Love, Inc

The intersections of emotion and capitalism.

Woody: Guilty or Not?

Woody Allen's daughter, Dylan, re-opened her 1993 charges that her father sexually abused her. Allen continues to deny any wrong-doing. This family tragedy has morphed into a wider national competition between those who believe Woody and those believe Dylan. But should accusations of sexual abuse really be about belief or about evidence? And what is the evidence? Read More

Mia Farrow is Far From Innocent

I don't know about anyone else, but I remember quite vividly the whole Soon-Yi Affair. Farrow went into full-on "Betty-Broderic-Hell-Hath-No-Fury-Like-A-Woman-Scorned" mode and started hysterically accusing Allen of everything she could think of; I am convinced that if she could have she would have got him convicted of the Lindbergh kidnapping. She was acting demented and when she started shrieking about how he supposedly sexually abused Dylan she hit rock bottom, but the case was never followed up. I do not know whether there was insufficient evidence or Farrow simply backed off because she was lying, but there have been plenty of cases of young, impressionable children being manipulated into believing that they were abused.

I am not saying that this is necessarily what Farrow did. But she went far enough by trying to paint Allen's relationship with Soon-Yi as some form of incest when it was nothing of the sort: Soon-Yi was not Allen's daughter, adopted or otherwise, and he had virtually nothing to do with her until she was of age.

I grant you that a sixty-year-old man marrying a twenty-year-old woman gives me the heebie-jeebies, but it is neither illegal nor immoral and the worst thing Allen was guilty of was cheating on Farrow.

Who is herself no injured innocent in the infidelity department; now she is hinting that her son Ronan, who believed all his life that Allen was his father, *might* be the son of Frank Sinatra, from whom Farrow was already divorced and if the story is true it means she was cheating on Allen with her EX husband. Even the soap opera writers couldn't make this stuff up.

As for Dylan, I have no doubt she believes that the abuse actually happened, but after all these years I suggest that she seek intensive therapy because I doubt she or her bat-shit crazy mother can do anything to Allen twenty years after the fact.

I agree with your

I agree with your conclusions.

If these people are so hell bent on airing their dirty laundry, let them unseal the legal docs,med/psychiatric reports and let the public decide for themselves.

Just have a (lil rhetorical)

Just have a (lil rhetorical) question...
Is it a coincidence that the Farrows are suddenly blitzing the media with their old allegations AND MSNBC announced a new show hosted by Ronan Farrow?

MSNBC and Ronan Farrow?

I had not heard about that. Boy this thing stinks more every day.

The Woody Allen - Dylan

The Woody Allen - Dylan Farrow case: media spin for the Farrow family?

Well done

I just posted a piece on the same topic and drew similar conclusions, and after posting it stumbled upon yours. Well done; you make excellent points, and the daycare hysterias of the mid-eighties have clear parallels.


I'm not entirely convinced that Dr. Essig has the necessary qualifications to have anything more than a personal opinion in this matter. She is a sociologist, not a psychologist, and she is certainly not a Developmental Psychologist with any expertise in Child Sexual Abuse, Forensic Interviewing, or even Memory. These things matter. For instance, her statement that "...anyone that has ever spent 5 minutes around children knows that they have trouble telling fantasy from reality" ignores age differences in cognitive development and the scientific literature examining children's reports of sexual abuse and false memory. She doesn't consider or discuss methods and standards in forensic interviewing and how much has changed in 20 years, and the implications for the testimony of the "expert" witness in the Farrow case. I'd much rather read an analysis by someone like Stephen Ceci (Cornell).

sociology, history vs. psychology as expertise

It is true I have zero expertise in psychology- really- zero. But sociology and history have brought their own expertise to sex panics and the US culture of both eroticizing childhood and insisting children are blank slates sexually. I have found the following books extremely helpful for thinking through some of this: Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors," and James Kincaid, "Erotic Innocence." I also find Robin Bernstein's "Racial Innocence" useful for thinking about how it is white women and children who are sexually pure, but other children and women do not have that status. Finally, in terms of moral panics, the classic book on "folk devils" like Woody Allen is Stanley Cohen on Folk Devils and Moral Panics.

What is relevant and what is irrelevant?

“But should accusations of sexual abuse really be about belief or about evidence? And what is the evidence?”

To this I would add “What is relevant and what is irrelevant?”

