Dylan Farrow Writes An Open Letter About A Life Of Sexual Abuse At The Hands Of Her Father, Woody Allen

'Woody Allen is a testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault...'

This morning I finally sat down and read two pieces that I’d been hearing about over the last couple of days. The first was an article titled The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast. I have to admit, I stopped reading it at a certain point when I began to strongly disagree with the way the author positioned his argument. And it needs to be said that I went in with a very open mind; I went in like the big Woody Allen fan that I am. Or that I was. Anyway, I’m still working my way through Weide‘s essay in defense of Allen, but I did finish reading Dylan Farrow‘s open letter. Click inside for more.


 

Dylan‘s open letter was published by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. His note prefaces her piece:

(A note from Nicholas Kristof: In 1993, accusations that Woody Allen had abused his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, filled the headlines, part of a sensational story about the celebrity split between Allen and his girlfriend, Mia Farrow. This is a case that has been written about endlessly, but this is the first time that Dylan Farrow herself has written about it in public. It’s important to note that Woody Allen was never prosecuted in this case and has consistently denied wrongdoing; he deserves the presumption of innocence. So why publish an account of an old case on my blog? Partly because the Golden Globe lifetime achievement award to Allen ignited a debate about the propriety of the award. Partly because the root issue here isn’t celebrity but sex abuse. And partly because countless people on all sides have written passionately about these events, but we haven’t fully heard from the young woman who was at the heart of them. I’ve written a column about this, but it’s time for the world to hear Dylan’s story in her own words.)

One thing that has struck me in the media coverage of this story is the description of Allen as Farrow‘s “adopted father.” It’s akin to the insistence that Soon Yi (now Allen‘s wife) was not Allen‘s biological daughter. For example, this is about where I stopped reading the article in defense of Allen:

First, the Soon-Yi situation:

Every time I stumble upon this topic on the internet, it seems the people who are most outraged are also the most ignorant of the facts. Following are the top ten misconceptions, followed by my response in italics:

#1: Soon-Yi was Woody’s daughter. False.

#2: Soon-Yi was Woody’s step-daughter. False.

#3: Soon-Yi was Woody and Mia’s adopted daughter. False. Soon-Yi was the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and André Previn. Her full name was Soon-Yi Farrow Previn.

#4: Woody and Mia were married. False.

#5: Woody and Mia lived together. False. Woody lived in his apartment on Fifth Ave. Mia and her kids lived on Central Park West. In fact, Woody never once stayed over night at Mia’s apartment in 12 years.

#6: Woody and Mia had a common-law marriage. False. New York State does not recognize common law marriage. Even in states that do, a couple has to cohabitate for a certain number of years.

#7: Soon-Yi viewed Woody as a father figure. False. Soon-Yi saw Woody as her mother’s boyfriend. Her father figure was her adoptive father, André Previn.

In the case of Dylan Farrow, I think I can speak for many children who are adopted and say that we do NOT consider our adoptive parents to be “adoptive parents.” They ARE our parents. If you have ever heard me reference my Mom, I am most likely talking about my adoptive mother, but I would never call her that unless someone asked me to specify. I say that to say, if I were sexually abused by an adoptive parent, that would be no less horrific to me than someone else’s abused at the hands of a biological parent. It would be a slightly different kind of horror, perhaps, but telling me that he wasn’t my father by blood would not help. So I take issue with the many articles and headlines stressing that Dylan was maybe abused by her adoptive father.

And as far as Soon Li is concerned, I also don’t buy that she did not see Allen as a father figure. And then there’s this open letter from Dylan:

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?

Your thoughts??????

I also want to share another comment from a Jezebel reader that I found to be really powerful:

Yeah, it really inconveniences people when you start talking about your sexual abuse. People have to look at the abuser in a completely different way, a way they don’t really like. People have to consider their own morals and beliefs and ideals, and confront things they don’t like confronting. In my case, it was inconvenient for me to name my abuser and talk about my abuse because people had to look at my abuser – a man who had been an honor-roll student, star athlete, etc. – in a way that caused a lot of cognitive dissonance for them. It would be so much easier if we could just separate the abuse from the sum total of the abuser’s life, right, and claim the abuse doesn’t matter because so-and-so has done such-and-such? And it would be so much easier if the abused could just “get over it” and compartmentalize their abuse and not think about it so much. Then we could all go on like nothing had ever happened, and eat popcorn while watching Woody Allen movies and cheer on the star athletes and all will be lovely.

