There is no dress code for rape (Picture: JIM LO SCALZO / POOL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Let me get one thing very clear before I start: an outfit is not an invitation.

It’s not an invitation for attention. For abuse, discrimination or sexual harassment

The way someone looks is not an invitation for judgement. And that includes Amber Heard.

On 27 May, the jury in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard defamation trial, based in Virginia, finally retired to begin deliberations – and as proceedings draw to a close, I must admit that I’m exhausted. 

Exhausted of accusations of sexual violence being trivialised by news outlets, comedians, YouTube, and by people who think they’re experts online. 

It’s why I’ve tried to avoid it these past six weeks. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but what has frustrated me the most is seeing people – women, especially – belittle Amber Heard for the way she looks.

Regardless of who you think is right, it’s absolutely vile.

I’ve seen women with hashtags on their profile claiming that they’re feminists comment on Heard’s make-up and outfits during the trial. They’ve even commented on her hair. 

I’ve seen women calling her a clown in a costume because of how much make-up she has on – or playing the victim if she doesn’t – claiming that she’s fake and adopting a different character every day. 

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I’ve read comments from women on the designer gear she’s wearing, the frivolity of her accessories, not being professional enough – and how no ‘victim’ would be wearing French plaits one day and have her hair down the next; accompanied by lipstick and Gucci bees.

Women are claiming that it’s a ‘distracting’ facade that detracts from her story and that they can ‘see right through her’. It’s been relentless.

It doesn’t matter if the jury vote in her favour or his, this kind of analysis of a woman’s appearance is unacceptable – especially given the context. 

Tell me, what does a ‘victim’ of sexual violence look like? How is a survivor supposed to act? Are they supposed to be haggard? Unwashed and unloved in plain and simple clothing that supposedly doesn’t invite abuse?

People seem to forget that one in five women in the UK has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. There’s probably one next to you on the bus. In the queue for the tills. Your barista. Your friend.

They look like you, and they look like me.

I don’t know how this trial is going to end. And, quite frankly, I don’t care (Picture: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

So how can anyone think that the way Amber Heard dresses factors into her believability? Why should a woman’s outfit merit being commented upon?

Judging Amber Heard is only fuelling the fire of victim blaming. A fire that has been sparked by systemic sexism from the very authorities who are supposed to protect us, and our justice system blaming survivors of sexual assault for how they look.

It’s nauseatingly indicative of the police and defence lawyers asking survivors if they were wearing underwear, or ‘revealing’ outfits when they were raped. If they’d enjoyed rough sex previously, or had their legs out at any point. 

No one invites abuse or opens up the floor to get raped. Whether you’re in navy or neon pink, an abuser is an abuser and you have a right to be heard. 

Whether you’re in stilettos or sandals, an abuser is an abuser and you have a right to be heard. 

Whether you’re wearing mascara or going makeup-free, an abuser is an abuser and you have a right to be heard. 

There is no dress code for rape.

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So many people – men and women – prescribe to the ridiculous notion that survivors should take responsibility for their assaults. 

A 2019 study even found that the majority of men in the UK believe that the more revealing the clothes a woman wears, the more likely it is that she will be harassed or assaulted.

Sadly, two fifths of women think the same. Victim-blaming is so utterly entrenched in our society that we’re more likely to believe that a woman’s choice of outfit is at fault, not her abuser.

And women commenting on other women’s outfits is slut-shaming of the highest degree. 

If we decide that only women who present a certain way are believable, then we can wave goodbye to justice. 

Already, as of last year, only one in every 100 rape cases were reported to the police in the UK.

How can we expect survivors of sexual assault, abuse and violence to come forward now Amber Heard has been made a mockery of for the way she looked during her trial – by her own sex?

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I don’t know how this trial is going to end. And, quite frankly, I don’t care. All I know already is that women have lost. Again. But this time, we’ve lost at the hands of our own sex. 

Amber Heard’s attorney, Benjamin Rottenborn, summed up this dangerous rhetoric perfectly in his closing statement to the jury. 

‘Think about the message that Mr Depp and his attorneys are sending to Amber and by extension to every victim of domestic abuse everywhere,’ he said.

‘A ruling against Amber here sends a message that no matter what you do as an abuse victim, you always have to do more,’ he added.

‘That you need to be perfect in order for people to believe you.’

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