Amber Heard Accuses Johnny Depp of 'Sexual Violence' at Defamation Trial, He Calls Claim 'Fictitious'

Amber Heard's lawyer said during opening statements that the actress will testify the "horrifying" details in court as Johnny Depp sues her for defamation

Amber Heard's lawyers have accused her ex-husband Johnny Depp of sexual assault as the actor sets out to prove defamation charges against her.

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post about surviving domestic violence, though she never mentioned Depp by name in the article. On Tuesday, opening statements began for the libel trial, which is expected to last about six weeks, inside the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia, with both Heard and Depp present.

During the proceedings, which are being broadcast live by Court TV, Heard's attorney Ben Rottenborn said evidence will show that she suffered domestic abuse by Depp that "took many forms," including physical, emotional, verbal and psychological.

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When discussing the headline used for the online version of Heard's op-ed, the attorney explained that she did not write that headline herself or get to approve it. It read: "Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change." However, the attorney claimed Heard has indeed been the victim of sexual violence by Depp.

About the headline, "tragically, it's true," Rottenborn told the courtroom. "Amber did suffer sexual violence at the hands of Depp. ... You will hear in the most graphic and horrifying terms about the violence that she suffered. You'll hear that straight from her. She will get on the stand and she will tell you that. It happened."

Amber Heard (L); Johnny Depp. Venturelli/Getty; John Phillips/Getty

Shortly after, Rottenborn listed a time when Depp allegedly had a three-day, alcohol-fueled blackout while in Australia in 2015 toward the end of their marriage, when Depp "abused and sexually assaulted Amber, all because she had the courage to confront him about his drinking."

"Imagine that: A concerned spouse confronts her husband about his drinking and gets 'rewarded' with that," said Rottenborn.

Pre-Oscar parties
Amber Heard. Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

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About this new allegation, a spokesperson for Depp tells PEOPLE, "These fictitious claims were never made at the onset of Amber's allegations in 2016, and only advantageously surfaced years later once she was sued for defamation after noting in her op-ed that she was a victim of 'sexual violence.' "

"Words are key in a defamation case and conveniently, this allegation only came after that," they add. "This follows a pattern of her elaborate, erroneous claims which have continued to change and evolve over time for the purpose of Hollywood shock value of which Amber has mastered and used to exploit a serious social movement."

Depp's legal team went first in opening statements, claiming that Heard manufactured the "false allegations" to boost her career in light of the #MeToo movement at the time. His lawyer Camille Vasquez argued that Heard added sexual assault to a list of allegations because she "panicked" when she realized the "seriousness of what she'd alleged" and couldn't back down from her notoriety as a survivor. Vasquez added that Heard's lawyers would be sharing "explosive" stories "designed" to "distract" from "common sense."

Depp and Heard, who met making the 2011 movie The Rum Diary, broke up in May 2016, when she sought a domestic violence restraining order against him, accusing him of abusing her. Depp denied the claims, and the former couple settled their divorce out of court in August 2016.

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp. SC Pool - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Depp originally filed the $50 million lawsuit in March 2019, but it was postponed due to the pandemic.

Back in November 2020, Depp lost his highly publicized U.K. libel lawsuit case against British tabloid The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater." The court upheld the outlet's claims as being "substantially true" and Heard testified to back up the claims. In March 2021, his attempt to overturn the decision was overruled.

On Saturday, Heard wrote on Instagram that she will be avoiding social media until after the trial, thanking her followers for their support.

She said, in part, "Hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny. I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world. At this time, I recognize the ongoing support I've been fortunate to receive throughout these years, and in these coming weeks I will be leaning on it more than ever."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to

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