‘Circus around Johnny Depp lawsuit can deter victims’

No, for Dutch victims of domestic violence, the case of Johnny Depp against Amber Heard will not help much. So says Janine Janssen, professor of Security in Dependency Relations at Avans University of Applied Sciences and professor by special appointment of legal anthropology at the Open University. “Because of all the sensation that surrounds it, it has become more entertainment than a reason to have a serious conversation about domestic violence.”

There is already a lot of attention for domestic violence, she says. “It is the most common form of violence in Dutch society. So I wonder if we really need this case so badly to face the problem or to publicize it.”

laughing atmosphere

According to Yuri Ohlrichs, NVVS sexologist at Rutgers, it can indeed help. “The worldwide attention has a different effect on every victim of domestic and sexual violence. It can go both ways. One will think: I’m not the only one, now I’m going to look for help. On the other hand, this case is partly in a giggly and theatrical atmosphere is drawn. The circus around it can also deter victims.”

Ohlrichs recalls the recent commotion surrounding Johan Derksen, especially the laughable way in which that discussion was conducted. “When you see that you might think: I’ll keep my mouth shut, because I don’t want them to talk about me like that. It is extremely important that victims of violence know that it is never their fault. That is why we must discuss it seriously and above all don’t trivialize.”

“That’s why I hope”, he continues, “that we as a society can give the victims the feeling of a helping hand more often. Come out with it, then you will not be laughed at, but taken seriously.”


Because of the Hollywood content, Depp versus Heard is ‘atypical’, says Janine Janssen, but at its core this lawsuit is indeed representative of the issue. “It shows very well how difficult it is to determine who the victim is and who the perpetrator is.”

Janssen draws a comparison with a visit to a play, where you enter after the break. “You have to quickly find out what happened. But that’s the difficult and inconvenient part of such things. It takes place in the intimate atmosphere. Nobody has seen it, nobody knows for sure. Violence is not always a one-way street. It can come from both sides. You have to figure out the pattern in the relationship.”

Depp v Heard: wry fairy tale

Movie stars Johnny Depp (58) and Amber Heard (36) got a relationship in 2012. It was quite tumultuous. He is said to have been violent under the influence of drink and drugs. According to Depp, she was just an aggressive bully who mistreated him. She is said to have smashed a bottle on his hand, cutting off the tip of his finger.

In 2018, Heard published an op-ed in The Washington Post, in which she claimed to have been a victim of domestic violence – without mentioning Depp by name. Depp then went to court: he would no longer get a job because his reputation is shattered. He lost his role as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts film series. His demand: $50 million. She in turn demands double from Depp for libel.

The world has been gawking at the lawsuit for weeks, largely via live streams and fragments on YouTube.

According to Janssen, the discussion should mainly be about (crossing) boundaries – regardless of whether the victim is a man or a woman. “Women are more likely to be victims, but it happens to men just as much. I hope we don’t just approach this topic with the idea that women are victims of men. I think the legacy of the #MeToo movement should be: how do we deal With each other’s borders? It shouldn’t be a men-vs-women fight, because then we’ll be squandering the legacy of MeToo.”

Breaking Taboo

Yuri Ohlrichs agrees: “You are brought up with the idea that it is scary men who do such things, but in reality it can be anyone. Men and women. I have worked a lot with young people who have committed a sexual offence, both boys and girls. But you never get the idea: that’s typical of someone who uses violence against others.”

He sees a possible bright spot in the whole matter: “It remains a persistent taboo for men to admit that they are victims of domestic violence. That it now – at least apparently – happens to a famous and successful man like Johnny Depp can help. to break that taboo.”

Depp v Heard: what next?

Now that the closing arguments are over, the jury must reach a verdict. He will meet behind closed doors until there is a unanimous verdict. It is impossible to predict how long this will take. After the jury’s verdict, the judge will have to determine the amount of the penalty or damages.

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