Like most ugly divorces of famously beautiful people, Amber Heard’s split from Johnny Depp has become a war of perceptions. Is he a violent abuser and she his victim, or is she a gold-digging fabulist and he her mark? Heard tried to take control of the narrative on Monday when she withdrew her request for temporary spousal support. Through her lawyer, she’s accusing Depp’s team of twisting the facts to make it appear that his millions, not his alleged abusive behavior, are at the center of the case, according to TMZ. The issue of spousal support would have been considered at a hearing this Friday, but Heard wants to keep the focus on her other demand—for a restraining order. The money, she argues, has been “used against me to distract and divert the public away from the very serious real issue of domestic violence.”
Heard first filed for, and was granted, a temporary restraining order in late May, days after she appeared in court for divorce proceedings with visible facial bruising that she claims Depp inflicted. Those injuries, which Heard says resulted when Depp hit her in the face with his iPhone, were “only the latest” in a pattern of verbally and physically abusive fights, according to a source quoted in People. “Johnny has a long-held and widely-acknowledged public and private history of drug and alcohol abuse,” Heard has stated in court papers. “He has a short fuse. He is often paranoid and his temper is extremely scary for me as it has proven many times to be physically dangerous and/or life-threatening to me.”
But Depp has his share of defenders. His attorney Laura Wasser—who has also represented A-listers such as Ryan Reynolds, Heidi Klum, and Ashton Kutcher—has said that Heard is “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.” As Ruth Graham recently pointed out in Slate, TMZ—often the source of Hollywood reporting least cowed by its subjects’ celebrity—has seemed to take Depp’s side, publishing a story that claimed eyewitnesses found no evidence of injury on the night Heard claimed Depp had hit her in the face. Heard says she was on the phone with her friend, television host iO Tillett Wright, when Depp attacked her; Wright has called the TMZ story “BULLS–T” and written on Twitter, “I saw the bruises. Many times. And the fat lip. And the cut head. … How much evidence does a woman need to present?!”
Heard’s decision to eschew spousal support for now is unlikely to convince Depp diehards that money is no factor here. As TMZ was sure to point out: “Important to note—Amber’s not saying she doesn’t want any support. In the docs, she reserves the right to go after spousal support in their divorce … AFTER the restraining order is handled.” It’s unconfirmed whether the pair had a prenup, though TMZ has reported that they didn’t. The Wrap has reported that Heard originally requested $50,000 a month in spousal support to cover her estimated $43,700 in monthly expenses, including $10,000 a month for rent and $10,000 for “entertainment, gifts and vacation.”
Those figures may make if difficult for some people to relate to—or even to sympathize with—Heard. But the terror and abuse she claims to have suffered at the hands of her partner give her something in common with millions of American women. Hopefully Depp’s great fame and wealth will not, as Heard fears, “distract and divert the public away” from taking her account of her suffering seriously.