Johnny Told the World, Johnny Changed the World

This article is dedicated to the memory of Earl Silverman.

“Johnny Depp is a hero,” says legendary Refuge founder Erin Pizzey. “He is a precedent setter who has done the world a great favour. From now on, every judge and jury considering allegations of abuse will know of this case. They will know that an accused man has proven his innocence, and that men are abused too. Most importantly, they will know that a violent woman was the abuser, and that women can be violent—this realisation is the trial’s legacy.” 

Intense, highly emotional, and dramatic, the trial offered a rare glimpse into the soul-crushing reality of domestic abuse. For the first time, “ordinary people are seeing the stereotypes and clichés about domestic violence being perpetrated mostly by men, and that’s not true,” said activist lawyer John Davis. The winner of this trial “is not as important as the discussion in the public that this trial is sparking.”

Davis’ sentiments are seconded by Pizzey, who is grateful for the trial “raising everybody’s consciousness level” to what domestic abuse is about. “Depp has done in several weeks what we have been trying to do for over fifty years”, she explains. “It is quite remarkable to see that #AmberTurdIsAnAbuser and #AmberHeardIsALiar are trending, but the biggest deal for me, the great game-changers, are #AbuseIsnotAGenderedIssue and #WomenAbuseAsWell. This is what we have been trying to say for over five decades—that domestic abuse is not gendered but a generational issue, that both men and women abuse, and that both need help.”

But the idea of a woman being violent or being capable of inflicting abuse was not one the world was ready to contemplate, notes Pizzey: “It was seen as unholy, and was rejected with ferocity whenever it was even suggested.” So much so that when Pizzey released her 1982 book Prone To Violence, discussing women’s and men’s addiction to violence, she was berated, cancelled, and forced overseas to escape the feminist camp’s wrath. 

“Decades later,” she asserts, “feminists are still insistent that men are always the evil perpetrators, and women are always the angelic victims. The Depp trial is no exception.”

“The thing is, the world was gripped by this trial for a reason, we heard chilling recordings where the woman openly admitted to hitting Depp, where she said the words ‘I was hitting you’. We heard her say she couldn’t promise that she “will not get physical” again, and we know she was found guilty of purposely destroying a man’s life, bringing him to the brink of suicide. But if you look at Refuge’s statement following the verdict, you will see that it fails to mention any of that—as the founder of Refuge, I am appalled to see that this gender feminist movement is supporting a known violent woman.”

It was Erin Pizzey who opened the first refuge for battered women in the world over fifty years ago. According to Pizzey, in 1974 “a group of highly organised feminists hijacked the movement and turned it into the multi-million body it is today, promoting the patriarchy and victimhood ethos which I always rejected.” 

I put it to Pizzey that over five decades on, and in light of Depp’s win, she is the one on the right side of history. “There have been headline-hitting cases of women’s violence over the years but nothing like this” she replies. “The combination of the world-famous actor whose endearing honesty captivated the public, the televised trial, and the damning recordings, proved cathartic for our message—it is impossible to deny Heard’s abusive violence now.”

It is worth noting that Women’s Aid’s post-verdict statement makes no mention of Heard’s admission, referring instead to the “1.6 million women a year in England and Wales” who experience domestic abuse, and the need to ensure women feel supported when coming forward.

“Reading Refuge and Women’s Aid statements it is as if these organisations have watched a trial different to us,” I tell Pizzey, wondering if they actually heard the evidence presented in court. “They will never admit to women being abusive or violent,” she replies. “It is their ideology speaking, it is a cult and this is a cult mentality—no recording, however horrific, no violent woman’s admission, however blunt, will change their stand because as far as they are concerned violent women do not exist.”

This matters because these women are being denied the therapy they need. “Without it, the abuse is guaranteed to live on. Only the right kind of therapy can break the cycle of violence.”

I, Johnny Depp, a Man Too: I’m a Victim of Domestic Violence

“She hit, punched, and kicked me, repeatedly and frequently threw objects onto my body and head, including heavy bottles, soda cans, burning candles, television remote controls and paint thinner cans, which severely injured me,” a calm but clearly emotional Depp told the court. “She has a need for violence: it erupts out of nowhere.”  

He spoke of falling for Amber Heard, who was intensely passionate and charming at first, and how her behaviour later changed to bitterness, hatred, constant anger, and conflict-seeking. She “wasn’t my girl,” he told the court. “She has become my opponent.”

