Fighting Fear

Confronting phobias and other fears

Dylan Farrow's Story: An Account of Child Abuse

Some reasons to think twice about memories of childhood sexual abuse. Read More

This sort of attitude why I

This sort of attitude why I tell my clients to not tell mds about their life. I suggest victims find a compassionate therapist and leave mds to their pill pushing.

It seems you are suggesting

It seems you are suggesting that the only types of sexual abuse that are impactful are acts as traumatic and horrific as gang rape or rape/incest. Considering your credentials, I would expect you to recognize that the impact experienced by each victim is not in direct relationship to the frequency or the severity of the act. Why would you cast doubt on this victim's story or minimize her account of the impact this event has had on her life?

Pot, meet kettle

You write: "Mr. Kristof in his column makes a pro-forma comment about someone being presumed innocent; but presumably he would not have published this column if he did not believe the account of Ms. Farrow, whom he knows personally."

Well, what about you? Do you realise that you just spent an entire article giving out reason after reason after yet another reason why we shouldn't believe Ms. Farrow? Using the reasoning you gave above, the only conclusion is that presumably, you would not have published this article if you did not disbelieve her.

Mr. Kristof only allowed a personal acquaintance who was very publicly at the heart of a child abuse case to use his column to publish her first public account of the whole affair. You, on the other hand, jumped to discredit the testimony of someone you have never met, for no reason whatsoever. Of the two, I find your behaviour far more disgusting.

this is a worthwhile

this is a worthwhile companion piece to the Nicholas Kristof editorial: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/27/the-woody-allen-allegat...

woody allen

As a child in the 70's, I was being sexually abused by a neighbor who was the father of a friend. I remember that whenever I would see a movie with Woody Allen I would get sick to me stomach, sometimes even throwing up. I never knew why. I've never been able to bring myself to watch any of his movies, no matter how much the critics would rave about him.

After reading the accounts of his adopted daughter, my gut feeling tells me to believe her. I agree that sometimes things are made up or simply remembered incorrectly.

I've been married to a sex addict for 26 years, who spares no expense for his addiction and is turned on by young girls. I have protected him all this time and can't do it anymore. He disgusts me. My only wish is that he will die a slow, painful death, full of open and oozing sores, and the one left to comfort him will be Woody Allen.

Sometimes you just need to trust that gut instinct.

Wrong Headed Thinking

As someone who has ALWAYS remembered what my step father did to me as a child, I can't help being a wee bit put out with your take on this subject.

Here's what I'd like to see happen; something that helps alleviate the need for any "did this happen?" crap.

We need to educate parents and children so that we create an environment where "this will be our little secret" and "don't tell anyone" have no place to thrive.

Children need to be taught, in age appropriate ways, very young in life, that these behaviors are unacceptable and that it is not their fault and that it is OK to tell someone.

And adults need to create an environment where a child feels safe in the knowledge that their story will be believed and acted upon.

Even 'minor' sexual abuse leaves an unfortunate legacy, we need to stop trying to figure out if accusations are true and figure out how to give children a voice.

Correction

Your article makes a mis-statement. Soon-Yi Previn was never the step-daughter of Woody Allen. She was the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Andre Previn. She was never under Allen's parental jurisdiction nor lived in the same household as Woody Allen.

Woody Allen's relationship to Soon-Yi

Thanks. I've been trying to make sense out of some of the responses I've been reading. One person said I should stop spending too much time trying to figure out the truth of what actually happens in these situations. Another said "Her gut feeling tells her to believe" the account of abuse. It seems that a search for truth is the same thing in their mind as being dismissive of someone's legitimate complaints of being abused. Many people were obviously angry at me.
Start with the unmistakable truth that some of these accounts of child abuse are false and others are true. Anyone who works with these children knows this is a fact. Is there no advantage in the treatment of the child in being able to establish the truth? Would there not be a difference in treatment depending on whether the story was fabricated or whether it was true?
I am more concerned about how these situations are handled than whether or not Woody Allen was guilty of what he was accused of.
There is also, of course, the matter of justice; but I am primarily interested in the treatment of the child.

What child?

