The world is a wonder after Woody Allen‘s daughter Dylan Farrow penned an open letter Saturday on a New York Times blog publicly accusing the film make of sexually assaulting her when she was seven years old,
Dylan Farrow’s first person account which made its way on Nicholas Kritoff’s blog, marks the first time that Dylan Farrow, the daughter of actress Mia Farrow, has directly addressed the alleged sex abuse.
Sparing the reader no detail, the now happily married woman (so she tells us) describes how the director purportedly abused her and how that came to vehemently affect her, and lead to years of self hate, inability to trust, feel intimacy, an eating disorder, cutting herself and a deep shame.
The letter tells it all began with Woody Allen leading the then seven year old girl into a secluded attic where he proceeded to place his hands in places where it was inappropriate. She reflects that it felt alien and dehumanizing, even as a seven year old girl she felt that it was something violently wrong and something that her adoptive father ought to not be doing but nevertheless she trusted him. Until that is her adoptive father shattered his daughter’s trust as she sought back then to begin to come to terms with the strange awkward and wildly intrusive actions that Woody Allen, her father of all people, had perpetrated on her.
Preceding Farrow’s letter, Nicholas Kristof writes a preamble where he reminds readers that this is not the first time the issue of Woody Allen purportedly sexually molesting Dylan Farrow first came to the fore. That in fact investigators were called in at the behest of Mia Farrow, that prosecutors at the time (1993) declined pursuing the case (apparently because they feared the effect what a court case would mean on the psyche of the then young Dylan Farrow) and how Woody Allen adamantly denied any wrongdoing.
Kristoff tells us he decided to publish Dylan Farrow’s letter after a debate was ignited upon the legendary film maker being celebrated for a recent Golden Globe lifetime achievement which saw a volley of tweets from Mia Farrow and her son Ronan publicly condemning Woody Allen’s award by Hollywood (who Dylan Farrow goes on to single out by name in her letter below as abetting despite Allen’s transgressions) and calling into question whether Hollywood had actually come to recognize the ‘real’ man that they were honoring.
Whilst most of us can agree that accusations of Woody Allen sexually molesting his adoptive daughter raises questions of moral and legal culpability perhaps the greater question is whether we should care that sometimes a great film maker can be just as distorted and purportedly devoid of moral acumen as the subject matter of the films he so often specializes in. Which is probably why the films are so good in the first place, cause no one knows blood and gore better than an axe murderer, metaphorically speaking….
Which raises the ultimate question, should we as an audience veto a filmmaker because of his purported moral and legal behavior? Or at the very least decline to celebrate him with honorary awards….and the further denunciation of women?
Begins Dylan letter:
What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.
For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like. I didn’t like how often he would take me away from my mom, siblings and friends to be alone with him. I didn’t like it when he would stick his thumb in my mouth. I didn’t like it when I had to get in bed with him under the sheets when he was in his underwear. I didn’t like it when he would place his head in my naked lap and breathe in and breathe out. I would hide under beds or lock myself in the bathroom to avoid these encounters, but he always found me. These things happened so often, so routinely, so skillfully hidden from a mother that would have protected me had she known, that I thought it was normal. I thought this was how fathers doted on their daughters. But what he did to me in the attic felt different. I couldn’t keep the secret anymore.
When I asked my mother if her dad did to her what Woody Allen did to me, I honestly did not know the answer. I also didn’t know the firestorm it would trigger. I didn’t know that my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me. I didn’t know that he would accuse my mother of planting the abuse in my head and call her a liar for defending me. I didn’t know that I would be made to recount my story over and over again, to doctor after doctor, pushed to see if I’d admit I was lying as part of a legal battle I couldn’t possibly understand. At one point, my mother sat me down and told me that I wouldn’t be in trouble if I was lying – that I could take it all back. I couldn’t. It was all true. But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child.
After a custody hearing denied my father visitation rights, my mother declined to pursue criminal charges, despite findings of probable cause by the State of Connecticut – due to, in the words of the prosecutor, the fragility of the “child victim.” Woody Allen was never convicted of any crime. That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself. That torment was made worse by Hollywood. All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong. Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines. Each time I saw my abuser’s face – on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television – I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.
Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.
But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.
What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?
Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.
Are you imagining that? Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?