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“Victims Worst Fears Reinforced”: Phoebe Burgess’ Sobering Warning About Depp v Heard Trial

Silence is not an option.

Phoebe Burgess has issued a sobering statement about victims of domestic and sexual violence after receiving a damaging DM on Instagram labelling her as “Australia’s very own Amber Heard”. 

Over the weekend, the journalist received a message from an Instagram user who wrote: “Get a new story you absolute loser. Your children will despise what you have done. Australia’s very own Amber Heard.” 

The unprovoked message moved Burgess to screenshot and share it on her own page, where she pointed out the problem with the current Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial, which has seen a sea of Depp supporters (along with mainstream media coverage largely focussing on his testimony) ridicule Heard’s claims that Depp was abusive during their relationship throughout the trial.

“My traditional response to these are not to legitimise them – but it occurred to me that this is the problem when any of us stay silent in not calling out ignorant, unacceptable behaviour,” Burgess began her caption. 

She continued to address the Depp and Heard lawsuit: “If any of you have been feeling uncomfortable about the way Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard has been portrayed and consumed: I hear you, sister.”

“This man took this legal action – demanding $100 million – after a UK judge found he was a ‘wife beater’. If his mission was to send a signal to all the abusers and misogynists out there that women won’t be believed, he’s succeeded,” she added. 

(Credit: Instagram / @mrsphoebeburgess)

Burgess then discussed the fact that the trial, which is yet to reach a verdict, is potentially reinforcing an extremely damaging rhetoric for victim-survivors of physical and sexual assault who decide to speak out. 

“Victims are having one of their worst fears reinforced … ‘nobody will believe me’. And when it comes to leaving, I fear women are thinking… ‘maybe he’ll do a Depp on me’,” she said. 

She concluded: “‘Bronson Spencer’ I hope by the time my children are safely to a point where they are old enough to despise anything in this world, they despise only how we used to treat the issue of abuse…” 

Burgess was married to former Sydney Rabbitoh’s player, Sam Burgess, and in 2020 she accused her ex-husband of domestic violence and alcohol abuse while they were together. The NRL player vehemently denied the allegations and was later cleared by police of any wrongdoing. The pair share two children together, Poppy and Billy. 

(Credit: Instagram / @mrsphoebeburgess)

Both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s teams have now delivered their closing statements at the trial, and a jury is now deliberating a verdict. Depp is suing Heard for US $50 million over a 2018 op-ed Heard allegedly wrote for the Washington Post. In it, she said she was “a public figure representing domestic abuse”. Heard is countersuing Deep for USD $100 million (AUD $134 million). 

Clips from the trial have been widely publicised, but beyond media coverage, the detrimental impact social media and unregulated Instagram and Facebook pages has revealed its ugly head as hundreds of pro-Depp pages and supporters flood the platforms with biased commentary. It’s important that all reporting on a trial is inherently unbiased—but Heard’s testimony has been ridiculed, meme-ified and mocked across these pages and by individuals. 

Burgess’ message for those who also claim to be survivors of sexual abuse is an important reminder that despite what has been reported, despite having a public profile, and despite what social media tells us, everyone deserves to be listened to and to be given a fair trial—staying silent is not the only option. 

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