You say you are "primarily interested in the treatment of the child." But there is no more child to be treated in this case. Dylan is an adult. So what child are you talking about?

If you meant to write an article about the difficulty of determining the truth in child abuse claim cases IN GENERAL, then you should not have written an article which is SPECIFICALLY about the Farrow/Allen case. You wrote an article about Dylan Farrow, who is no longer a child, so you can't claim you only meant to discuss child abuse claims in general.

You do, however, bring up an interesting point: "Is there no advantage in the treatment of the child in being able to establish the truth? Would there not be a difference in treatment depending on whether the story was fabricated or whether it was true?"

Indeed. Now it seems to me that there are only three possibilities (I'll use the Allen/Farrow case as example, but it applies generally):
1. Allen abused Dylan;
2. Someone else abused Dylan;
3. Nobody sexually abused Dylan but something or someone made her claim so.
What should the consequences be in each case?
1. Allen is condemned;
2. Whoever else abused Dylan is found, tried and jailed;
3. Whoever or whatever disturbed Dylan so profoundly is taken care of.
What did happen? ... Nothing.
Was anyone tried for abusing her? No.
Was anything changed in her environment? No. In particular, if people thought that her mother was the one who made her claim the abuse, then why was Dylan left with such a psychologically abusive mother?
So what I see is that, as usual, the responsibility for everything was dumped onto the child. Only she was treated, as though she were the only dysfunctional person in that mess.

It's ALWAYS the same thing: only the child gets punished. Only the child gets told, explicitely or implicitely, that there is something wrong with him or her. Only the child gets to shoulder the weight of something which was created by adults.

So tell me: what's the POINT of figuring out the truth, if nobody is going to act on it? What's the point of treating the child, if s/he's the only one who gets treated? In fact, HOW can you even treat a child to get better, if you don't first remove from his or her environment the person who caused him or her to feel bad in the first place?

So, all this fake concern for the children? Yeah, I don't buy it.

treatment of child abuse

There are two different situations in which I run into issues of possible child abuse: The first is when the child is young and dealing with such abuse. The second is when a mature person (almost always a woman in my experience) suddenly announces to her family that she was abused as a child by a particular family member. In the first case, I often have to struggle to convince one parent that the other parent is endangering the child.Obvious child abuse is often overlooked for various reasons. Often, as I indicated in my blog, an accusation of child abuse(false) is often made in the wake of an acrimonious divorce. Usually, then, I might be called by a judge to vouch for the accused parent when it is time to end supervised visits with the child. (The judge will always err on the side of protecting the child and will require supervised visits.)
I agree that the child is always the one who pays the price in these situations. As far as I can judge both Woody Allen and Mia Farrow agree about that. Neither seems to blame Dylan.
I chose to use the example of the Allen-Farrow case,for the same reason you do-- to illustrate some of the ambiguities of these situations. I mention them in particular because of the currency of their dispute.
The second situation I described above is not as uncommon as one might think. A disturbed woman suddenly remembers specific childhood abuse while in psychotherapy (some of it fanciful, even farcical) and tears apart a family, almost all of whom think she is making up the story. Once again, the woman is the one who pays the highest price. Treatment then is complicated and may include family counseling. Often the situation is irretrievable.
You say nothing can be done while the child is with a parent who may have abused her one way or the other. I don't agree. Psychiatrists are often charged with helping to treat children who are assaulted, sexually and otherwise, without the alternative of removing the child from the family. And,of course--I would think this goes without saying--it is important to know what is actually going on--whether or not certain things are happening.
I am not sure of the details of the Farrow--Allen dispute, but I have heard that there was no physical evidence of an assault. The professionals (psychiatrists) who were called in in consultation saw no evidence for such an assault. I think it might have been helpful if psychological treatment could have been instituted at that point in order to prevent her growing up embittered and also prevent further damage to the family. Perhaps there was such treatment. If there was, it was evidently unsuccessful.

Well said. Thank you for an

Well said. Thank you for an insightful and thoughtful essay.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Fredric Neuman, M.D. is the Director of the Anxiety and Phobia Center at White Plains Hospital.

more...

Subscribe to Fighting Fear

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.