Because It Still Matters

I always was a bit of a movie snob, and as a teenager I liked the idea of Woody Allen movies because he’s Woody Allen. Sometimes he’s very funny. Sometimes he’s even very insightful about the human experience. Sometimes he’s just sort of artsy and weird. But he’s Woody Allen.

I believe I was in college when people started to talk about Allen’s problems. You remember, don’t you, that when he and Mia Farrow separated after over a decade together,* he married her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, right? Or has that little tidbit been lost to pop culture history like that time Brad Pitt was engaged to Gwyneth Paltrow? And during the ugly Farrow-Allen custody battle these allegations came to light, that Allen’s favor for his lover’s daughters didn’t stop with Soon-Yi, who was a bit older by then (she was 21 and he was 56 when it all came out). The allegations began to surface that Allen had molested and abused another adopted daughter, this time legally his own, a 7-year-old girl: Dylan Farrow.

Always being an Entertainment Tonight historian (that’s ET to you kids at home), I remember that the pushback then was that Mia Farrow was manipulating her daughter into these lies. That she was a woman scorned and that she would have done anything to discredit her powerful Hollywood ex. And then it never went to court and, as these things do, it all died down.

For us.

Enter the 2014 Golden Globes where Allen—who didn’t show up—was honored by ex-wife and perhaps his most famous muse Diane Keaton, with the Cecil B. Demille lifetime achievement award. And soon little Dylan Farrow, who is not so little 20 years later, opened her mouth to the press for the first time. If you can stomach the awfulness of her story (trigger warning: child abuse), read it here. If you prefer a lighter version, but one that still carries most of her feelings on the matter, read it here.

Dylan Farrow pullquoteIf you lack the time for such things, in short Dylan’s story is that she was abused. Regularly. Allen wasn’t prosecuted, in part, to protect her from the trauma of that legal process. She “moved on” and now she lives a good life complete with husband and children, but with the tension that many of the influential adults she loved as a child (namely Diane Keaton) have taken a “well, we can’t know for sure” attitude toward the allegations against Allen and that Hollywood has, essentially, forgotten all about them. (Well, if he’s guilty, he’d be in jail, right?—Oh, ye who know so little about how these things work …)

And when she found out her abuser was being given such a big award, Dylan Farrow fell to pieces. And found her voice. In other words … she’ll never move on. Not really. No one ever really does. And no one ever really gets over the Diane Keatons who were there and loving and wonderful in our childhoods and then crossed over into the “well, we can’t know for sure” territory out of denial and ego (he was her ex-husband too as well as friend, you know) and some self-preservation and probably that often misguided all-American sense of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” that doesn’t really allow for the reality that sometimes the guilty can’t be proven.

And God bless publications like the New York Times for publishing Dylan Farrow’s words and not hiding behind cowardly fears of libel and slander, because much lesser publications, publications that claim the name of Christ right on their covers, have shied away from covering much more substantiated allegations of abuse and even documented collusion on those grounds.

And so this morning, on the Lord’s day, I was struck by Brian McLaren’s status on Facebook. A quote from an upcoming book:

And it’s those words that inspire me and give me hope this morning. It’s those words I pray and bless others with right now, and I hope McLaren doesn’t mind:
Blessed are the ones who stand for justice.
Blessed are the ones who don’t back down.
Blessed are the ones who are slandered for their convictions.
Blessed are the ones who are mocked for their righteous battle.
Blessed are the ones who are misrepresented because others don’t like the message.
Blessed are the ones who are threatened because evil doesn’t like to be named.
Blessed are the ones who are harmed, with wounds we’ll never see.
Blessed are the ones who heal in silence.
Blessed are the ones who heal by finding their voice.
Blessed are the ones who carry on.
Blessed are the ones who can’t.
And, Father, forgive the ones who sit in their comfort and say, “Well, we can’t know for sure.”
Forgive them because their neutrality isn’t neutrality at all.
Forgive them because their silence hurts more than anything.
Forgive them, because they know not what they do.
Forgive them, because right now we can’t.
So remember our tears, oh God.
Remember our sorrows.
And most of all, Lord, we ask you to balance the scales.
God of Justice, hear our prayers.
God of Justice, balance the scales.
God of Justice.
Hear our prayers.
 *Corrected to reflect that Woody and Mia were never actually married, but merely living together. Their court battle was not a divorce, but a custody/financial matter after having co-habitated as family for over a decade.

