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Defamation and DARVO

According to Johnny Depp’s lawsuit against Amber Heard, Heard defamed Depp when she wrote about witnessing how “institutions protect men accused of abuse,” and when she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” Even the title of Heard’s op-ed (“I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”) was identified in the lawsuit as being defamatory against Depp. Although Heard did not name any perpetrators in the op-ed, Depp’s legal team argued she had defamed him and further alleged she had actually been the abusive partner in the relation- ship.

While the Depp v. Heard trial gained much of its attention due in part to its high-profile plaintiff and defendant, it reflects a growing trend in the world of civil litigation: alleged perpetrators of interpersonal violence are filing defamation lawsuits against the individuals who have named them as abusers.


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