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IMAGE: Vincent Van Gogh, Girl in White in the Woods
Trigger Warning: This article discusses childhood abuse & sexual abuse.
Dear Dylan Farrow,
I don’t know you, and all I know about your history is what I have been able to glean from your letter, your past interview, and the records of the court case between Woody Allen and your mother in the nineties. I can’t say that I have any special insight that proves your allegations are true, other than the feeling in my gut when I read your letter.
After twenty years of suffering, I think you deserve the benefit of the doubt. In our criminal justice system, there is a theoretical presumption of innocence. Woody Allen has already benefited from this presumption, as charges were never brought against him in regards to these allegations – and they never will be, thanks to the statute of limitations.
However, as you are now finally speaking out as an adult, you also deserve the presumption that your statements were made out of innocence. What could honestly motivate you to write that letter except for a sincere desire to reclaim your voice and your own narrative from a culture that has silenced you (and countless others like you) for far too long?
Let’s get something straight right from the start: I’m not here to talk about Mia Farrow, Frank Sinatra, or any of your siblings (or who their parents, adoptive or otherwise, technically are). In the end, who cheated on whom doesn’t matter one whit. Here’s what matters: pretty much everyone involved with the case in the 90’s believed you, Dylan.
The prosecutor, Frank Maco, had publicly stated he believed that the abuse did occur, but he didn’t want to drag you through a trial. Although he was initially reprimanded and investigated for that public statement, a panel later declined to officially reprimand him and formally dismissed Allen’s complaint against Maco.
One of the loudest voices in Allen’s corner right now belongs to someone whose professional credibility depends to no uncertain degree on Allen’s status and prestige. Robert B. Weide recently produced a documentary about Allen’s career. You do not stand to gain anything, other than improved mental health, if your letter successfully ends the ongoing public celebration of your alleged abuser.
The only piece of actual evidence that anyone can point to that theoretically weakens your allegations is the report from the team of psychologists that indicated you were mentally unstable and implied your story changed. Allen’s attorney and his supporters keep pointing to the Yale report as though it were conclusive evidence of Allen’s innocence. However, the psychologists in question were not willing to testify in court (perhaps out of fear of committing perjury). Instead, they insisted that only a single report be used in the place of their testimony. According to a report in The New York Times in 1993:
Justice (Elliott) Wilk (of the New York State Supreme Court), however, questioned the manner in which the Yale-New Haven team carried out its investigation of the allegations, as well as conclusions by two psychotherapists who treated Dylan that she had not been abused. “I am less certain, however, than is the Yale-New Haven team, that the evidence proves conclusively that there was no sexual abuse,” Justice Wilk wrote.
The justice said he believed the conclusions of the psychotherapists had been “colored by their loyalty to Mr. Allen.” He added that the unwillingness of members of the Yale-New Haven team to testify at the trial, except through a deposition by the team leader, and the destruction of the team’s notes had “compromised my ability to scrutinize their findings and resulted in a report which was sanitized and, therefore, less credible.”
Weide also made much to do about a maid’s statements implying she was pressured to talk about the sexual abuse, but it’s possible she saw something and had already been paid to keep quiet or that she simply didn’t know anything, but Mia Farrow wouldn’t believe her because she was desperate to find an adult witness. None of us know, and in the end, it proves nothing and says nothing about your credibility, Dylan.
Weide also writes at length about a video of your statements and how they stop and start. These videos aren’t public, but I’d wager a guess that your mother, who was taping them, was probably stopping the tape to comfort you while you related a horrifying and traumatic story you probably didn’t want to tell her. In the end, a tape made by an amateur would prove nothing either way in court.
Don’t let the victim-blaming jerks of the world like Weide get you down; some people have a very hard time accepting the idea that they could like something produced by a bad person. Plenty of people can see how self-serving his defense of Allen really is. Instead of wasting your thoughts on those people, focus on the positive response; your words have touched many people who were abused and hurt. You have given hope and courage to many people who are too often voiceless and forgotten in our society. That alone is a wonderful thing.
Sadly, there’s not really anything the courts can do to help you at this point. The statute of limitations prohibits any kind of prosecution. I sincerely hope, however, that finally talking about what happened publicly will help you overcome the pain of your childhood abuse. Stand tall, because most of us know that you have nothing to gain from this story: you’re not selling a book or promoting a movie, you’re just trying to find a way to cope with the pain of seeing your alleged abuser glorified in the media all the time.
I hope that whatever healing path you follow, be it therapy, medical cannabis, prescription medication, or some alternative to traditional therapy, leads you to a place of peace and love. Stay strong!