I'm sure you have read a lot of books about sex panics. My problem is this: by framing the controversy in terms of a sex panic, it seems to imply that Allen is likely unfairly accused. It showcases a handful of cases in which adults have been unfairly accused and imprisoned, and ignores the far more numerous cases in which abusers are never even prosecuted (and are free to abuse other children) because there is no physical evidence and children are not believed. In other words, it presents a unbalanced perspective.

You also seem to rely heavily on the Daily Beast article for your version of the facts. Yet, the Daily Beast article is neither objective nor impartial. It misrepresents some facts and leaves out others in order to manipulate public opinion in Allen's favor.

For instance, you wrote:

"The point is this: we do not know whether or not Mr. Allen is guilty. We know that Ms. Farrow believes he is. All we can really go on is evidence. The investigators at the time found no physical evidence of abuse. They also found a young girl who completely believed these events had taken place. As to what to do with these two facts, we can only assume that ultimately the Farrow-Allen household was not the healthiest place to grow up. The investigators believed Farrow had coached young Dylan..."

#1 - "The investigators at the time found no physical evidence of abuse."
This is neither uncommon nor surprising, and entirely too much has been made of this fact. Most children delay reporting sexual abuse out of fear and/or confusion. By the time they do report it, and are examined, there is little to no evidence to be found, which is why these cases are extremely difficult to prosecute. In any case, the rules of logic dictate that the absence of physical evidence is inconclusive (just as a null finding in science would be); it does not provide positive evidence of innocence. Failing to clarify this fact has misled some of your readers to think the absence of physical evidence works in Allen’s favor. It does not.

#2 - "The investigators believed Farrow had coached young Dylan"
First, by using the article “The” (i.e., “THE investigators…”), you imply that there was agreement among all investigators, which is untrue and extremely misleading. Second, this fact is taken out of context, and context is important. Here I quote Maureen Orth, a journalist who authored two lengthy and in-depth analyses of the allegations:

"The Yale-New Haven Hospital Child Sex Abuse Clinic’s finding that Dylan had not been sexually molested, cited repeatedly by Allen’s attorneys, was not accepted as reliable by Judge Wilk, or by the Connecticut state prosecutor who originally commissioned them. The state prosecutor, Frank Maco, engaged the Yale-New Haven team to determine whether Dylan would be able to perceive facts correctly and be able to repeat her story on the witness stand. The panel consisted of two social workers and a pediatrician, Dr. John Leventhal, who signed off on the report but who never saw Dylan or Mia Farrow. No psychologists or psychiatrists were on the panel. The social workers never testified; the hospital team only presented a sworn deposition by Dr. Leventhal, who did not examine Dylan.

All the notes from the report were destroyed. Her confidentiality was then violated, and Allen held a news conference on the steps of Yale University to announce the results of the case. The report concluded Dylan had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. (For example, she had told them there were “dead heads” in the attic and called sunset “the magic hour.” In fact, Mia kept wigs from her movies on styrofoam blocks in a trunk in the attic.) The doctor subsequently backed down from his contention.

The Connecticut state police, the state attorney, and Judge Wilk all had serious reservations about the report’s reliability."

In contrast, a psychiatrist with expertise in child sexual abuse testified that (a) the Yale-New Haven team failed to adequately support their conclusion that Dylan had a thought disorder (telling fantasy from reality), and (b) faulted the team for concluding there was no abuse when the evidence was inconclusive, among others improprieties.

Thus, the report by the Yale-New Haven team was largely rejected by others involved in the case, including law enforcement officials, the judge, and an expert in child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this did not stop Allen from violating Dylan’s privacy for his own self-interest, nor has it ever stopped Allen’s team from citing it as evidence of his innocence.

It is now well known that repeatedly interviewing a child about sexual abuse allegations typically causes the child to change their testimony since they view the repeated questioning to indicate that they have not given the correct answer. As for the team's conclusion that Dylan "had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality"", I quote an interview with Stephen Cici (Cornell University), a leading authority on children's reports of sexual abuse: "…there is some evidence that in true disclosure, that is to say, where a child really was abused, you often get a combination of bizarre unbelievable details with plausible details."

For these reasons, I have serious misgivings about the methods and conclusions of the social workers who interviewed Dylan. At the very least, any assertions about the opinions of these investigators should be balanced and placed in context, and considered inconclusive with regard to the veracity of the allegations.

In addition to misrepresenting certain facts, other relevant facts go unmentioned in your opinion piece. For example, it is relevant to note that Allen was already being treated by a psychiatrist for inappropriate behavior toward Dylan that Mia believed to be sexual in nature long before the allegations, custody battle, or his affair with Soon-Yi. Thus, concerns about inappropriate sexual attention toward Dylan predated Allen's affair with Soon-Yi.

