Amber Heard: I Spoke Up Against Sexual Violence and Faced Our Culture's Wrath

This piece was originally published in The Washington Post.

I was exposed to abuse at a very young age. I knew certain things early on, without ever having to be told. I knew that men have the power — physically, socially and financially — and that a lot of institutions support that arrangement. I knew this long before I had the words to articulate it, and I bet you learned it young, too.

Like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet — I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim.

Then 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.”

I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.

Imagine a powerful man as a ship, like the Titanic. That ship is a huge enterprise. When it 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 recent years, the #MeToo movement has taught us about how power like this works, not just in Hollywood but in all kinds of institutions — workplaces, places of worship or simply in particular communities. In every walk of life, women are confronting these men who are buoyed by social, economic and cultural power. And these institutions are beginning to change.

We are in a transformative political moment. The president of our country has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, including assault and harassment. Outrage over his statements and behavior has energized a female-led opposition. #MeToo started a conversation about just how profoundly sexual violence affects women in every area of our lives. And last month, more women were elected to Congress than ever in our history, with a mandate to take women’s issues seriously. Women’s rage and determination to end sexual violence are turning into a political force.

We have an opening now to bolster and build institutions protective of women. For starters, Congress can reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. First passed in 1994, the act is one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to fight domestic violence and sexual assault. It creates support systems for people who report abuse, and provides funding for rape crisis centers, legal assistance programs and other critical services. It improves responses by law enforcement, and it prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ survivors. Funding for the act expired in September and has only been temporarily extended.

We should continue to fight sexual assault on college campuses, while simultaneously insisting on fair processes for adjudicating complaints. Last month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed changes to Title IX rules governing the treatment of sexual harassment and assault in schools. While some changes would make the process for handling complaints more fair, others would weaken protections for sexual assault survivors. For example, the new rules would require schools to investigate only the most extreme complaints, and then only when they are made to designated officials. Women on campuses already have trouble coming forward about sexual violence — why would we allow institutions to scale back supports?

I write this as a woman who had to change my phone number weekly because I 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. 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 — and my life and livelihood depended on myriad judgments far beyond my control.

I want to ensure that women who come forward to talk about violence receive more support. We are electing representatives who know how deeply we care about these issues. We can work together to demand changes to laws and rules and social norms — and to right the imbalances that have shaped our lives.

View comments (61)
Read the Terms of Use


I hope you realize. that her attorney sent Depp's attorney a letter regarding the divorce and alleged abuse. The letter said that she was willing to settle "all matters" if Depp agreed to her demands before the media gets involved. She wanted three of his five penthouse apartments with him paying all utilities, $25K for her expert fees, $125K for lawyer fees, alimony for life and other things. He said no to her demands and within days she filed for divorce and the dv charge. The letter was posted on a very popular gossip site. This was also the same site that posted the illegal video she did and sold to them. They said that they had been told it was heavily edited when they posted it. By the time the divorce was over she hired a criminal attorney to represent her.

Edwina Ybarra

I am so proud of you lady. You're welcome to come over if you want to. I have been there and still haven't received anything from the V.I.N.E. The men just hide it from you that they're the drug addicts who use us to experiment with. I am still going to jail because of my idiot boyfriend. Johnny Depp still thinks I have to pay him to go out with me


I believe in you, Amber.


This is amazing . I have been a victim of sexual assault and and still in an abusive relationship. The mind control of mental abuse is hard to explain and feel there needs to be more awareness on this behavior and what it does to the brain. Your brave for speaking up. I was raped and couldn’t press charges because the police said it was his word against mine. I was telling a friend that we need more programs to make it easier to convict. Her response was the we need to protect the men too because woman make up rape because they want attention or are crazy . Very normal from someone who hasn’t been raped or been abused and clearly has no idea what to say to a victim. We need more awareness and stop blaming woman for shit men do.


Keep going, I’ll support you.


What about woman on woman domestic violence? You’re charged with that on your ex girlfriend. Why does nobody seem to want to pay attention to that? Theyll boycott Fantastic Beasts when he was never charged and you’re only proof was a photo that cops said when they arrived you had no marks. The video shared you instigated him, and as someone who’s been through things, I would never have had the courage to instigate like you did. Nobody will boycott Aquaman though when you’ve actually been charged with domestic violence, oh I guess because it was just on another woman. His exes defended him and normally abuse is a continued pattern, not just spur of the moment “oh he picks you to do it to”.


She's a lier. And what really shock me is that people want to justify her no matter what. Are people blind or What? I'm so sorry for him. He doesent like nothing like she described him. She just never liked him at all. All that she wanted was fame, attention and his money. But karma must manifest somehow. He will shine again and she will disappear.

Keren Garcia

Me parece increíble tu lucha por los derechos de la mujer. Creo que con tus vivencias eres perfecta para lo que defiendes. Ánimo!


Aclu, why are you giving a platform to a proven abuser? This woman was arrested for domestic violence in the past. If you want institutions to stop protecting abusive men, then you need to stop protecting abusive women. Practice what you preach.

Paola J

I allow myself to give an opinion only through the facts reported by: journalists, TV and various testimonies as well as the statements and statements of the two former spouses. based on what we know, Heard has been imprisoned for committing violence against her ex-girlfriend. how strange it makes me, to know that one who beats the former then becomes ambassador of this movement. also Heard said that the beatings and violence suffered by her husband lasted for years, from the beginning of their relationship to be precise. well ... why has she never spoken about it before? why did she continue to be with a man, according to her, violent, a Monster, that's how she called him, marrying him too? She waited for enough time to ask for part of Depp's earnings by staying with him 15 months and then asked for a divorce. her accusations seem to be groundless. the police itself did not believe it. the video she recorded shows an angry man, but if we listen to the dialogues we understand that she tries in every way to make him angry. she herself apologizes (for what?) He does not even touch her. at the end of everything she wants money and property from the good actor. She gets a nice pile of money, donating them to charity, most likely ( my personal opinion ) suggested by her lawyers. at the end of all her lawyers say that Heard only wanted a divorce. Well ... so why asking for so much money? before this sad story she was nobody and for me she remains no one. pity that she has exploited everything in order to start her career and has done trampling on the feelings of a person who looks good and honest. Heard is a vile, dishonest and disgusting 'person' to me.


Stay Informed