being seen as an under-informed outsider. Not too bad considering the vitriol that Heard supporters attract. The replier assumed I didn’t have skin in the game, perhaps because of the little vacuum in my post that usually belongs to assertions of credibility. That is what cut deep. A case like this makes some people even more careful what they say.  Even if you don’t believe Heard, you must admit that fewer survivors will come forward as a result. Heard’s silencing also fuelled the censure of Depp naysayers that occurred on social media and ran parallel to the case, sadly reinforcing the silencing that already comes with surviving domestic abuse and sexual predation. DV advocates and allies face an absence of testimony that is the very opposite of the MeToo movement, which garnered momentum by the sheer pervasiveness and volume of testimony. Even with the painful rift in the domestic violence community that grew around Heard’s veracity, both sides seem to agree that if people did not believe in survivors before, they will believe them even less now. This piece does not focus on Heard’s innocence or guilt, but on the shutting down of conversation that results from the case. I consider how the case highlighted, in spectacular form, how DV revolves around themes of absence: absent evidence, absent details, absent words.

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