In a series of videos shared on a friend’s Instagram story over the weekend, Courtney Love weighed in on the ongoing defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. If you’ve somehow been fortunate enough to spend the last two months off of social media, Depp is suing Heard over an op-ed she wrote in 2018 in which she recalls surviving domestic abuse. Despite how Heard doesn’t name Depp in the piece, given her very public allegations against him in 2016, it’s pretty clear who she was writing about.
As the internet and court of public opinion as a whole seem to be siding with Depp more aggressively by the day, Love seems firmly pro-Depp as well. In the aforementioned videos, she says she doesn’t “really wanna make judgments publicly,” but wanted to share that “Johnny gave me CPR in 1995 when I overdosed,” saving her life. Love also recalls how Depp supported and took care of her 13-year-old daughter while Love was struggling with addiction, and how her young daughter once told her of Depp, “Mama, he saved my life.” The actress then goes on to imply that Heard is “[using] a movement for your own personal gain, and you inhabit queer feminist intersectional spaces and you abuse that moment,” and says she “[hopes] justice gets served.”
Love has since backtracked and apologized for weighing in publicly on the case, posting on Instagram on Tuesday, “Is it ANY OF MY FUCKING BUSINESS? No.” That said, I don’t doubt that she’s telling the truth about her overwhelmingly positive experiences with Depp—he probably did save her from an overdose, and support her teenage daughter through difficult times. But to be unequivocally clear, this has nothing to do with whether or not Depp harmed Heard during their brief and turbulent marriage.
That Love’s very personal account of her supportive relationship with Depp is being weaponized by Depp supporters builds upon a frustrating pattern. Individual women’s testimonies about positive experiences with a man are all too often used to discredit women who say they were harmed by him. Numerous women who went to prep school with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 signed a letter stating that he didn’t assault them, as if their individual experiences with him somehow automatically rendered Dr. Christine Blasey Ford a liar. Last November, Dakota Johnson bemoaned how Armie Hammer and Shia LaBeouf, both accused of domestic violence, had been victimized by “cancel culture,” citing her individual positive experiences working with them as iron-clad proof of their innocence.
The unspoken idea here is that if a man didn’t abuse every single woman he’s ever encountered in his entire life, it then follows that he’s never abused any woman. This “logic” is only ever applied to gender-based violence cases and not any other crime or form of harm.
And of course, it’s not just women’s positive testimonies about men who are accused of abuse that are used to discredit other women’s allegations. Fellow famous men like Paul Bettany to Fantastic Beasts director David Yates have stood by Depp, citing how they, as individuals, have only ever witnessed Depp being a stand-up guy, and have never personally seen him hit a woman. Cool!
All people—men, women, anyone—with personal relationships to someone who’s been accused of abuse might naturally be inclined to universalize their individual experience with them. However, that’s not how the world and human relationships work. As the old adage goes, people contain multitudes; the same person who may have been extraordinarily kind to you, perhaps even saved your life, can be abusive to someone else. It’s entirely human to want to feel like you know who someone truly is—but that should never have any bearing on appraising whether a woman or man who says she or he has been harmed is credible, or whether a woman or man accused of harm is held accountable.
Love’s bizarre commentary insinuating that Heard is using the feminist movement for personal gain is also really… something. Certainly, no one accused the male crew member who sued Depp in 2018 for punching him on a film set of “using feminism” for personal gain. No one blinked at the allegation or had anything to say about the crew member’s history of any mental illness, whether he’d ever allegedly had an affair with James Franco, or his sexual history. Our culture reserves that level of innately sexist scrutiny exclusively for allegations of gender-based violence.
Despite Love’s suggestion that “queer feminist intersectional spaces” have contributed to a society in which women like Heard can lie about sexual violence for personal gain, the real problem remains that sexual violence is vastly underreported. And seeing how women who do come forward about deeply traumatic experiences, like, say, being sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle, are treated by the public doesn’t exactly encourage survivors to report their assaults.