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Amber Heard accuses Johnny Depp of physical abuse on her first day of testimony

US actress Amber Heard returns to the courtroom after a lunch break at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Frantz
/
AFP via Getty Images
US actress Amber Heard returns to the courtroom after a lunch break at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia on Wednesday.

Updated May 4, 2022 at 7:58 PM ET

Amber Heard took the witness stand in a Virginia courtroom on Wednesday to discuss her experiences and her relationship with Johnny Depp, her ex-husband, who is suing Heard in a $50 million defamation case.

"I struggle to find the words to describe how painful this is," Heard said when her attorney asked how she felt about the case. "This is horrible for me to sit here for weeks and relive everything."

Heard spoke on her own behalf after her legal team presented a clinical psychologist who said the actress was diagnosed with panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Over more than two hours Heard described years of alleged abuse at the hands of Depp. Depp has denied committing violence against Heard in his own lengthy testimony in the case at the Fairfax County Circuit Court.

In court, Heard described first meeting Depp when she was 22, saying there was a mutual electricity between them, despite both being in other long-term, committed relationships.

Years later, when they both had separated from their partners, they fell in love, according to Heard. She called those early days of the relationship a whirlwind romance.

"When I was around Johnny I felt like the most beautiful person ... made me feel like a million dollars," she said.

Actor Amber Heard testifies at Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Frantz / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Actor Amber Heard testifies at Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia on Wednesday.

But as her testimony continued, Heard, now 36, accused Depp of psychological and physical violence, often triggered by heavy drinking and drug use. The abuse, she said, began with demeaning name calling, accusations of infidelity, constant belittling, and violent fits that included smashing glass and punching walls. Often, he'd punch a wall near her face, she said.

Heard said the first time Depp hit her was when she had asked him about a muddled tattoo on his arm; he said it reads "Wino."

"I just laughed 'cause I thought he was joking. And he slapped me across the face," she told the jury. Not knowing how to respond, she recalled that she laughed again "because I didn't know what was going on."

He slapped her two more times, according to Heard.

"You would think you would have a response but I, as a woman, had never been hit like that. I'm an adult, and I'm sitting next to the man I love and he slapped me for no reason," she said.

Heard said Depp begged for forgiveness immediately following the incident and promised never to harm her again, and within days she did forgive him. That began an ongoing pattern cycle of abuse, she testified.

Heard's lawyers showed the jury a photograph in which her arm appears bruised. She said Depp "grabbed me by the arm and kind of just held me on the floor screaming at me. I don't know how many times he hit me in the face."

Heard claimed she learned to note difference in Depp's behavior depending on the drugs he was taking at the time.

"Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. Johnny on opiates is very different from Adderall and cocaine Johnny, which is very different from quaaludes Johnny."

Earlier in the day, psychologist Dawn Hughes testified that Heard endured emotional abuse and intimate partner violence during her time with Depp.

Depp is suing Heard over a 2018 op-ed published by The Washington Post in which Heard called for change in how the U.S. treats abuse survivors and urged support for the Violence Against Women Act.

Actor Johnny Depp and his attorney Ben Chew at Fairfax County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Frantz / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Actor Johnny Depp and his attorney Ben Chew at Fairfax County Circuit Court on Wednesday.

The essay didn't directly refer to Depp by name, but his 2019 court complaint states, "the op-ed plainly was about ... Ms. Heard's purported victimization after she publicly accused her former husband, Johnny Depp, of domestic abuse in 2016, when she appeared in court with an apparently battered face and obtained a temporary restraining order against Mr. Depp."

Depp sued Heard for three counts of defamation, seeking at least $50 million in compensatory damages and a punitive award of at least $350,000, along with attorney fees and court costs.

Heard, 36, has filed a countersuit against Depp, 58, seeking $100 million in damages and saying his legal team falsely accused her of fabricating claims against Depp.

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