Christi Dembrowski, Johnny Depp’s sister, testified in court on Tuesday about being abused as a child by their mother, Betty Sue Palmer.

Depp, 58, is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post about surviving domestic violence, despite the fact that she never mentioned Depp by name in the piece. Dembrowski, 61, testified in the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia on Tuesday, recalling abuse she and her brother witnessed at home during their childhoods.

“We would run and hide,” she said, recalling her mother being abusive to their father, who, she said, did not react. Dembrowski continued, “She was going to hit us. She was prone to throwing things.” When asked if Depp ever hit back at his abusive mother, Dembrowski said, “He never went to that place.”

Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS

“”As a young child, none of what was going on in our home felt good,” she explained. And so, as I grew older, both Johnny and I decided that once we left, once we had our own home, we would never, ever do anything similar to our childhood. We were going to do things differently.”

Betty “softened” as she grew older, according to Dembrowski. She died in May 2016, at the age of 81, just days before Heard filed for divorce from Depp. Depp and Heard, who met while filming The Rum Diary in 2011, ended their relationship in May 2016, when she filed for a domestic violence restraining order against him, accusing him of abusing her. Depp denied the allegations, and the former couple reached an out-of-court settlement in August 2016.

Heard’s attorney, Ben Rottenborn, said during opening statements before Dembrowski’s testimony that evidence will show she suffered domestic abuse by Depp that “took many forms,” including physical, emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse, as well as “sexual violence at the hands of Depp.” According to a spokesperson for Depp, the allegation is “fictitious.”

Johnny Depp, Betty Sue Palmer

The $50 million lawsuit was originally filed by Depp in March 2019, but it was postponed due to the pandemic.

Depp lost his highly publicized U.K. libel lawsuit case against British tabloid The Sun in November 2020 for calling him a “wife-beater.” The court found the outlet’s claims to be “substantially true,” and Heard testified to support them. His attempt to overturn the decision was rejected in March 2021.

On Saturday, Heard posted on Instagram that she will be avoiding social media until after the trial, thanking her followers for their support.

She stated, in part, “Hopefully, when this case is over, I and Johnny will be able to move on. I’ve always loved Johnny, and it pains me to have to relive the details of our past together in front of the world. At this point, I recognize the ongoing support I’ve been fortunate to receive over the years, and I will rely on it more than ever in the coming weeks.”