Depp Trial: Amber Heard’s First Day of Testimony Told of Her Texas Childhood—and Shocking Abuse from Depp

Heard testified that Depp performed a ”body-cavity search”—and bought her a horse

Amber Heard finally took the stand in Fairfax County, Virginia, Wednesday on this, the third day of the fourth week of the $50 million defamation trial that her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, brought against her in response to a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described herself as a survivor of domestic abuse.

The actress, dressed in a black blazer and blue pinstripe shirt, was conversational and self-effacing on the stand, though at times she became teary and emotional when recounting memories of what she says is the physical and psychological abuse she suffered during her relationship with Depp. She outlined a detailed account of the genesis of the relationship and later, of the abuse, from the first incident to its escalation.

When questioned about her background and upbringing, Heard painted a picture of a young striver who worked every angle she could to escape the hardscrabble Texas town she was born in, who eventually turned into a hardworking hustler who found success in acting through sheer grit.

Heard’s description of her father was cinematic; he was a man who “broke horses, worked construction, painted houses, hunted and fished.” Heard enlisted young Amber to help him break in wild horses who hadn’t been ridden before.

“I was his crash-test dummy,” she said. “It was my job to stay on.”

Heard attended Catholic school on scholarship and kept busy with volunteering—”it was important not to be at home,” she said—and got her GED at 16. She worked odd jobs until a bit part in a film made in Texas led to an opportunity to meet with an agent in Los Angeles. She was 17. From there, she auditioned over and over for small parts which slowly got bigger.

“I went to every audition, every casting, every meeting,” she said. “I didn’t have a car so I just took the bus around L.A.” She would go to up to ten auditions a day, she said. “I was working my butt off.”

She met Johnny Depp after she was cast in the Rum Diaries, which filmed in 2009. However, both parties were in relationships, and they didn’t start dating until the press tour for the film.

“Then we fell in love,” she said. “I felt like this man knew me and saw me like no one else had—he made me feel like a million dollars,” she continued, choking up.

Back in Los Angeles, they began a “whirlwind romance.” Heard described the beginning of their relationship—and later, the good parts of it—in the brightest terms. It was “beautiful,” “very intense,” and “felt like a dream,” she said. Moving between Heard’s apartment and Depp’s myriad houses in L.A., the couple existed in an impenetrable “bubble.”

She even took his boots off at the end of the day, a point the counsel questioned her on. “I suppose I took off his boots for him and it made an impression on him,” she said. “Anything I can do to show love.”

Depp “showered” her with gifts, Heard said—compliments, antique books, fine wine, trips, not to mention a rather peculiar gift that she didn’t even want.

“Johnny insisted on buying me a horse,” Heard said. “I said ‘No, that’s extravagant.'” However, Depp went behind her back and enlisted the help of Heard’s father to choose a horse and bought it anyway. “All of a sudden,” Heard testified, “I had a colt.”

However, then he began to disappear—a pattern that would continue throughout their relationship. “He’d just disappear and there would be no way to contact him, no way to get ahold of him,” Heard said. When Depp started drinking again, Heard “didn’t think much of it.” However, snide bickering started—Depp began to criticize what Heard wore when she left the house and discouraged her from auditioning for roles.

“He would make comments about whoring myself out,” Heard testified. There would be fights—”He loves to smash up a place.”

Depending on the altercation, Heard said, Depp might “turn over a table, throw a glass, hit the wall, then hit the wall really close to my head.” She called it a “pattern of escalation.”

Heard also claimed that Depp slapped her, and that the first time he did it was over a misunderstanding regarding the “Wino Forever” tattoo he got in the 1990s, which originally read “Winona Forever,” for another ex, Winona Ryder. Unable to decipher the decades-old glyphs on the actor’s flesh, Heard asked him about it. When Depp replied that it read “Wino,” Heard laughed, thinking he meant it as a joke. Depp, who had been drinking, Heard says, slapped her across the face in response—three times in total.

Depp apologized by getting down on his knees in front of her. “Before I know it, he starts crying,” Heard said. “He grabs my hands and he says, ‘I’m so sorry, baby, I will never do it again.'”

From there, the abuse cascaded, according to Heard. Fights often ended in Depp hitting her, she said. She described one of his abuse techniques as “repetitive slaps—he would hold me in position and slap me over and over.”

Heard also testified that she noticed Depp’s drug and alcohol use correlated with the cycles of violence within their relationship.

On one occasion, Depp became paranoid that Heard was hiding his drugs from him—possibly on her person—and performed what she said he called a “body cavity search” on her. “He just shoved his fingers inside me,” Heard said, in tears. “I just stood there… he twisted his fingers around… I didn’t say ‘stop.'”

Heard testified that she loved Depp and didn’t want to leave in hopes that the relationship could be saved.

“When it was good, it was so good. But he was also this other thing. And this other thing was awful,” she said. “I wanted him to get better.”

Depp told Heard he had a name for what was wrong with him in those moments of abuse—he called it “the monster,” a side of his personality that he thought he’d killed off.

A trial spectator—and there are millions, given the fact that the trial is being broadcast live—might draw a corollary between the wild horses a young Heard helped her father break and her persistence in staying in an abusive relationship with Depp, a well-known Hollywood bad boy known for his unrestrained behavior.

“You just have to stay on,” Heard told the court. She was speaking, of course, about the horses.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.