Heard repeatedly insulted him, punched him, “clocked him in the jaw,” slapped him, spat on him, stubbed a cigarette in his face, called him an old, fat man, washed up, a joke, a f***ing piece of s**t, and many other insults. When his sister, then part of Depp’s staff, told Heard that he was in negotiations with Dior, she asked “why would Dior want to do business with you … they are about style and you don’t have style.” Worst of all, she “far too often” used his children to offend him with remarks such as “deadbeat dad,” and in a chilling recording played in court, cruelly said, “I hope to god Jack’s step dad teaches him more about being a man.” Delivered with a meanness that left the courtroom dead silent, battered Depp was then heard calling out, “Hey, that’s good, you gave me some s**t about my kids. Never again. Stay away—you don’t exist.”

He told of how she made his friend’s teenage son cry when he joined in the discussion on a topic he knew from school; how she traumatised Jack Depp when she screamed at his dad after he accidentally spilt wine; how his daughter Lily-Rose refused to see her due to Heard’s open hostility towards Depp; how she filed for divorce just one day after Depp’s mother passed away; how she gave him shiners; and how she threw a bottle at him which severed his finger. And yes, how she defecated on his side of the bed. 

“I was not allowed to have a voice,” he told the court, before making a statement Pizzey hails as pivotal for understanding domestic violence. “At a certain point,” said Depp, “what enters your mind is you start to slowly realise that you are in a relationship with your mother in a sense … I know that sounds perverse and obtuse” he added, explaining that he has previously told Ms Heard of his abusive childhood, and that this painfully personal information “became ammunition” for her.

Why is the reference to his childhood important? It is pivotal because it refers to the generational aspect of domestic abuse—it is the key to understanding domestic violence.

Johnny Depp and his sister Christie told the court of their troubled childhood and their cruelly abusive mother—how they would hide whenever one of her rage attacks began and wait fearfully until it subsided. 

“Hiding is exactly what he did as an abused adult,” explains Pizzey. “Speaking of Heard’s rage he told the court ‘I went straight to what I learnt as a youth which is to remove myself from the situation’. Like all abused children, the young Depp developed a pattern of behaviour to get him through the abusive turmoil; Johnny’s defence was finding a safe spot away from his mother’s anger, and this is exactly what he did whenever Heard raged.” This became such an automatic reaction that when booking hotels for press tours, his staff would make sure a spare room would be available for him to escape to whenever Amber raged.

A child exposed to violence develops a mechanism to cope with the physical and emotional havoc, and they then carry this mechanism into their adult relationships. “Many will themselves become violent as a result of their abuse,” explains Pizzey, “but some, like Depp and his sister, are fortunate enough to transcend and go on to lead non-violent lives.” 

Depp’s account demonstrates how the abuse is generational. He has spoken in past interviews of his mother’s troubled upbringing, and herself suffering abuse as a child. “This is the essence of domestic abuse,” explains Pizzey, “it is not gendered, it is generational.”

At her refuge, Pizzey employed professionals who devised questionnaire forms for both the abused and abusers, going back three generations. “Depp’s mother had an abusive childhood which she obviously did not transcend, as she was violent towards him and his siblings. Interestingly, there is often a stable person within the abused child’s environment that helps them transcend—if you could ask Depp, you will most likely find there was probably a grandparent, uncle or teacher, or perhaps his dad, who offered stability and was a kind of role model.” 

According to Pizzey, this insight would also answer many questions regarding his later substance and alcohol abuse. In his testimony Depp referred to drugs and alcohol as a way to numb the pain, referring to his adult self as “that little boy who didn’t want to feel the pain of his mother turning him into a ball of insecurity and pain.”

The Bones Will Heal, the Bruises Will Fade, but the Words Never Leave You

Depp’s moving testimony told of his mother being “violent and cruel to the children and their dad.” There was physical abuse “like an ashtray flown at you, a telephone—there was no safety or security, the only thing one could do was try to stay out of the line of fire. There was quite a lot of verbal abuse, name-calling, bullying, making fun of whatever defects one might have.” Depp was ‘one eye’ and ‘cock eye’ due to a lazy eye, and he was often beaten with a belt by his dad at his mother’s orders. “The beatings were just physical pain that you learnt to deal with,” he told the court, “but the psychological and emotional abuse, that’s what tore us up.”

