WARNING: This developing story addresses triggering topics with graphic details.
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Amber Heard said she knew she should leave Johnny Depp the first time he hit her, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
"I knew I couldn’t just forgive him, right, because that means it will happen again. Like, I’ve seen the health class videos," Heard told jurors through tears as she took the stand in Depp’s libel lawsuit against her. "I was heartbroken."
Ultimately, though, she couldn’t bring herself to break up. She walked away after being slapped, but a few days later Depp came back with an apology, a few cases of her favorite wine, and a promise he’d never do it again, Heard testified.
"I wanted to believe him, so I chose to," she said.
Are you or someone you know a recent survivor of domestic violence? Help is available. Los Angeles County has a hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-978-3600. A national hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233.
Depp, 58, is suing Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court after she wrote a December 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it clearly referred to accusations she made in 2016 during their divorce proceedings.
Heard took the stand for the first time Wednesday afternoon in the now four-week trial. She described to jurors how they met filming a movie and fell in love.
Actor Amber Heard reacts as she testifies at Fairfax County Circuit Court during a defamation case against her by ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp, in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 4, 2022. - US actor Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for libel in Fa
Despite their 22-year age difference, Heard said there was an instant connection when Depp met with her as he considered her for a role in his film "The Rum Diary."
"I was a no-name actor. I was 22. He was twice my age. He’s this world famous actor and here we are getting along about obscure books, old blues" music, said Heard, now 36.
While they had chemistry during filming of the movie, she said they didn’t begin dating until doing a press tour for the film’s release in 2011. At the outset, they kept their relationship a secret.
"We weren’t doing normal life stuff. ... We were in this bubble of secrecy, and it felt like a warm glow," she said.
She said the first act of physical violence came as she was looking at one of his tattoos and couldn’t read it. She laughed when Depp told her it said "Wino" — an alteration to a tattoo he had made when he’d been dating actor Winona Ryder.
Heard said she laughed after he slapped her, thinking it must be a joke. He then slapped her two more times, the third time knocking her off balance, Heard said.
Depp, who has already taken the stand and testified for four days, told jurors a different version of the story.
"It didn’t happen," he said of the alleged assault. "Why would I take such great offense to someone making fun of a tattoo on my body? That allegation never made any sense to me."
Heard’s testimony came after a psychologist hired by her lawyers testified that Heard suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from multiple acts of abuse, including sexual violence, inflicted on her by Depp.
Depp testified he never struck Heard and that he was the abuse victim. He said he was punched and struck by her on many occasions, and that she threw things at him. He described Heard as having a "need for conflict."
Psychologist Dawn Hughes, in her testimony Tuesday, acknowledged that Heard at times perpetrated physical violence against Depp, but said it paled in comparison to violence she suffered, which left her intimidated and fearful for her safety.
During cross-examination Wednesday, Hughes acknowledged that she wasn’t making factual determinations that Depp assaulted Heard on specific occasions. But she testified that Heard’s account of her experiences are consistent with accounts of those experiencing domestic violence.
Hughes said the sexual assaults included Heard being forced by Depp to perform oral sex. On cross-examination, though, Depp’s lawyers noted that, during psychological testing performed as part of Hughes’ evaluation, Heard denied being forced to perform oral sex.
Hughes said Heard initially was framing the encounters as consensual but "angry sex."
"She wasn’t framing them as physical force," Hughes said.
The trial continues to capture public attention. More than 100 people were lined up Wednesday before 7 a.m. — three hours before proceedings began — outside the courthouse for the 100 seats made available in the courtroom. Most were Depp supporters and fans.