So Ms. Heard explained how she took the first photo, then broke the pose to turn on a light, and then got back in exactly the same pose to take the second photo… all of this in less time than one second. The same identical angle, the same identical expression, the same identical placement of every single hair. What she was asking us to believe was impossible. It was, to put it bluntly, a lie. We all had eyes. We were all looking at the photos, at the time stamps. We all knew how brief one second is. Did she take us for idiots? And if she had no difficulty presenting us with such a blatant, demonstrable lie, how could we believe anything else she said, especially if it was a lie that might help her case?
Ms. Heard could have made a different choice when she was caught submitting an edited photo as evidence. She could have said, “Yes, it is the same image, but since this is such an important piece of evidence, I edited it to better delineate the bruise on my cheek.” Some of us might have still been skeptical. Some of us might have thought, “Well, that makes sense. She’s entitled.” Some of us might have wondered, “Is that even allowed?” But there would have at least been some wiggle room.
And then, after all these documented inconsistencies and contradictions, there is the issue of how much she asks us to take her at her word...The complete absence of medical records of injuries from alleged years of horrific battery and rape that would go on for hours and days. The lack of witnesses, apart from a sister who, according to a court declaration, was herself a victim of Heard’s violence. The lack of photographic evidence—apart from the bruise photo— when there are dozens of photographs of spilled wine, broken glass, defaced mirrors, lines of cocaine, Mr. Depp passed out/sleeping. And there is the videotaping of his behavior without permission. It’s not like Ms. Heard was shy about documenting. Why didn’t she just step in front of the mirror when she photographed it? The photographs she submitted as proof of injury in no way matched the narratives of extreme violence that she described. Not even close.
Look, many of us who followed this trial are survivors. And many of us were abused by people who lie. Our responses to lies and liars can be skewed by this experience. I remember my mother explaining to my father that I had broken the back window of our station wagon. I was probably ten, or younger. The window had somehow been rolled up not in the track, and forced so badly that it would not roll up or down anymore. I hadn’t done it. I was confused. How could I have forgotten doing that? Did she mistake someone else for me? And why was she being all giggly about it? Today I understand that my mother broke the window and lied about it, because she was terrified of my father, and she was probably high. Maybe she thought my father would be less angry at a child. Whatever she was thinking, she counted on my loyalty in that moment, and I did not disappoint.
But I’m not a child anymore. I have disabled the fog machine, in spite of the fact that this complicates my life. I have had to ditch the ideology that kept me from connecting the dots. In recovery, there are no ideologies that justify sacrificing my experience of what is true.
Amber Heard has just lied to a courtroom, to a jury, and to me about a piece of critical evidence. And it’s obvious to everyone watching. Yes, I want to believe survivors. I have written the largest canon of plays dealing with violence against women of any playwright in the English-speaking world. I am a survivor. I have skin in this game. And among many feminists, especially feminist activists, there is an ideology about always believing women who claim to be abuse victims.
But Amber Heard has just lied and I saw her do it. I no longer have a way to let that coexist in my brain with believing her. The dots connect themselves these days: She lied; therefore she is a liar; therefore she is not to be trusted.
And these dots also simultaneously connect up: This is a really, really inconvenient truth in a world where there is finally a global movement of women coming forward to name powerful men as perpetrators. The vast majority of perpetrators of violence against women are, of course, men. And it’s a really, really inconvenient truth that otherwise powerful men can occasionally be victims of domestic violence at the hands of women.