Actor Amber Heard suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from violence she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband Johnny Depp, including multiple acts of sexual assault, a psychologist has testified.
The sexual assaults included being forced to perform oral sex and having Depp penetrate her with a liquor bottle, psychologist Dawn Hughes told jurors at Depp’s libel trial against Heard.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star has accused his ex-wife of falsely claiming in a newspaper article she was a victim of domestic violence.
Dr Hughes’ testimony contradicts that of a psychologist hired by Depp’s lawyers, who said Heard was faking her symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered from borderline and histrionic personality disorders.
Dr Hughes disputed Heard suffers from any personality disorder.
The psychologist was the first witness to take the stand on Heard’s behalf after Depp’s lawyers rested their case on Tuesday morning (local time).
Dr Hughes said there was corroboration of many of the instances of abuse, including apologies and admissions made by Depp to Heard and admissions he made to friends in text messages about his bad behaviour when he drank.
Depp has said he never physically attacked Heard, and she was the aggressor who routinely hit him and threw things at him.
Dr Hughes, in her testimony, said Heard acknowledged she did at times push and shove Depp, call him names and insult his parenting.
But Dr Hughes said there was a difference in the violence when a smaller person struck at a larger person – Depp’s violence was intimidating and threatened her safety, but Heard’s violence did not have the same effect on Depp.
“That’s just physics; that’s just proportional force,” she said.
Much of the violence, Dr Hughes said, stemmed from Depp’s obsessive jealousy.
He insisted Heard avoid nude scenes, and accused her of affairs with actors Billy Bob Thornton and James Franco.
Heard, who identifies as bisexual according to treatment notes introduced at trial, also faced scrutiny in her interactions with women.
Dr Hughes said Depp on one occasion manually penetrated Heard in anger after witnessing Heard’s interactions with a woman.
“Amber got accused of women hitting on her, and she got accused of men hitting on her,” Hughes said.
Heard blinked back tears, and her lips and chin quivered at times as Dr Hughes described the abuse.
Dr Hughes said she based her testimony on 29 hours of interviews with Heard, as well as interviews with her therapists and a review of court documents.
Earlier on Tuesday, Depp’s lawyers rested their case, and a judge rejected a motion from Heard’s lawyers to dismiss the claim.
Heard’s lawyers argued Depp had failed to make his case as a matter of law and no reasonable jury could find in his favour.
But the judge, Penney Azcarate, said the standard for dismissing a case at this point in the trial was exceedingly high, and the hearing should be allowed to move forward if Depp had provided even a “scintilla” of evidence backing up his claims.
Depp’s lead lawyer Benjamin Chew argued the jury had a wealth of evidence to conclude Heard falsely accused Depp of abuse.
In fact, he said, the evidence showed “Ms Heard physically abused him. She’s the abuser”.
Heard’s lawyer, J. Benjamin Rottenborn, said the evidence was clear over the past three weeks of testimony that Heard’s allegations of abuse were truthful.
“We haven’t gotten to put on our case yet,” he said. “This is all evidence that has come in while plaintiff controls the playing field.”
Depp is suing Heard for $US50 million ($70.4 million) in Fairfax County Circuit Court after Heard wrote a December 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.
The article did not mention Depp by name. But his lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it was a clear reference to abuse allegations Heard levied in 2016, in the midst of the couple’s divorce proceedings.
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