Finally, the extent to which Mia Farrow supported Roman Polansky or her brother are completely irrelevant to the facts of the case, unless you are hoping to build a case on character assassination.

For more information, please read:

and the judges findings of facts here:

The opinion piece I like best is here:

Do you understand the

Do you understand the criticism of the notes being destroyed? I've read this but I don't understand what they would contain, and it isn't mentioned in any of the articles. I assume all of Dylan Farrows interview transcripts have been kept, they wouldn't discard the actual interviews? I was curious about it. Thanks

Irresponsible evaluation

To Scott, who writes (and seems to want to substantiate that), "Soon-Yi and Moses Farrow, have accused her of abuse and 'brainwashing.'"

Does anyone else see the irony in this? I think the abuse and brainwashing belong, at the very least in equal measure, to Woody Allen.

It seems to me that you have missed an essential side of the equation and debate - and the potential truth.

And Woody hardly knew Soon-Yi? Have you read the transcripts?

Are you implying the full

Are you implying the full court transcripts are available?

No I Have Not Read the Transcripts BUT

"To Scott, who writes (and seems to want to substantiate that), 'Soon-Yi and Moses Farrow, have accused her of abuse and "brainwashing."'"

I presume you mean RONAN Farrow since I did not mention the name MOSES once. Okay let's begin with Ronan Farrow:

Along with Dylan's recent accusation of Allen, Mia Farrow has *hinted* that Ronan, who considered himself Allen's son, is in fact the son of Frank Sinatra. Which would mean that before Allen cheated on Mia Farrow with Soon-Yi, she cheated on him with her EX HUSBAND. Sauce for the goose.

As for Soon-Yi, she was the adopted daughter of Farrow and conductor André Previn; she never saw Allen as anything but her mother's boyfriend. Moreover, despite their twelve-year relationship, Allen and Farrow NEVER lived together and in fact he never even once spent the night at her apartment.

While the forty-year age difference between Allen and Soon-Yi gives me the heebie-jeebies, there was nothing like incest in it and the worst thing of which he was guilty was cheating on Farrow.

I did not read the transcripts but I remember Mia Farrow's behavior at the time and she was acting demented, which is ironic considering that she cheated on Allen first.

I don't know if Dylan was actually abused or if Farrow managed to plant a false memory. And in the end it does not matter; they'll never be able to touch Allen after all these years on a he-said she-said and the best thing that Dylan can do is get some serious therapy. In my opinion, she had two equally horrible parents.

Using Common Sense

Many victims of sexual abuse do not have physical evidence. That Does not mean it didn't happen. Woody Allen's behavior to say the least is very very peculiar & disturbing. Especially with regard to Dylan. I Really liked Woody Allen's Films. But I do remember in 1989 seeing "Crimes & Misdemeanors'One Scene in particular caught my attention. Woody Allen says "The Last Time I was inside a Woman was the Statue Of Liberty" the camera for a brief second closes in on Dylan. I remember feeling very uncomfortable with that. The ICKY feeling we all get when something is not right so When Woody Allen was accused of Molesting his Daughter I cannot say I was surprised, he is emotionally arrested very emasculated but beyond that remains his very un-natural interaction with children especially Dylan. Most people believe Dylan, But we also must take into account that Woody Allen took very grotesque pictures of a very young girl Soon Yi Mia Farrows adopted Daughter who has learning disabilities had relations with her That is pretty disgusting he is old enough to be her Grandfather.Not To leave out she was Mia Farrows daughter he was a Step Father Figure That's really horrible. sounds like he cannot relate to an adult. It is very surprising that Psychologist are so in the dark about Sexual Abuse and perhaps asking people to ignore the BIG WHITE Elephant in the Room is part of The Problem. Woody Allen is a pedophile and no decent person would leave there Children with him. Mia Farrow is a problem too and as screwed up as Woody Allen she is severely emotionally arrested & has a very incestuous relationship with her children she allowed incredible disgusting behavior and actually hampered the investigation by using Dylan as a Baseball Bat. Dylan was molested. But In my Opinion Mia's motives were not honorable.This Family is very toxic and messed up Mia Farrow Woody Allen should never be allowed to adopt children. There is a huge Boundary Problem in this family, I have never heard of a trained psychologist not seeing sexuality problems in this Family. Its a RED FLAG.

Farrow's Adoptions

I've never quite caught the appeal of Allen's movies and found his real-life behavior creepy but Mia Farrow's behavior appears to me far more predatory and toxic.