Abuse becomes an entity in itself, explains Pizzey. “It goes from generation to generation and therapy is the key to breaking the cycle, for both the inflictor and the victim. Depp needs to free himself by realising that the defence mechanism he developed as a child is no longer needed. Heard needs therapy because she is violent and narcissistic; she needs to learn how not to go straight from frustration to pain and rage. This is what we taught the violent women at the refuge. You teach them self-control.”

How Heard Hijacked Real Victims’ Pain 

Depp’s testimony opened a floodgate of survivor stories. Men, in particular, found they finally had a voice: #IamJohnnyDepp trended as men shared details of how 'their Amber’ wrecked their life. Videos of abuse from all over the world appeared online—some looking like US police/first responders footage—including a harrowing scene of a man scolded with boiling water by his partner, crouched under the running garden tap, desperately trying to ease the pain. “These are more common than people think and I’m glad they are coming to light,” says Pizzey, who heard first-hand of a man waking up to find that his wife had set the bed on fire, or a man whose partner waited until he was asleep to smash his face in with whatever she had to hand, including a glass ashtray. 

During the seven-week-long trial, male and female survivors spoke of how they instantly recognised the abused in Depp, but also how they spotted the abuser in Heard who ‘hijacked their pain’. 

@abusehasnogender, a group of domestic violence survivors, put together an open letter addressing Heard that struck a chord with many. Highlighting the great damage that her lies have inflicted on real victims of abuse, they wrote that “no victim of domestic violence acts in the manner” in which Heard had, chastising her as “the abuser, not the abused.” 

“You sold us a role, a character—the survivor, and we bought it. You betrayed, you used our pain as you appropriated our stories, re-victimising us. You weaponised our movement against the person you were abusing, you toyed with his mind making him believe that he was a ‘monster', you convinced him that he was bringing your rage upon himself … The minute survivors heard you say ‘you make me do this’ we knew who you really were, an abuser, and Johnny was your victim. Your gender didn’t hide that you are a perpetrator of Domestic Abuse from us. The harm you’ve done going forward to every woman who goes to report domestic violence is immeasurable. You did that.” 

Then came their game-changing realisation: “Abuse has no gender. A man who speaks out about being abused must be Heard.”

Tell the World Johnny, Tell the World

“Why are you here?” lawyer Camille Vasquez asked a slightly bewildered Johnny Depp in the witness stand. “About six years ago,” he replied, “Miss Heard made some quite heinous and disturbing criminal acts against me that were not based in any species of truth. It was a complete shock. Nothing of the kind had ever happened.”

The allegations were “horrible, ridiculous, humiliating, ludicrous, painful, savage, unimaginably brutal, cruel, and all false.” Depp spoke of how the false allegations destroyed his life, wrecked his family, and brought him to the brink of suicide: “suddenly, I was guilty until proven innocent.”

Asked what he had lost as a result of Heard’s claims, he replied “nothing short of everything. No matter the outcome of the trial, my life is ruined forever, I will have to Iive with the allegations for the rest of my life.”

Such is the power of allegations and #believeAllWomen, says Pizzey. “A woman has to say a few words and she is automatically believed, while the man is presumed guilty. Look at what happened to Greg Ellis. With a few words from his wife alleging that he intended to hurt the kids, his life was turned upside down: he lost the children and, like too many men fighting accusations, contemplated ending his life.”

A staunch Depp supporter, The Respondent author Ellis recently spoke of the Pirates of the Caribbean star being the voice of “anyone who has been falsely accused based on hearsay evidence, found guilty until proven innocent or convicted of a crime in the court of public opinion without due process or a trial.” Johnny is fighting for the reputation of “every man, every father, who has been put through the meat grinder by a woman who lied under oath for personal Gains.”

Heard had taken the allegations further than most by becoming a spokeswoman for abuse victims, and publishing an Op-Ed where she wrote of her plight as an abused woman. The constant attacks on Depp’s character showed no sign of stopping. 

The six years of suffering it inflicted had Isaac Baruch, Depp’s friend, in tears during his testimony. “So many people have been affected by this malicious lie that Amber started,” said possibly the trial’s most memorable witness. “Her lie got out the door and around the world, and Johnny and his family have been completely wrecked by this stuff, it’s not fair what she did, it’s not right.” 

