Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial shines a spotlight on spousal abuse

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard at the European premiere of their film "The Rum Diary" in London in 2011.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard at the European premiere of their film "The Rum Diary" in London in 2011.
John Phillips/UK Press via Getty Images

In response to the highly publicised Johnny Depp and Amber Heard ongoing trial, a light has been shed on Spousal Abuse, or Domestic Abuse.


Unfortunately, for high profile matters such as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, the luxury of privacy is virtually non-existent. 

Over and above that, they will have two outcomes of this trial, the final ruling passed by the Court of Fairfax Virginia, as well as the Court of Public Opinion. 

For everyday folk, the fear is not that your private life will be plastered all over social media but rather the fear of being judged by the people around you, more so, that people will doubt your accusations and dismiss the whole matter – leaving you in a possibly worse off position.


Must read: Key moments in the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial 

The question is: are you willing you stand in your truth? 

What is Spousal Abuse? 

Spousal or domestic abuse can take place in many forms, such as: 

Emotional Abuse: Name-calling, insulting, blaming, intimidating, humiliation and isolation, for example. 

Sexual Abuse: Forcing sex, ignoring your partner's feelings regarding sex. 

Technological abuse: Hacking your partner’s email and personal accounts, using tracking devices, monitoring interactions on social media, or demanding partner’s passwords.

Financial abuse: Harassing partners at work, preventing them from going to work, controlling financial assets and damaging partner’s credit score. 

Physical abuse: Grabbing, pushing, pinching, shoving, hitting and otherwise causing physical harm.

Other acts of spousal abuse: 

  • Embarrassing or making fun of you in front of friends or family 
  • Making you feel like you are unable to make decisions 
  • Using intimidation or threats to gain compliance 
  • Blaming you for how they feel or act
  • Preventing you from doing things you want to do

These acts can impact your feeling of self-worth and have you question yourself to such an extent that you start believing all the negative things that are said to you and about you. 

The fear of triggering yet another outburst can be scary and downright crippling. One of your immediate responses would be to comply or run away, depending on the situation at hand. 

If there are children involved, the situation becomes so much worse because it is not only your safety that you fear but that of your children. This is a very serious matter and needs to be reported and stopped as soon as possible. 

There are several instances where abuse is hidden away and 'masked' or even denied by both men and women alike. 

If anything, the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial has brought to light that there is no bias when it comes to abuse. 

There is no selection process: it can happen to anyone, and if it’s you – there is help available.

Also see: What are the grounds for divorce in South Africa? 


Where can I find an organisation that offers assistance to victims of violence? 

If you find yourself in this situation, reach out to family and close friends, if that doesn’t help reach out to your nearest police station or find help here

South African Police Service

In a case of domestic violence or sexual assault, the South African Police Service will help you find:

  • medical attention;
  • shelter
  • victim counselling.

SAPS emergency number: 10111

People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa)

Powa provides counselling, both over the phone and in person, temporary shelter for and legal help to women who have experienced violence.

Childline South Africa

This non-profit organisation helps abused children and their families with a free counselling service. It deals with issues such as physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, behavioural problems and trafficking, and gives legal advice.

Child Welfare South Africa

Child Welfare South Africa focuses on child protection, child care and family development. Neglect and child abuse can also be reported.

Families South Africa (Famsa)

Famsa provides counselling and education to help improve marriages and families. It helps in cases of domestic violence and trauma, divorces and mediation. There are 27 offices across the country.

Tears Foundation

TEARS Foundation provides access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling, and prevention education services for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

The Trauma Centre

The Trauma Centre provides trauma counselling and violence prevention services for people affected by violence

Thuthuzela Care Centres

Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) are one-stop facilities that have been introduced as a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation and to build a case ready for successful prosecution. The website also provides access to information on gender-based violence.


SAPS Emergency


Gender-Based Violence Command Centre

0800 428 428

STOP Gender Violence Helpline

0800 150 150 / *120*7867#

Halt Elder Abuse Line (Heal) – helpline for elderly people

Helpline: 0800 003 081 / E-mail: sends e-mail)

Human Trafficking helpline

08000 737 283 (08000 rescue) / 082 455 3664

If you have witnessed or suspect any sort of spousal or domestic abuse, please report it immediately. 


Rushka Lee Pedro is a South African life coach and family law mediator currently based in Cape Town.


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