Whether or not you “believe” a victim (and how would anyone who wasn’t there know?), there are a few things NOT to do when a victim makes a public statement after years of silence and living under a different name. Blaming the victim is the first thing NOT to do.
I’m referring to Dylan Farrow, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Dylan penned a moving and disturbing open letter in the New York Times, in which she asked key Hollywood players how they would like it if it had been their daughter or them. She said that Woody Allen had molested her when she was seven years old, in 1992, a charge Mia made in the divorce hearings.
That is the same year that Farrow found evidence that Woody Allen, at the age of 56, was in a “relationship” with her 21-year-old daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, whom he eventually married. She discovered this “relationship” when she found nude photos of Soon-Yi in Allen’s Manhattan duplex, according to People.
Woody Allen is up for many awards this season for Blue Jasmine, including an Oscar. This makes him Oscar-untouchable.
The Industry is protecting precious Woody just like the Vatican protected its alleged molesters, and just like Steubenville circles around its football stars — like any institution with power and money on the line — the person who gets the sympathy is not the person making accusations against a powerful money maker.
Meanwhile the studio jumped to his defense :
“We have had a long, productive and rewarding relationship with Mr. Allen,” SPC said in a statement. “This is a very complicated situation and a tragedy for everyone involved. Mr. Allen has never been charged in relationship to any of this, and therefore deserves our presumption of innocence. “Films are major efforts of collaboration. There are scores of artists and crafts people behind Blue Jasmine. We support and celebrate their extraordinary work here, and count Blue Jasmine as a major achievement of Mr. Allen’s career.”
Actress Cate Blanchett also sought to avoid controversy as she faces the very likely chance of scoring an Oscar for Blue Jasmine after winning the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Movie Awards, “It’s been a long and painful situation for the family, and I hope they find some resolution and peace.” This was a decent response, as it has dignity for all, but it was also a PR designed safe choice. We can hardly blame her, as the accusations are aimed at basically her employer and a Hollywood Patriarch.
Diane Keaton based a defense of Woody on the allegedly great female roles he’s written, “One hundred seventy-nine of the most captivating actresses have appeared in Woody’s films, because they wanted to,” she said according to the Wrap.
Yes, that may well be. It may well be that Woody Allen is the best thing to ever hit Hollywood. He might write the best female roles in the entire universe, but that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he molested a seven year old girl. You see, just like a Priest might have helped many children but molested others, a person is capable of being many things – both good and bad. This is not a Hollywood story; there are no obvious Bad Guys.
But in our rape culture, there are still inappropriate responses and victim blaming.
Today, we got Allen’s publicist said Woody found the charges “untrue and disgraceful.”
“At the time, a thorough investigation was conducted by court appointed independent experts. The experts concluded there was no credible evidence of molestation; that Dylan Farrow had an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality; and that Dylan Farrow had likely been coached by her mother Mia Farrow. No charges were ever filed.”
Yet police did actually investigate the charges according to People:
The most damaging aspect is that police in Connecticut (Farrow has a home in Bridgewater) are conducting an investigation of child abuse involving Allen and Dylan. A New York City television station reported that one of its correspondents had seen a videotape that shows a nervous and shaken Dylan and seemed to support allegations of abuse.
CNN recounted former Connecticut State’s Attorney Frank Maco telling reporters in 1993 that “(H)e believed there was probable cause to arrest Allen. But he said he decided not to press charges, with Mia Farrow’s support, ‘rather than exposing the child to possible harm.'”
At any rate, with molestation and rape being vastly under-prosecuted, there’s little sunshine in claiming the police let you off.
What is disgraceful is that Woody Allen made this statement about the experience of his adopted daughter. He called her beliefs about her childhood “disgraceful”. His defense in the past has relied upon smearing her ability to recall reality properly. It raises an alarm when a person feels the need to smear an accuser, as if the truth can’t be heard without smears. Has he proven that she doesn’t remember reality properly? Does anyone ask him to prove his accusations or discuss the motives of his accusations like we analyze her motives? Of course not. She’s been duly shamed for speaking.
It is inappropriate to smear an alleged victim like this, especially one’s own daughter. If he is right, and she is not remembering things properly, then wouldn’t he as her father want to help her? It’s telling that he is more interested in saving his reputation than in helping his daughter.
But it has to be noted that the blame the victim defense of “she’s a liar” is the Go-To stance of the guilty. This doesn’t mean he’s guilty, but it means that many guilty people use this to smear the character of the person accusing them so that no one will listen to them.
The only person to step forward with some character in this matter in “Hollywood” is Lena Dunham, star of HBO’s Girls. Of course she lives in New York, not Los Angeles, but the Industry has long arms. Ms. Dunham tweeted to support Dylan’s courageous sharing of her experience. Dunham did not say it was true or attack Woody Allen, she simply supported Dylan’s courage. This is the appropriate response.
To share in this way is courageous, powerful and generous. Please read: http://t.co/RKKREFB8hM
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) February 1, 2014
The correct response is not to attack Woody Allen with pitch forks or even deny his genius or boycott his films — after all, he has not been proven guilty. The correct response starts with not destroying the person making the allegation. That is when we will start making changes in the American rape culture.
There is no need to attack this young woman. She wrote a letter about a very painful experience she wanted to share with other victims. Does it make us uncomfortable? Yes. Is it awkward to celebrate Woody Allen’s alleged genius after that? Yes. Does it make her a liar worthy of being denounced publicly? No.
Because just like we don’t know that he is guilty, we don’t know that he is not guilty. And we also don’t know that she’s a “liar”. She might well be the victim of a very famous and powerful man, and what a challenge that would present to a young girl trying to find her self worth.
Here we have a very young person going up against the very powerful PR machine of Hollywood during awards season. It’s not like the big machine needs our help destroying her.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.