Disclaimer: I do not know Woody Allen. I do not know Mia Farrow. I do not know Dylan Farrow. I say this because some of the commentary on both sides of the current public discussion seems so definitive that it would require such first-hand knowledge. So to be clear, I do not have that.
That said, here are the current family statements that cut to the core of the debate ranging across all forms of social and online media.
- Dylan Farrow stated that Woody Allen sexually abused her as a child.
- Ronan Farrow supports her in this.
- Mia Farrow supports her in this.
- Woody Allen stated he did not sexually abuse Dylan Farrow.
- Moses Farrow supports him in this.
There are an enormous amount of other facts, suppositions and inferences to be gleaned from the original accusations and accounts, the more recent statements by the various family members and the endless series of articles analyzing them to arrive at conclusions of guilt or innocence. The facts, the original allegations, the various testimonies, the nanny, the siblings, the tweets – it can all be overwhelming to sift through and come to a personal conclusion. So, let’s simplify.
Dylan Farrow, as a grown woman, recently published her first-person assertion that she was sexually abused by Woody Allen in a blog for the New York Times.
Thus, for those who feel the need to decide and have a firm opinion of Woody Allen’s guilt or innocence in this family tragedy, there are three choices.
- Believe Dylan Farrow.
- Believe Woody Allen.
- Believe Dylan Farrow believes what she is saying, but that it is not actually true because Mia Farrow indoctrinated this version of events into her as an impressionable child.
Those who definitively believe Dylan Farrow are led by sexual abuse victims, victim’s advocates and those close to abuse victims. Those who believe Woody Allen are led by fans of his work and those who doubted the events when they occurred in the first place.
When this exploded surrounding the Golden Globes tribute to Allen with the tweets from Ronan and Mia Farrow, there was a great deal of public artistic soul-searching about the ability to separate the appreciation for the artist’s work from the artist and their actions. At the time, the argument was framed by some in the middle as a discussion of allegations and art that was challenged by abuse victim’s advocates who asserted that the lack of prosecution in the original case did nothing to diminish the veracity of the allegations. It was mostly a conversation about art and the guilt or responsibility associated with enjoying the art of an alleged pedophile.
Then Dylan Farrow’s account was published. Suddenly, those defending Woody Allen with the fact that he was not prosecuted were faced with having to call Dylan Farrow a liar in order to continue to maintain Woody Allen’s innocence. Except for a select few die-hard supporters, most Allen defenders shied away from saying outright that Dylan Farrow was intentionally lying.
This led to a growing number of Allen defenders arriving in the third category. They now say that Dylan Farrow isn’t lying, she believes what she is saying, but, and it’s a big but, she only believes it because Mia Farrow convinced her as a young girl that it had happened which burrowed itself into her as a permanent memory. She’s not lying, she just doesn’t know the truth. It’s not her fault; it’s Mia Farrow’s fault.
The result is that it allows Woody Allen defenders to sidestep Dylan Farrow completely to focus on attacking Mia Farrow as a Svengali Medea willing to warp, manipulate and sacrifice her children on the altar of her desire for vengeance against Woody Allen. It means Mia is on trial, rather than Dylan, through a complete dismissal of Dylan’s most recent assertion that the abuse definitively took place.
Understanding the facts and attempting to discern the motivations for various parts of the original allegations and the ensuing investigation is enormously complicated if one digs deeply into the details of the original scandal, the family relationships and the various accounts available. When family members are publicly calling each other liars and there are questions on both sides about the original course of events and the motivations behind the events now, it’s tragically messy to wade through.
Rather than positing on the specifics of conflicting accounts and details, there is something to be gained from the spectacle occurring by considering the implications of who we are inclined to believe. Is your instinct to believe Dylan? And why? I am not unbiased. I will readily acknowledge that my personal worldview and experience that victims often have a difficult time providing the evidence of abuse needed to lead to a criminal conviction, regularly face disbelief and added damage from the process and publicity and the difficulty they have coming forward in the first place leads me to always be inclined to believe the victim. I know that’s my bias and where it comes from.
Is your instinct to defend Woody Allen? And why? If the evidence convinces you that Allen is to be believed, how do you discount Dylan Farrow’s account? Is she simply lying? What about her, her account and her current life far removed from entertainment makes this easier for you to believe than that she is telling the truth? If she is telling her truth, but it is Mia Farrow’s creation, what about the convoluted series of events and machinations it would have required on Mia Farrow’s part – for a lifetime – is it easier to believe than it is to believe Dylan Farrow’s blunt and simple statement? Why is it easier to put Mia Farrow on trial than it is to believe Dylan Farrow?
It’s much easier to debate the character and choices of Mia Farrow than it is to call Dylan Farrow a liar, but going after Mia in order to dismiss Dylan in the defense of Woody Allen is a smokescreen. How far down the “it’s all Mia’s fault” rabbit hole are you willing to go? What does it say about your worldview if it is easier to believe all of the convoluted elements of that line of thinking than it is to believe Dylan Farrow is speaking the actual truth? To defend Woody Allen, you have to call Dylan Farrow a liar. You can do that, just acknowledge that is what you are doing rather than trying to hide that fact in an attack of misdirection on her mother.
For many, there is so much information and opinion-based reporting to wade through, it’s easier to stay in the “I just don’t know” category in this instance. I would caution zealous advocates for Dylan Farrow from aggressively attacking those who admit that they have a difficult time reaching a definitive conclusion in this case. The lack of willingness to choose a side in a public opinion trial that is rapidly becoming a no-holds-barred family feud is not the same thing as being against victims of abuse, or even a sign of general indifference. Save the most heated rhetoric for those who seem completely unwilling to consider that the abuse could have happened at all.
It is not beneficial to the cause of sexual abuse or sexual assault victims to vilify those confused by this particular case of as generally complicit in the difficulty of sexual abuse victims. It is instead an opportunity to continue to educate the uninformed about the challenges abuse victims face in confronting their accusers, achieving justice through legal means and healing from abuse. In that, I do think it’s beneficial for all of us to consider who we are inclined to believe instinctively, why we are inclined to do so and what that says about our perspective on and understanding of sexual abuse.
Shining a light on the behavior of abusers and the experience and needs of the abused to encourage education and awareness is likely to be the only genuinely positive thing to come out of this broken family’s tragedy; let’s just make sure the light is focused in the right direction.