Unless you live under a rock you may have noticed something about Dylan Farrow, adopted daughter of Woody Allen, and her open letter detailing the ‘alleged’ abuse she endured by her father when she was a child.
I’m not writing this to say anything about Woody Allen and whilst I have cause to believe the letter,I’m writing this as I’m alarmed at the response by people around the world. Articles and comments that are coming out in defense of Woody Allen and attacking Dylan and Mia Farrow are doing a massive disservice to victims of abuse and their families. And this needs to stop.
Daily Beast released an article by super fan Bob Weide defending Woody Allen saying we must look at facts and basically calling Dylan and Mia Farrow liars and that these allegations were the agenda of a woman scorned. Majority of the article didn’t focus on Dylan’s letter at all but focused on Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow’s daughter Soon Yi Previn as the support argument that this is all part of Mia Farrow’s vendetta against Allen, and that she would exact her revenge by brainwashing her child into believing Allen abused her.
Weide speaks of facts, endless lists of of ‘facts’ and even Simon Pegg, someone I’m a huge fan of chimed in on the importance of ‘facts’ in this case, but most of these facts have nothing to do with the actual allegations made, facts that would help this case would be ‘Fact: Woody Allen has never been left alone with his daughter’ instead of mindless drivel about Frank Sinatra being the father of Mia Farrow’s other child…..because that definitely means Allen didn’t do it!
The notion that someone would make this up is deeply disturbing but what’s more disturbing is people’s urgency to believe someone would be so damaged and manipulated to do such a thing and carry it into adulthood over the likely possibility that she was in fact abused by her father.
It takes a tremendous amount of courage to admit something happened to you let alone try and stand up to your abuser. Having known a few people in my life who have been victims of abuse, I’ve seen the damaging effects it can have. I’ve seen the self doubt, the self loathing, the confusion, the fear and the shame. And it’s the shame and stigma felt by victims and members of the victims family that make it incredibly hard for me to believe someone would put themselves in the position to be branded as an abuse victim for their entire life for the sake of smearing a good man’s name for your unstable Mother. People are not being dramatic, the damage of abuse never leaves you and Dylan Farrow is demonstrating this by her letter. While the letter could have been less of an attack and more on highlighting the thoughts of abuse and power, Farrow does speak of those who suffer in silence, and that’s what I’m taking from this.
The crux of what has led me the write this blog is that the articles and comments have ultimately led me to feel that maybe we’re not educating people enough about abuse, that maybe people don’t realise how common it is, what the signs are and how damaging it can be or how many people get away with it day in day out. Like any cases of abuse, it can be incredibly difficult to convict someone without hard evidence. Abuse cases are not like robberies where they can dust for prints and hope the evidence leads somewhere, its most likely that Dylan Farrow wouldn’t have been able to place dates and times when she told her mother about it and these factors were used to challenge the credibility in the case. As the strongest evidence is displayed physically, which in some cases the abuse isn’t displayed physically (there have been comments that sitting with a child naked isn’t abuse - it is.) If a child does not tell someone of the abuse until a significant time has past, it can be very hard to prove, just because the body can physically heal doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and to trivialise this by saying it’s all ‘he says, she says’ only emphasises that people are naive and afraid to accept the horrors that happen every day. We are not doing enough.
Here are some actual facts and stats from the NSPCC
While 1 in 20 doesn’t seem like much that means during my time secondary school one person in every class has been abused so thats 10 people a year per year group, which then means that at one point in my life I was in a building with 70 victims of sexual abuse. To know that some of these children never told anyone about their abuse is extremely sad but we live in a society where we make it difficult for people to feel like they can.
The way people talk about Mia Farrow also makes me very sad. If this situation is as Dylan says, the pain parents of victims of abuse feel is unlike another and Mia Farrow is constantly being reminded of this feeling when Diane Keaton sings off key in a suit, not to mention when so called journalists brand her as some swamp dwelling harpy out to ruin their best mate. Parents feel they failed, they didn’t protect their child and that ultimately it is their fault. Everyone is quick to judge Mia Farrow which is fine as no one really knows what went on there, but no one is thinking how this sounds to actual people who have been through this, that are going through this and may have to go through this in the future.We have to ask ourselves why are we focussing whether someone had an affair or how common false reports are when we should be focussing on why is the one crime that never relents? Why can’t we find better ways to stop it? Why do we feel people cry rape or abuse? What do they really have to gain? Is it really that common? Statistics state it isn’t, less than 10% of abuse claims are false and have long term damaging effects on the children involved who rarely stick to claims into adulthood or to put it another way, its 90% more likely the allegations against Allen are true.
I’m not saying you’re not entitled to have your opinions as in this case that’s all we have, as none of us, celebrities and the general public have actual facts but what I think we need to be doing is trying to understand more about this crime that seems to plague our society. In the UK, we are definitely more accepting of our revered stars being uncovered as pedophiles due to a damning documentary on ‘Sir’ Jimmy Saville and the years of abuse he inflicted on young people; a documentary that would’ve been released sooner but similar to the supportive response to Woody Allen, people in power wouldn’t believe it was true and thought it was somewhat awkward and inappropriate to release to the public. But it doesn’t stop this crime from happening, this crime that doesn’t discriminate, people are still abusing their power and in some cases fame, to hurt the innocent and the vulnerable. We have to be able to have conversations about this that doesn’t confirm people’s fears about coming forward to report abuse. Because chances are that victims feel like no one will believe them and that they are alone, and you wonder why.