18 thoughts on “Because It Still Matters

  1. So moved by Dylan’s bravery and story – praying for others to enable victims to rise from the hush of their abuse and seek healing. Thank you for this important post!

  2. Bless you for sharing this.Those in power are often protected simply because they are in power, because those around them can’t face the truth. Bless Dylan Farrow for having the courage to come forward. I pray that Diane Keaton comes forward with a private – and a public – apology to Dylan.

    • I agree. It would be amazing to see some important faces come out in support of her, especially Diane Keaton. I won’t hold my breath, but it would be encouraging. Thanks for reading.

  3. Other than some of the details, Dylan’s story is a carbon copy of mine. She deserves a standing ovation from all of us who understand what happened to her and how those ripple effects never end. Thank you, Tamara, for affirming her and all of us.

    • Thanks for reading, Dianne. I’m so sorry that was your experience. That must have made the details hard to read. The situations of my abuse were very different, but the feelings of abandonment by people who should care but instead say nothing have been the same.

      If you haven’t seen this, you would like it. Her brother is a lawyer and journalist with over 200,000 Twitter followers. This was his tweet earlier:

      Simple but beautiful, and it’s all any of us really need from the people we care about.

  4. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been struggling with these same questions all weekend because some of my friends have come forward with allegations of systemic spiritual and emotional abuse at the church we attend. And rather than showing support for the alleged victims, the rest of the church is rallying to attack them. They’ve been told that they need to “quit gossiping” and “follow Matthew 18” and speak to the alleged abusers directly. I was personally attacked and told that I need to be fired from my job at the church just for reposting one of their blog posts. It is an ugly situation, and I just can’t understand how people can care more about organizations than they do about people.

    • I’m so sorry you are going through that. It sounds awful … and it seems like the responses to the allegations are underscoring their validity rather than putting the concerns to rest or debunking them gently as misunderstandings. Funny how much responses can reveal. I don’t envy you your position if the alleged abusers have any authority over you or power in the church. My husband has been in ministry a long time, church and para-church, and we’ve seen a lot of things. You have my sympathy, as do those who have come forward. I’m sorry.

  5. The very fact most sexual abuse victims hate talking about their abuse, and hate people knowing they were abused, has me believing she’s telling the truth. I think she’s brave for writing this. I think America’s greatest flaw is excusing gross injustice and behaviors because someone is talented and successful. Everyone from Chris Brown to that Duck Dynasty dude.

    • I agree so much. And we let these things go on much smaller scales for the same reasons: charm, success, talent … who they are related to. The abusers I know who will never do jail time have gotten away with it because they had all of these things on their side. It protected them when it was a grown man’s word against that of young girl’s. By the time the young girl is a woman who can stand up to the charm and the success and the talent and the relatives … it’s too late. Statutes of limitations are up. Very sad. And the real knife in the stomach for these victims is what is shoved in their faces at that point: Well, if he was guilty, why didn’t you have him put away? Why wasn’t he charged when it happened? The answer? Because the charm, success, talent and relatives all created such a strong diversion. (I’ve seen it so strong even a parent questioned whether or not their own child was telling the truth until years of pain and more allegations proved their child wasn’t lying at all.) So it’s a vicious cycle that cannot be won for the victim.

    • Hi, Christine. Well … here goes my diatribe on that article. Actually, I’m glad you brought it up so it could be addressed.

      Yes, I’ve seen it as well as the massive criticism it has received as the author is hardly an objective observer. It was his job to chronicle Woody’s career in a glowing way, so of course he has a horse in the ugly race. And most of his article is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand of whether or not Woody Allen is a child abuser.

