In May, actress Amber Heard filed for a restraining order against her then-husband Johnny Depp after she claimed that Depp had been abusive. After Heard provided pictures of her bruises to TMZ, ones that Heard claimed she received at the hands of Depp after he attacked her on May 21, Depp’s lawyers dismissed the story, saying, “Amber is attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.” They weren’t the only ones who discounted Heard’s story, either. A few of Depp’s high-powered friends — Winona Ryder and Doug Stanhope primarily — came forward and said they found it hard to believe Depp was an abuser. Heard found an unlikely ally in People, which from the very beginning took Heard’s claims seriously, even putting her bruised face on the cover of the magazine.
Doubts circulated about Heard’s claims from the minute she made them, though it was always hard to pinpoint exactly why. Was this another case of the man being too famous and too powerful for his abused spouse to be believed? Were her stories not grievous enough or horrific enough to prove what seemed so clearly to be a toxic relationship? It was a simple he-said-she-said bit, but Depp’s claims were given credence far more often. Very little happened to impact Depp’s career; Disney’s CEO even said he wasn’t worried about Depp’s personal life. Largely, it felt like the public had left the couple to sort things out on their own.
Everything came to a head last week, however, when leaked video and images from Heard’s marriage to Depp began to appear in the press. Among the scenes were Depp smashing glasses all over the couple’s kitchen and an incident where he used a cut finger dipped in blue paint to smear the walls with the name Billy Bob (Thornton), with whom he accused Heard of cheating on him. The former video shows Depp grabbing Heard’s phone and smashing it.
Within three days of the leak, the case had swiftly been settled, and Heard was afforded $7 million. All may have seemed said and done, but Heard wasn’t finished.
In an act that not many people saw coming, Heard donated the entire $7 million dollars that she received in the divorce settlement to charity. This was the most satisfying possible way to say “fuck you” to both Depp’s smear campaign against her and to the powerful people who took his side. While even years of separation from Depp won’t erase what occurred between them, Heard’s action was a way of paying it forward to women who do not have such a relatively easy, nor public, way out. Heard was subtly saying to Depp, I don’t want or need your money. That’s not what this was about.
Heard had insisted from the start that she was not in this fight for the money, despite what Depp’s lawyers claimed. In a lightning-fast turnaround, the divorce case went from settlement stage to donation: Heard announced that she was giving the large sum she received to charity only two days after the divorce was finalized. In her statement, she wrote, “As described in the restraining order and divorce settlement, money played no role for me personally and never has, except to the extent that I could donate it to charity and, in doing so, hopefully help those less able to defend themselves.”
Half of the money will end up with a section of the ACLU that focuses on stopping violence against women, and the other half will go to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where Heard was a volunteer for ten years. In one swift move, she emerges the quiet hero, while Depp — despite being a higher-profile celebrity — looks petty, defensive, and loathsome.
While the public can never know exactly what went on behind closed doors, it doesn’t matter now: In her power move, Heard neatly sidestepped Depp’s attempts to silence her truth and showed that paying it forward is often the most satisfying payback.