Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial could be devastating for domestic violence survivors

The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial is wrapping up but it's taken social media by storm.

Depp is demanding NZ$76 million in damages after his ex-wife insinuated he was a wife-beater.

The trial has offered up plenty of drama, twists and turns and even more TikToks and memes. But what seems to be forgotten is the alleged domestic abuse.

It's a meme creator's delight. Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard in court. It's become daily entertainment - easy clickbait, easy laughs.

But what seems to be forgotten is the crux of this case is domestic violence. And the fall-out from this, for victims, could be devastating.

"If they think that this is the response they might get - if they are thinking about asking for help, if they are thinking about leaving the relationship, and this is what they are seeing on their screens, it's going to stop them from reaching out," said Rachel Kain, a spokeswoman for domestic violence support charity Shine.

"We have still got a woman complaining about the abuse a man has given her and she's getting played out like this... in what is just a huge circus. And I think that is going to set the whole trust that women have in the legal system back," added anti-domestic violence advocate Mark Longley.

The trial has been something of a trigger for Longley. His 17-year-old daughter Emily was killed by her boyfriend 11 years ago. Elements of the Depp-Heard case are eerily similar to his daughter's murder trial. Just like how Depp texted a mate to say he would kill Heard.

"It's not funny. There's no circumstance ever where you say 'I'm going to set fire to my girlfriend and defile her corpse'. That's just not a joke," Longley said.

Depp said he was referring to a Monty Python scene where villagers call for a witch to be burned. But Depp's text reminded Longley of a text Emily's killer sent to a mate.

"He actually discussed how he was going to burn her or drown her, maybe get her so drunk she would drown on her own vomit, we heard this in court and the prosecution asked 'why didn't you do anything' and the response was 'I thought he was joking'," Longley said.

Violence against women is not a joke. But this case - full of accusations of domestic violence - is an easy headline. And audiences can't seem to get enough of it.

In the US alone, news articles about the trial have generated more social media interactions than those on Ukraine, inflation, abortion law and Elon Musk.

Longley himself has even written and edited articles about the trial as managing editor of Newshub Digital, and doesn't think the media has handled the trial well.

"I have always thought it's been poorly handled because we have somehow tried to excuse the violent behaviour, the narrative that somehow Amber Heard brought this on herself has been present throughout all of these stories."

It's helped Depp secure the public's popular vote - the social media hashtag 'Johnny Depp Is Innocent' has already received more than 1.4 billion views.

Longley is worried about the impact it will have on the Me Too movement.

"I think this is almost the male establishment's revenge on Me Too. The fact we are defending this man for some clearly abusive behaviour."

Domestic abuse treatment centre Shine agrees and has some simple advice.

"Believing women who disclose violence is one of the most important things we can do. It's not up to us to be the judge and jury but it's important we can support people to find help," Kain said.

The jury will now deliberate the fate of Depp and Heard. But the public, it seems, has already decided their winner.

Where to find help and support: