I’ve never been fond of Woody Allen movies. My distaste for his work never derived from his actual craft (although I’ve only seen a few of his films, I assume people enjoy his depiction of the human condition which, in my humble opinion, is detailed far better by other directors) but by the sexual abuse allegations that have overshadowed any redeemable talents the man embodies. I was only a girl when the accusations made national headlines but I remember how distraught my mother was. I was too young to understand why she was upset, but decades later after a shocking admission the remaining pieces of a puzzle long unfinished painted a picture all too familiar for survivors of sexual abuse.
The New York Times released an open letter yesterday penned by Dylan Farrow in which she describes the horrific sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her adoptive father Woody Allen. In haunting detail, Farrow paints a picture of a little girl whose life was torn asunder by a man whose wealth and influence shielded him from the consequences of his actions. She was a mere child, completely traumatized by a man who betrayed her trust in the worst possible way and she was expected to face him in a court of law. Her mother ultimately decided that she needed to protect Dylan and refused to proceed with criminal charges (even though the state found sufficient evidence to proceed) because she couldn’t fathom dragging her emotionally fragile daughter through a highly publicized trial.
This decision in no way exonerated Woody Allen of any wrongdoing. This decision has been made millions of times throughout the course of human history and abusers like Allen depend on good parents to make it. Abusers depend on our desire to protect our children and shield them from the abysmal shithole that is the court of public opinion.
Dylan Farrow was assaulted by Woody Allen and now, as a survivor, she will undoubtedly be abused again by the court of public opinion. Sexual abuse is the only crime in which the victim needs to prove that an actual crime took place. We don’t ask mugging victims to prove that they were carrying a wallet. We don’t ask for alibies when someone reports that their home or car was broken into. But we have no problem dragging children in front of a jury of strangers and expecting them to recount the most horrific experience a person can endure and in front of the very person who did it.
We want to judge Dylan Farrow for the decisions her mother made. We want to judge Dylan Farrow for the amount of time she waited before breaking her silence. We want to judge Dylan Farrow because Woody Allen belongs to a club we commonfolk like to admire every once in a while.
My mother was 53 when she broke her silence. She was a child, like Dylan Farrow, who suffered abuse at the hands of someone she trusted. But unlike Dylan Farrow, my mother came from a poor, uninfluential family. Her experience was sadly unspectacular in its commonness and her reasons for keeping silent were even moreso. In a poor family, where my grandmother was the sole provider for six people, my mother knew her allegations against a family friend who occasionally brought over food or gifts would cause great pain. So she remained silent her entire life.
I believe Dylan Farrow because every survivor has a similar story. Her story resonates with truth because so many of us have witnessed and experienced her struggle and while we couldn’t protect her from the abuse she suffered, we can offer our support now. We have an obligation to offer our support now.
I won’t support any actor, writer, producer or director who continues to work with Woody Allen. I won’t watch any award shows where he or his work is honored. I will publicly speak against any production company that grants him a medium for his films. As a society, we need to ostracize these monsters – no matter their talents – and focus on rallying around the survivors of their abuse.
I believe Dylan Farrow and I wish her a long life of love, happiness and healing.