U.S. writer and activist Gloria Steinem, as well as more than 130 other signers including women’s rights organizations, have published an open letter in support of actress Amber Heard nearly six months after she lost in a defamation suit brought by her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp.
The letter, which was shared with NBC News, reportedly denounces the alleged “rising misuse” of defamation lawsuits, claiming they are used to silence people who report domestic and sexual abuse.
After nearly six months of silence, this letter is the biggest public show of support for Heard following her stunning loss to Depp on June 1. It was signed by groups like the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Law Center, Equality Now, and the Women’s March Foundation.
Depp had sued Heard earlier this year, claiming that a 2018 Washington Post op-ed — in which she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse — has harmed his movie career. Heard countersued for $100 million.
On June 1, a jury found that a statement accusing the Pirates of the Caribbean star of sexual violence and domestic abuse was defamatory.
The jury also found for Depp on all three of his defamation claims, awarding him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The punitive damages, however, were reduced to $350,000 to comply with Virginia law that caps punitive damages at that amount. Meanwhile, Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages but nothing in punitive damages.
A spokesperson for the group behind the letter in support of Heard — who chose to remain anonymous — told NBC News she believes that after the trial, “individuals were afraid to speak out because they saw what was happening to the few who had.”
The open letter also reportedly states that “ongoing online harassment” of Heard and her supporters was “fueled by disinformation, misogyny, biphobia, and a monetized social media environment where a woman’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment.”
The alleged vilification and harassment of Heard and her supporters was “unprecedented in both vitriol and scale,” the letter adds.
The letter goes on to claim that the verdict and the online response to Heard “indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of intimate partner and sexual violence and how survivors respond to it.”
Last month, Heard filed an appellate brief seeking to appeal the jury’s decision.
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