The letter’s signatories include actor Constance Wu, writer and activist Gloria Steinem, and former prosecutor Moira Penza, who led the case against NXIVM’s Keith Raniere in 2019.
It comes months after Heard lost a defamation trial filed in Virginia against her by her ex-husband Johnny Depp, over an opinion piece published under her name in The Washington Post, in which she described herself as a “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”
The trial opened in April in Fairfax, Virginia, and aired in full online and on TV. It was discussed, often flippantly, on social media via memes and other content. In June, the jury largely ruled in Depp’s favour, finding that Heard had defamed him on three statements. Jurors found in favour of Heard on just one of three statements mentioned in her own counter-suit. They awarded Depp $10.35m in damages and Heard $2m. He has appealed that part of the verdict. Heard has filed a notice of appeal regarding the judgment itself and rulings made after the verdict by the presiding judge.
“Five months ago, the verdict in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard deeply concerned many professionals in the fields of intimate partner and sexual violence,” the open letter begins. “As many, including AO Scott for The New York Times have noted, the vilification of Ms Heard and ongoing online harassment of her and those who have voiced support for her have been unprecedented in both vitriol and scale.”
It continues: “Much of this harassment 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 same disinformation and victim-blaming tropes are now being used against others who have alleged abuse.
“In our opinion, the Depp v Heard verdict and continued discourse around it indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of intimate partner and sexual violence and how survivors respond to it. The damaging consequences of the spread of this misinformation are incalculable. We have grave concerns about the rising misuse of defamation suits to threaten and silence survivors.
“We condemn the public shaming of Amber Heard and join in support of her. We support the ability of all to report intimate partner and sexual violence free of harassment and intimidation.”
More than 100 individuals put their name to the letter, along with organizations including Women’s March Action, the feminist publication Ms Magazine, the National Organization for Women, and more.
The letter and the full list of signatories can be viewed online in full.