Depp has brought to light the reality of false allegations destroying many innocent men’s lives and the urgent need for change. “All allegations need to be investigated with all parties presumed innocent,” believes Pizzey: “There needs to be some evidence presented or witnesses to the alleged abuse.”

False allegations are not the only wrong exposed by this trial. It also showed how deeply rooted the victimhood mentality is within the system at large.

One example of many is Heard’s witness, psychologist Dawn Hughes, who described intimate partner violence as “a pattern of manipulation, fear and coercive control that happens within an intimate relationship.” The relationship is made of both care and abuse, she explained, and “it is the inter positioning of the violence with the love and the care, that makes it very difficult for a victim to extricate herself from that situation.” To this prominent, highly influential psychologist the victim is always the woman. 

Another example is lawyer Camille Vasquez asking the jury to think what would have happened if it were the other way round—what if it were Depp saying to Heard, “I was not punching you, I was hitting you.” This was cleverly followed by a loaded pause as the jury contemplated. 

Possibly the best illustrator of the biased state of affairs is Herd’s now-famous taunt to Depp, daring him to reveal her abuse to the world. “Tell the world, Johnny, tell the world,” she said mockingly. “Tell them, ‘I, Johnny Depp, a man too, I’m a victim of domestic violence’, and see if people believe or side with you.” 

Heard was confident that Depp would remain silent. She knew that like most men he would be too ashamed to share his torment with the world. She was confident because like fellow abused men, Depp was in a lose-lose situation—if he reported his abuse, he would not be believed and would be treated with suspicion; if he kept her violence towards him a secret, the abuse would continue. 

What Ms Heard failed to consider was that as far as Depp was concerned, he had nothing “but his blood” left to lose, and that his fatherly need to protect his children’s name would give him the strength needed to go through the public spectacle of embarrassment. 

The legacy of this trial is the debate it sparked about the very essence of domestic abuse, the way it instantly rendered #MeToo irrelevant, how it made abused men visible and gave them a voice, how it put narcissism on the cultural agenda, how it naturally raised questions regarding feminism’s blanket support for all women, how it effortlessly raised doubts regarding the MSM’s credibility, and how it exposed the suffering caused by false allegations. 

Its greatest achievement, however, is proving to the world that women too are violent: that domestic violence is not gendered but a generational issue. Here lies the key to addressing this painful issue—therapy is pivotal for both the abused and the abuser. 

The trial brought to light societal wrongs that many believe will now be corrected in law, including Heard’s Law to punish anyone proven to make false allegations. It highlighted the need for refuges for abused men who are fighting false allegations and facing separation from their children. 

“The issues, the frustrations have been present within society for many years,” says Pizzey. “The trial has brought them to the surface and as you can see, long after the verdict, they are vibrant and alive—this feels like real change.”

The voices coming out of the feminist movement might well be indicative of a fundamental change in perception for some. On the one hand, you still had the ardent deniers who came up with the term ‘imperfect victim’ to help justify Heard’s conduct, but, as pointed out by researcher Deborah Powney, “it is heart-warming that some feminists have stepped up in the name of true equality to back Johnny Depp—maybe the tide is turning because Mr Depp stood up and told the world that he is a victim of domestic abuse.” 

This was the vibe one got from the incredible women seen and heard at the trial—Dr Shannon Curry, Camille Vasquez, Jessica Meyers, and the judge Penny Azcarate—all professional, knowledgeable and highly capable. Curry fought tooth a nail against Hughes’s radical feminist narrative, and Vasquez’s defence of Depp went beyond the realms of legal defence; you could see her deep conviction and a genuine quest for justice. 

The judge should be commended for allowing the cameras in court which has consequently changed the course of history. Without the cameras, we would be forming opinions based on mainstream media’s biased reporting, and Depp wouldn’t have enjoyed such overwhelming public support. 

On a lighter note, it has been said that Depp has made history as the first man ever to win an argument with a woman.

Hannah is a London based journalist covering culture and current affairs. She writes about photography, film and TV for outlets in the UK and US, and covers current affairs with particular interest in the Jewish world. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and photographer. Her films were screened in festivals worldwide and parts of her documentary about Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman were screened on the BBC. You can find more from Hannah here.