Though Heard previously made domestic abuse allegations against the actor, this is the first instance where she has alleged sexual abuse specifically, according to Rolling Stone‘s coverage of the trial. Specifically, Heard’s lawyers claimed in the opening day of the trial that she was sexually assaulted by Depp, as Rolling Stone characterized it, “during a black-out-drunk incident near the end of their troubled marriage.”
Depp’s $50 million defamation lawsuit centers around an op-ed Heard wrote for the Washington Post in 2018, in which she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse. Though Depp isn’t mentioned by name, he claims he is implied as the abuser in the piece, which he contends damaged his career. Depp also denies the allegations of abuse.
Heard has countersued for $100 million.
Depp’s team, Ben Chew and Camille Vasquez, preemptively brought up Heard’s sexual assault claims in the opening statements they made, which preceded Heard’s lawyers’ statements. They also characterized Heard as “a profoundly troubled person” that was the perpetrator of the domestic violence in the couple’s marriage.
Complicating the evolving narrative, Depp accused Heard of getting the tip of his finger sliced off after she throw a bottle at him and it exploded in his hand. Heard’s side alleges that Depp is deeply troubled by alcohol and drug abuse and contend that injury was self-inflicted.
Heard’s attorney, Ben Rottenborn, read the entire op-ed during his opening argument, claiming it had nothing to do with Depp, but was intended to advocate for laws that protect domestic violence victims. Nevertheless, he said there is evidence that they will present showing Depp abused Heard.
Vasquez, one of Depp’s lawyers, further claimed Heard’s accusation of sexual assault “was never part of [Depp’s] allegations of abuse in 2016,” but that “she panicked and alleged sexual assault” once she realized the seriousness of her allegation.
Heard’s attorneys also claim Depp only came out with the accusation that she severed his finger years after the incident took place.
The lawsuit, unfolding in Fairfax, Virginia, is expected to last more than a month.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or if you believe someone you know is being abused, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE or spoken with online via the hotline’s website. Mobile phone owners can also text “START” to the number 88788.
If you know someone suffering from sexual violence, contact RAINN or the National Sexual Abuse Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.