News | Press Release

6 June 2022

Refuge responds to the verdict in Depp v Heard trial

We are deeply concerned that Wednesday’s verdict will increase the fear survivors already feel.

Responding to the verdict in Depp v Heard, Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said:  

As the largest specialist provider of support to women and children experiencing domestic abuse, Refuge is extremely concerned by the Depp-Heard trial. The verdict sends a chilling message to many survivors of domestic abuse that their experiences are invalid and open to public scrutiny. Refuge stands in solidarity with all survivors of domestic abuse and believes that all survivors must be believed and supported.  

Sadly, this trial shown us that this isn’t always the case. We know that many survivors are already afraid to report the crimes committed against them. Survivors face a culture of disbelief and their confidence in the justice system is extremely low. In fact, only one in five of the women that Refuge supports report the abuse they experience to the police. Horrifyingly, even when they do report, many survivors feel they are the one under investigation, and that their access to justice is limited.  

Domestic abuse is the most prevalent form of violence against women and girls, relating to around one in five homicides in England and Wales. Each week, two women lose their lives to a former or current partner, and one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic abuse is fundamentally rooted in power and control and in gender inequality. This appalling crime is currently at epidemic levels and yet so often survivors are silenced and denied justice.  Anything that discourages women from speaking out must be challenged. 

We are deeply concerned that Wednesday’s verdict will increase the fear survivors already feel. We worry that survivors will stop collecting evidence and be hesitant to report their abuse to the police. Additionally, we are deeply concerned about how the coverage of the trial, including the disclosures of serious abuse and trauma, were used for global entertainment purposes. Over last few weeks, many survivors have spoken to our team about how the unavoidable coverage retraumatised and humiliated them. The impact of a women losing a defamation claim in this way is enormous and we worry it will discourage survivors from speaking out about their experiences in fear of defamation claims. 

We know that every time a survivor speaks out, she empowers other women to seek help and could save lives. The rise of strategic litigation to silence women is a major concern for Refuge. 

To every woman who now thinks that collecting evidence is fruitless – don’t. Do not stop gathering what you need, recording your experiences, or seeking help. It could save your life and/or help others.  

To every survivor who has been impacted by this trial, and is afraid that no one will believe them, know that we do. Refuge will believe and support you. Refuge is here for you, and help is available. Our National Domestic Abuse Helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us 0808 2000 247 or visit


About Refuge
Refuge supports thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit the National Domestic Abuse Helpline to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit our dedicated tech abuse website.