The divorce proceedings between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp became the stuff of tabloid dreams: public arguing, a restraining order, and most shocking of all, alleged violence inflicted by Depp. While Heard declined to press charges, the ordeal is likely one with which both parties are glad to be done. And since their settlement was finalized this week, Heard announced a generous gesture that helps put a positive bookend on this dark period in her life.
After the settlement was made final on Tuesday, early reports said Heard would receive $7 million from Depp. The actress confirmed that amount in her own personal statement on Friday, and in the course of the brief statement, she also announced that she’d be donating the entirety of her funds to two charities with special meaning to her: the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, to which she's donated and volunteered for before, and the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, to help women and children who are the victims of domestic violence.
"As described in the restraining order and divorce settlement, money played no role for me personally and never has, except to the extent that I could donate it to charity and, in doing so, hopefully help those less able to defend themselves,” Heard shared in her statement. She also said that the $7 million sum would be equally divided between the two charities, to equally aid in their efforts.
So what good can her donations accomplish? In short: a lot.
I spoke with Sandra Park, a senior attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, via phone on Friday, who said the organization were “obviously thrilled” that Heard chose them for the generous donation. She said that the exact plans for how the funds will be used still requires more planning and that they hope to be strategic about it.
Park explained that the Women’s Rights Project has two primary focuses—both involving discrimination against victims—and that Heard's money would likely go toward political reform.
“For many years, we've worked on addressing discrimination experienced by survivors of domestic violence. The two areas we’re working on are response by police and ensuring survivors don't experience gender or racial bias, and housing discrimination. It’s the biggest need identified by domestic violence survivors when surveyed about what they most need.”
The reasons behind the housing issue are troubling: “Across the country, it’s not uncommon for landlords to evict domestic violences victims when the abuse occurs at the home,” Park said. A majority of cases do occur at home, the ACLU has found, and many leases say that if any criminal activity occurs at home, the entire household can be evicted. This is often used against domestic violence victims to boot them from their housing, even when they themselves committed no crime.
On top of the lease provision, there’s also the problem of a so-called “nuisance ordinance.” These exist in many cities across the country, and mean that if a tenant calls 911 more than a certain amount of times, a landlord will be fined. This often compels landlords to evict tenants, which deeply impacts domestic violence survivors who are often forced to call police during disputes. “We’re trying to convince many cities to repeal these ordinances altogether,” Park said. “We think everybody should have the right to call the police for emergency assistance.”
Toward these initiatives, a few million dollars can make a big difference.
The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles also told me how appreciative they are of Heard’s donation and how far it will go toward doing continuing their work, which relies on donations. “From our perspective, she [Heard] serves as a wonderful example and role model for transforming a difficult personal situation into something that has the ability to improve the experiences hospitalized children have at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,” DeAnn S. Marshall, the hospital's senior vice president and chief development and marketing officer, told me via email.
Marshall said her organization is also still determining how to allocate Heard’s donation, but she assured “that each donation helps the hospital ensure that all of our patients receive the critical, lifesaving care they need. All gifts to Children’s Hospital support a myriad of programs that we provide, including child life, art and music therapy, along with funding lifesaving research protocols and enhancements in clinical care.”
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence's 2014 census, on just one day in the United States and its territories, 67,646 adults and children benefited from domestic violence services and programs. But, the group writes on its website, 10,871 requests for services could not be fulfilled because of lack of resources.
Heard's marriage may not have had a happy ending, but thanks to her donations, other families may be able to have a more hopeful future.
Marisa Kabas is a Sex + Life reporter based in New York City. She loves baseball, bunnies and bagels.