How was she able to adopt so many kids? Did no adoption professionals catch a whiff of this toxicity? I wonder how much Farrow's wealth and celebrity affected people's judgements.

It would be interesting to

It would be interesting to hear some mental health professionals chime in on this adoption issue.
After adopting, say, 4 or 5 kids (on top of 4 biokids), don't alarm bells start going off?
Am I the only one who thinks... pathological overcompensation?

I find this article extremely

I find this article extremely disappointing, and would have expected more from someone with a Phd in this area. You fail to mention the fact that the children in the proven cases of false memory/false accusation were much younger than the age of seven. Empirical evidence shows that in such cases, where false accusations via false memory are proven, the children are typically aged five or under. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for an adult to have such control over the mind of a seven year old, which is the age that Dylan was at the time. Also, she is now 28 years old, and you fail to mention how unlikely it is that Mia Farrow is still controlling Dylan's memories.

I'm sorry you're disappointed

I'm sorry you're disappointed in my article, but I hold to my views. Moreover, I disagree with your assessment of the literature in false memories. A false memory can happen at any age (as the story of my 13 year old daughter demonstrated). And as the investigators found in their original assessment of then-seven-year-old Dylan Farrow, she was prone to fantasy, and they concluded her report had changed so much, and was so consistently linked to concern for her mother, that they didn't find her claims credible. That said, it does not mean that her memory is a false one. My point is that it could be, and for that reason alone, there should be no public rush to judgment--either against Mr. Allen or Ms. Farrow.

Finally, once a memory takes root, no one needs to be "controlling" it, as you suggest. It becomes as real as if it had actually happened. But unlike the multitudes who are so certain of Mr. Allen's guilt, I do not know what happened. And for that reason, I will resist making damning accusations of a felony against someone I do not know.

Wrong Article

Dr. Harper, you have inadvertently responded to a comment on Dr. Essig's article, not your own. I would also point out that the example you provide in your article of your daughter's false memory, while compelling, is irrelevant to the issue of false memories of childhood sexual abuse. For one thing, the scenario you described was a one-time event. The abuse that Dylan Farrow described in her letter details an escalating pattern of incidents that is consistent with the "grooming" behavior of sexual predators. For another, your daughter's motivation in cultivating her false memory was to provide herself with a sense of control over what was no doubt a very scary situation that made her feel profoundly insecure. False memories of childhood sexual abuse would produce the exact opposite effect - a sense of deep betrayal and mistrust that would engender anxiety, fear, insecurity, etc. Thus, the very human need for control over the world that motivated your daughter's false memory would actually protect against the creation of a false memory of sexual abuse. Please do not continue to compare the two - it is extremely misleading to do so. I would also point out that the experimental literature on false memory in children both (a) focuses on preschool aged children, and (b) manipulates non-traumatic events (for obvious ethical reasons) and can not be generalized to traumatic events. Everything we know about the behavior and neurobiology of memory and traumatic memories suggests that traumatic memories function differently from non-traumatic memories and involve different neural circuitry. Thus, if you want to present a balanced view (and I think you do), it is important to provide a balanced view of the literature. Please see my other comments on this page regarding the Daily Beast article and other relevant facts in this case.

I apologize for the mix-up;

I apologize for the mix-up; the comment came via my email and I didn't realize it was for another comment, but I'll certainly be more careful in the future.

You make some valid points about the difference between a false memory to mitigate trauma, and false memories that create trauma. Nonetheless, I don't think it is quite accurate to suggest that false memories of traumatic events do not occur in children over the age of seven. For example, internalized false confessions, in which a suspect under intense interrogation confesses to a crime s/he did not commit and later comes to believe they did it (e.g., the case of Billy Wayne Cope), suggest that memory remains malleable.

As for the case of Dylan Farrow, there is nothing in her recent accusation that was not previously published back in '92, which is a red flag--but that does not mean her memory is false. Another red flag is the timing of the accusation--just days before her maternal uncle was to be sentenced to prison for molesting young boys. While there is no reason to indicate this is a case of perpetrator substitution (where a child really is molested, but indicates someone else, less risky to accuse, did it), the presence of a known child molester in the family suggests caution.

Again, I don't know what happened, and would no more assert that it is a false memory as I would assert that what she said did happen. I do not know. My point is only that judging anyone based on a single accusation, or single denial, is premature and harkens back to the daycare hysterias of the mid-eighties.

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Laurie Essig, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology and women and gender studies at Middlebury College.


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