In the wake of the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein and other people who have abused their power in a variety of industries, and thanks to Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement, more people than ever are opening up about sexual harassment, and the culture that has turned a blind eye to abusers. But as Amber Heard writes for the Washington Post, there are still ramifications against survivors who do choose to speak out.
In an op-ed for the Post, the Aquaman star recalled her own experience, saying that she had to change her phone number weekly because she was getting death threats. “For months, I rarely left my apartment, and when I did, I was pursued by camera drones and photographers on foot, on motorcycles and in cars,” she wrote. “Tabloid outlets that posted pictures of me spun them in a negative light. I felt as though I was on trial in the court of public opinion.”
Heard came forward in 2016 with allegations that then-husband Johnny Depp had been physically and emotionally abusive to her; she was granted a restraining order and their divorce was finalized in 2017. Heard donated her settlement to the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
While the actor did not mention Depp by name in the Washington Post article, she does allude to the time period when, “two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
“Friends and advisers told me I would never again work as an actress — that I would be blacklisted. A movie I was attached to recast my role. I had just shot a two-year campaign as the face of a global fashion brand, and the company dropped me. Questions arose as to whether I would be able to keep my role of Mera in the movies ’Justice League’ and ’Aquaman.’”
Heard also addressed the power structures in place to defend powerful men in particular, not for the sake of any one man’s reputation, but in an effort to save the livelihoods of the people attached to him. She compared the situation to the Titanic, noting that when the ship “strikes an iceberg, there are a lot of people on board desperate to patch up holes — not because they believe in or even care about the ship, but because their own fates depend on the enterprise.”
In the essay, she urged Congress to “reauthorize and strengthen” the Violence Against Women Act, the funding for which lapsed earlier this year and has only been granted a temporary extension. Heard also spoke out against the changes to Title IX proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which would limit the definitions of sexual assault in ways that favor the alleged abuser more than the victim.
“I want to ensure that women who come forward to talk about violence receive more support,” Heard wrote. “We can work together to demand changes to laws and rules and social norms — and to right the imbalances that have shaped our lives.”