I was six years old when I was sexually assaulted by the son of a family friend who was babysitting me. I remember everything. I didn’t understand what had happened to me, for a long time, but I always remembered it. Dylan remembered her abuse too, all this time. Like her, I developed an eating disorder and became a cutter. Like her, I found salvation in finally speaking my truth and receiving support from my husband and family. The fact that it is inconvenient for fans of Woody Allen’s movies that Allen is a pedophile who sexually assaulted his 7-year-old daughter should not keep Dylan from continuing to speak up. And anyone who wants to bring up Allen’s accomplishments as an “auteur,” or ideas of false accusation, is victim-shaming and engaging in unconscionable apologist behavior. Period.

Have you guys been following this story? Can you still call yourself a Woody Allen fan? And do you still believe in separating a person from their art? (All questions I’m currently asking myself.)

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  1. I am with you when I just can NOT with people who were defending him. REGARDLESS of what EVER biological relationship it was, this was an ADULT MAN who abused a CHILD. Doesn’t matter who’s child it was, it was a CHILD. But no, these same people drug MJ THROUGH THE DIRT, MJ who was just as artistically masterful as Allen. And the Soon-Yi thing…yeah…I just can’t with this man.

    • Devonte Antonio, thanks for commenting. This is a new position for me. For a while I’ve been on the side of ‘We don’t REALLY know what happened, separate the artist from the art’ etc., etc. It’s becoming more difficult for me to take that position though.

  2. Jo

    In the last year in the UK, there have been ongoing revelations emerging about famous men in the entertainment industry abusing children on a massive scale over decades. It took until one of the larger perpertrators passed away before victims felt safe enough to come forward.
    So when it comes to separating a person from their art, maybe at a base level you can, but can you still justify watching it, even if you think it’s good? When you consider this case in the UK, all of these abuses were going on whilst these men were carrying out their “art” (as children’s television presenters) including visiting hospitals under the pretense that they were being charitable and then carrying out abuses on these vulnerable children at whim. Now I couldn’t comprehend watching anything with these men on (some of the accused were iconic childhood figures) and it would not feel right to, knowing what was going on behind the scenes. So for me its the same with Woody Allen. Was he out filming some movie all day and then going home and cosying up to his adopted daughter and carrying out these alleged abuses?

    It’s so outrageous that we immediately cast suspicion on those who come forward about sexual abuse. How often does it really turn out to be false accusations? And yet, we’d much rather err on the side of caution just in case.

    On a side note, I had to stop reading the Weide essay when it was inferred that Mia’s alleged infidelities/ supposed tendencies for being a husband stealer was somehow relevant. It’s not and it’s so infuriating when women’s “promiscuity” is used to attack them, or to undermine their right to be angry about something.

    • Jo, ‘I had to stop reading the Weide essay when it was inferred that Mia’s alleged infidelities/ supposed tendencies for being a husband stealer was somehow relevant’– YES! Yes, yes, and yes. Infuriating, and he could have made his argument defending Allen without any of that.

    • ugh, that whole article made my stomach turn. he tried saying just because soon-yi was not his adoptive daughter, that it made it okay. nope. if my ex boyfriend went after my YOUNG adopted daughter, i would think the man was a total nut job.
      also, when he said that the medical practitioners did not find any physical evidence of sex abuse? are you kidding me? this guy has his head way too far up woody’s ass. this article made me sick. and i stopped reading it. the tone was annoying. the evidence he used to back up his points were all flawed. don’t click his article cuz he doesnt deserve any traffic.

  3. Donny

    I believe she believes she was molested and I’ll leave it at that.

  4. Alecia

    I’m mad, frustrated, irritated and pissed. A man touched a child and is free to live his life as if nothing happened. The child has a lifetime of pain to deal with. I’ve seen two Woody Allen movies and I plan to stop there.
    As you said Shannon, separating life from art eventually becomes blurry. After reading the R. Kelly piece, I feel the same way about buying his music. I can’t do it anymore.
    That’s not to say I don’t question what I consume by other artists. But at least with this I know I can make a small contribution to stand with the victims instead of giving these abusers more power.