      As for Mia, it really isn’t relevant whether or not she was a faithful wife to Woody or even if she’s a good person now. What matters is Dylan. The Daily Beast article was written prior to Dylan’s open letter in the New York Times. The author at the Daily Beast bases most of his argument on the idea that this was a one-time attic encounter and mentions Woody’s claustrophobia (really? was this a small attic, considering there were train sets and this was a celebrity home? let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it was a crawl space). But Dylan’s open letter in the NYT makes it clear this was not a one time thing. If you haven’t read it, I’d strongly suggest reading it, except that it is very graphic in the descriptions of the abuse:

      Ultimately, the lie detector the Daily Beast author mentions is also meaningless–lots of abusers have used that one. They tend to be pathological that way. They convince themselves that they have not actually done these things. The psychosis of many abusers is actually remarkable and makes for fascinating study. And what other people see and observe is also quite meaningless–the whole goal of an abuser is to gain the trust of others, it’s part of the grooming process. And abuse takes only seconds. And as for Woody successfully adopting more children and seeming to have a “normal” relationship with them … again, time will tell. As for Moses going back to his father? Again … there are all kinds of reasons Moses might not like his mother and might prefer his MORE famous, MORE powerful father and might not have much sympathy for his sister. All kinds of reasons.

      In short abuse is just not so easy to spot and people are very easily moved and manipulated by charm and success and great wealth. I’ve seen it happen on a much, much smaller scale with just as much success. Abusers really do get away with it all the time, precisely because of the kind of circumstances you see in this case … just on smaller scales. Is it possible that Mia has brainwashed her daughter? Possible? Yes, possible. Probable? I don’t think so. And do I think that there is enough evidence in Allen’s favor to make me believe that was the case? No, not at all.

      If I could tell you all the things abusers I have known have been able to accomplish and do even after allegations came up, you would be shocked. The fact is, charm and an ability to lie through your teeth can get you just about anything you want. So the Daily Beast article really doesn’t bring up anything that makes me doubt the credibility of a grown woman telling her story. When you look at cases where children were pushed into accusations of abuse by the adults around them, adulthood is generally when the children realize fully what has happened to them and turn around and set the record straight, as was the case in the famous California preschool abuse scandals in the 80s.

      So, in short, I find the Daily Beast article lacking in many ways and as a victim I also found it offensive. He wants to have it both ways. He wants to not come across like he’s accusing Dylan of being a liar–see what he says about her at the end–and yet that’s exactly what he’s done. He truly can’t have it both ways. To defend Woody is to call her a liar and it’s more than that … it’s to invalidate her abuse and her life entirely, which is a shameful thing to do and still try to come off like a gentleman who cares. I’ve also known such men and they have no idea the damage they are doing.

      • I really appreciate your response. I too am a survivor.

        I did read Dylan’s article, and I thought it was very well written and credible sounding.

        I have a unique experience in that I’ve both survived abuse and not been believed, and been witness to false accusations against someone. It’s a phenomenal study in human nature to compare and contact the two situations.

        My concern is the child who grew up closest to Dylan, and is longer in contact with Mia because of the alleged brainwashing in the home. That’s seriously the only red flag I see, because that too, is a victim who’s being doubted. We can’t believe one and callously dismiss the other.

      • You raise a really valid point about Moses, Christine. And I guess that is where I will confess my sexism and my bias in that I just don’t have as much sympathy for him. You’re very right that I’m dismissing his allegations, but I guess it’s because I see in him what I have seen in many of the men who were boys in my childhood during which many of my girlfriends and I were abused–we were on a mission field and the girls were the targets of the abuser, not the boys. The vast majority of those boys–now men–have been uncaring, unconcerned, and at at times even cruel to us as we try to get justice. The percentage of them who have shown concern and compassion–let alone any interest in helping us get justice–is staggeringly small. Even most of the ones who say they care can’t actually be bothered to help. It’s been an endless source of frustration for us as we fight for justice in a backwards faith culture that never valued female voices to begin with. If more men from that culture would stand up for us, we might have a chance … without their voices it has been hopeless. And so it has poisoned any sympathy I might otherwise have toward Moses, because I just look at his side of this and I see those boys-now-men who have turned their backs instead of seeing someone I don’t know, whose story I really don’t know anything about. So … I confess I have bias and baggage where he is concerned.

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