Most Americans spent Sunday focused on the Super Bowl, a win or lose game of heroic competition. But there was another competition brewing, a strange and twisted competition between those who believe Woody Allen is guilty of molesting his daughter, Dylan Farrow, and those who believe he is innocent.
According to Ms. Farrow, whose open letter was posted on Nicholas Kristof's column at the New York Times,
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.
According to Mr. Allen's attorneys,
“It is tragic that after 20 years a story engineered by a vengeful lover resurfaces after it was fully vetted and rejected by independent authorities. The one to blame for Dylan’s distress is neither Dylan nor Woody Allen.”
Here Mr. Allen enters not just into a direct competition over the truth of family history with his daughter, but with his former partner, Mia Farrow, whom he has long accused of implanting the idea of sexual abuse into young Dylan's head in order to get him back for leaving her to be with her adoptive daughter Soon-Yi Previn (whom she adopted with Andre Previn). According to a fairly lengthy defense of Mr. Allen by Bob Weide, who made a documentary of Woody Allen, the Yale-New Haven Hospital investigative team that examined Dylan back in 1993 concluded that there were
“...two hypotheses: one, that these were statements made by an emotionally disturbed child and then became fixed in her mind. And the other hypothesis was that she was coached or influenced by her mother. We did not come to a firm conclusion. We think that it was probably a combination.”
This tragic competition between Mia Farrow and some of her children and Woody Allen and one of their children as to whether he was an evil sexual predator or just a regular schmuck who left his partner for a younger woman is horrifying to watch. But perhaps even more disturbing is that this competition, Super Bowl style, has now moved to social media. For instance, on Facebook people are posting "I believe you Dylan" while others are posting links to the 1993 court reports that found no evidence of molestation. Many of my (female) Facebook friends are demanding that no one go to Allen's films while others are insisting he has been investigated once, found not guilty, and that this is a sex panic.In the mass media, the competition continues. The Daily Beast posts a defense of Allen while MSNBC decides he's guilty.
There is no doubt that when it comes to accusations of child sexual abuse, America panics. In the 1980s and 1990s, large numbers of people were accused of child sexual abuse and sent to jail with no physical evidence and based soley on the stories of children. At the time we were told that children do not lie, but anyone who has spent 5 minutes with a child knows that they do not yet distinguish between fantasy and reality. Only after years of advocacy by groups like the National Center for Reason and Justice were some of those people wrongly accused and imprisoned let go. Just this year the National Center for Reason and Justice helped secure the release of a Texas couple, Dan and Fran Keller, who were wrongly accused of "Satanic sexual abuse" at the daycare they ran. The Kellers spent 21 years behind bars because of the sex panic around daycares. Then there was the release of the San Antonio Four, a group of young lesbians who also languished behind bars for decades after a disgruntled relative accused them of sexual abuse.
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; meanwhile Allen married Farrow's daughter, who was three decades younger than him. Bad parenting and bad decision-making. Worse, neither parent has ever taken responsibility for the toxicity of those years. For Farrow, it's a simple case of having been with an evil and abusive man, but at least two children, Soon-Yi and Moses Farrow, have accused her of abuse and "brainwashing." To make matters more complicated, despite Farrow's accusations against Allen, she stood by her friend Roman Polanski, who admitted to having sex with a 13-year-old and her brother, who was also charged with child abuse.
As for Allen, he's clearly not a good guy let alone a good parent or partner- or at least he wasn't. Allen has never taken any responsibility at all for his own role in the toxicity, defending his relationship with Soon-Yi as a completely healthy one. As he said at the time,
The heart wants what it wants. There's no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that's that.
The point is this is one seriously dysfunctional clan. But rather than participate in yet another sex panic and make a monster out of Allen and a heroic victim out of Dylan, perhaps everyone should take a deep breath and remind ourselves that whatever Dylan Farrow believes to be true, we must judge Woody Allen and Mia Farrow by the facts of the case. Horrible parents, terrible partners who happen to make good movies. And whether we go see the next Woody Allen film or not, we can still support the aggressive prosecution of sexual predators even as we oppose the sex panics that have led to the imprisonment of far too many innocent people.