  5. Shannon, we talked briefly aMidnight in this on twitter – you know where I stand. And after reading that open letter, I can’t help but despise that man. I won’t be watching another Woody Allen movie. The last one I watched was Midnight in Paris because I’m a huge Rachel McAdams fan. Is it wrong that I’m even questioning my respect for her?

  6. Vicky

    I think it would be easier to believe he was innocent if he didn’t end up having a sexual relationship with his adopted daughter Soon-Yi. At this point in time, Dylan really gains nothing personally from re-igniting these allegations. I think she just wants some form of justice and to help other abuse victims realize that they don’t have to stay silent. I APPLAUD her for her letter. I am sure it will help a lot of people.

  7. Andrea

    Out of respect for Dylan, and Soon-Yi actually, I most likely won’t watch his movies. It’s painful but I don’t want to support in any form a person who has hurt someone in a devastating way. I loved Austin Powers but when I read Joe Son, Random Task, had gang raped and tortured a woman on Christmas Eve I threw away the DVD. When I read Lostprophets lead vocalist Ian Watkins had pled guilty to molesting children, including a 1 year old girl, I deleted their music. Of course not everyone in Austin Powers or Lostprophets is guilty of heinous actions but personally I’m uncomfortable viewing or listening to their art.

  8. Marie-L

    I always thought and was prepared to say “yeah he married Mia adopted daughter but she was 20 and they’re still together so he’s not a pedophile”, now I don’t know. I still want to say “we don’t really know what happened” because I want to continue to enjoy Woody Allen’s movies. I don’t want to take a side and I don’t think I have to because I don’t know any of them personally. It’s probably selfish but I don’t care, I guess I am distancing the art from the person.
    I, of course, think that whatever happened to Dylan was awful: either she was abused by her father or she was made to think she was, and either way it’s intolerable.
    But I want to forget those allegations and watch his movies without thinking about it… and not feel guilty.

  9. Margaret

    I think that in the end, it’s just stuck. You can say that he’s a lecherous molesting creep, or you can say that Mia Farrow coached her daughter to the point that the whole family believes the story. ALL of which are horrifying accusations which should never be made without substantiating evidence. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that was deemed substantial enough in either direction.

  10. Willak27

    - “According to court documents and Mia’s own memoir, until 1990 (when Soon-Yi was 18 or 20), Woody “had little to do with any of the Previn children, (but) had the least to do with Soon-Yi” so Mia encouraged him to spend more time with her. Woody started taking her to basketball games, and the rest is tabloid history. So he hardly “had his eye on her” from the time she was a child.”

    and woody allen and mia farrow didn’t lived together, i don’t think woody allen was a father figure to soon yi when she had an adoptive father (André Previn), woody allen was the mother’s boyfriend

    other people says the age difference between woody allen and soon yi, what about mia farrow and frank sinatra? she was 21 and he was 50

    i always believed the theory about mia farrow coaching her daughter off camera, during the allegations the experts didn’t believe she was molested, and i believe you are innocent until proven guilty

    and another thing: in 2005 Mia Farrow flew to London to testify on Roman Polanski’s behalf. ¬_¬

  11. Joy

    Innocent until proven guilty. I think Dylan Farrow could have handled this situation better than to write a defamatory article about her father – she could have obtained counseling and/or file charges with the police. Instead she chose to make baseless accusations which anyone really could make against anyone. There are 2 sides to every story and everyone should stop being so quick to jump to conclusions.

  12. C. Guest

    I think this article best sums up my feelings on this:
    http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/woody-allens-good-name/

  13. There just came a point years ago after the Soon-Yi revelation that I realized this man has no concept of familial boundaries. I don’t care if people want to cite some legal or biological definition of daughter. That is like the disturbing argument that perverted sexual tourists claim when they travel to countries with exceedingly young age-of-consent laws. It is not a matter of whether you can, but whether you should.

    Allen has proven his sensibilities lie outside the norm when it comes to sexual attraction towards young females familiar to him. By justifying his current marriage on an incredibly creepy technicality, he gives me no reason to disbelieve Dylan.

    I haven’t watched a Woody Allen movie since Bullets Over Broadway. The man’s twisted paternal concepts have forever tainted his craft in my eyes. If you want me to buy into your art, don’t be a pretentious, ungoverned lech.

    In short, if he thought the sister of his daughter was fair game, his moral judgment certainly was deficient enough to molest Dylan.

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