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Juror in Amber Heard case said she wasn't 'believable.' What experts in domestic and sexual violence say about believability

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A male juror in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard spoke with “Good Morning America” Thursday about why the jury ruled that Heard defamed Depp, telling "Good Morning America" that jurors did not find all photo evidence of Heard's alleged physical injuries to be authentic, that they were struck by Heard's failure to complete her pledge to donate all $7 million from her divorce settlement to two charities, and that they didn't think she behaved in the relationship in ways that suggest she was being abused. The juror also noted the jury made their ruling, in part, because they did not find Heard's demeanor "believable."

"It seemed like she was able to flip the switch on her emotions. She would answer one question and she would be crying and two seconds later she would turn ice cold. It didn’t seem natural," the juror said.

Analysis: Amber Heard says she's a victim. Why did the public make her a villain?

Experts in trauma, domestic violence and sexual assault say victims often behave in ways that challenge people's ideas about believability. Most people carry inaccurate stereotypical assumptions about victims based on what they've seen in media or heard from others in their lives. Most survivors don’t come forward because they are afraid of how they will be perceived.

"These judgments of how 'real victims' react or respond to abuse and trauma are often very limited – a victim could be easily discounted for being too emotional or not emotional enough, too calm or too upset. What we need to remember is that the process of talking about their experiences of trauma, especially for victims testifying in court, is often very re-traumatizing," said Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

"There is no one right way to react or respond when having to retell your experiences of abuse, and the pressure victims face knowing they are being judged, blamed, or not believed only makes the process more difficult," she added.

Analysis: Legal experts break down Johnny Depp, Amber Heard verdict

Nicole Bedera, a sociologist who studies sexual victimization and perpetration, said the juror's comments reflect expectations of how victims should behave.

"Victims are people. They experience a full array of emotions. And yes, that does include neutrality. In fact, neutrality is especially common after big, tiring expressions of emotion. Numbness is protective when our feelings become overwhelming," she said.

Amber Heard testifies during the defamation trial.
Amber Heard testifies during the defamation trial.

Intimate partner violence – which can be physical, sexual, emotional, or economic – is a public health problem that affects millions of people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced some form of intimate partner violence. Nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Only about half of all domestic violence incidents are reported to law enforcement, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Approximately a third of rapes are reported. Experts say fear of being disbelieved is a central reason why survivors of sexual and domestic violence don't disclose it. Experts say that disbelief is baked into systems, with survivors of color even less likely to be seen as credible.

Analysis: Cyntoia Brown, R. Kelly and the refusal to recognize female victims of color

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A study published in the journal "Criminal Justice" on police perceptions of rape complainants concluded that "police suspiciousness regarding rape allegations originates within a social environment characterized by a history of distrust towards women."

Gabby Petito: Experts say we're having the wrong conversation

The juror in the Depp v. Heard trial said he ultimately concluded that Depp and Heard "were both abusive to each other."

"It's striking to me that the jurors believed Amber Heard was abused, but they also did not believe she had the right to publicly identify as an abuse victim," Bedera said. "It's contradictory, but it exposes a lot about the way we think about violence against women in our society. We do not assess cases based on whether or not a man was violent. We assess them based on whether or not we thought a woman deserved the violence she endured."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amber Heard juror says she wasn't believable. Trauma experts weigh in.