An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow
An Open Letter From Dylan FarrowBy DYLAN FARROW
(A note from Nicholas Kristof: In 1993, accusations that Woody Allen had abused his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, filled the headlines, part of a sensational story about the celebrity split between Allen and his girlfriend, Mia Farrow. This is a case that has been written about endlessly, but this is the first time that Dylan Farrow herself has written about it in public. It’s important to note that Woody Allen was never prosecuted in this case and has consistently denied wrongdoing; he deserves the presumption of innocence. So why publish an account of an old case on my blog? Partly because the Golden Globe lifetime achievement award to Allen ignited a debate about the propriety of the award. Partly because the root issue here isn’t celebrity but sex abuse. And partly because countless people on all sides have written passionately about these events, but we haven’t fully heard from the young woman who was at the heart of them. I’ve written a column about this, but it’s time for the world to hear Dylan’s story in her own words.)
What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: 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.
For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like. I didn’t like how often he would take me away from my mom, siblings and friends to be alone with him. I didn’t like it when he would stick his thumb in my mouth. I didn’t like it when I had to get in bed with him under the sheets when he was in his underwear. I didn’t like it when he would place his head in my naked lap and breathe in and breathe out. I would hide under beds or lock myself in the bathroom to avoid these encounters, but he always found me. These things happened so often, so routinely, so skillfully hidden from a mother that would have protected me had she known, that I thought it was normal. I thought this was how fathers doted on their daughters. But what he did to me in the attic felt different. I couldn’t keep the secret anymore.
When I asked my mother if her dad did to her what Woody Allen did to me, I honestly did not know the answer. I also didn’t know the firestorm it would trigger. I didn’t know that my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me. I didn’t know that he would accuse my mother of planting the abuse in my head and call her a liar for defending me. I didn’t know that I would be made to recount my story over and over again, to doctor after doctor, pushed to see if I’d admit I was lying as part of a legal battle I couldn’t possibly understand. At one point, my mother sat me down and told me that I wouldn’t be in trouble if I was lying – that I could take it all back. I couldn’t. It was all true. But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child.
After a custody hearing denied my father visitation rights, my mother declined to pursue criminal charges, despite findings of probable cause by the State of Connecticut – due to, in the words of the prosecutor, the fragility of the “child victim.” Woody Allen was never convicted of any crime. That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself. That torment was made worse by Hollywood. All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong. Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines. Each time I saw my abuser’s face – on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television – I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.
Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.
But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.
What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?
Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.
Are you imagining that? Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?
via An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow – NYTimes.com.
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- Readers’ Picks 439
Saugerties,N.Y. 6 minutes ago
OH MY GOD……………………………………………….
I remember all to well being sexually molested twice at an early age.
OH MY GOD,MY GOD,MY GOD.
It just never leaves you.
rome, ny 14 minutes ago
Dylan: thank you so much for sharing your story..I am so very sorry for the childhood you had…I know that doesn’t make up for it, but it was very brave of you to share this..for everyone…and now I will name my favorite woody allen movie: NONE…love Lucy <3
St. Augustine, Florida 14 minutes ago
Dylan, thank you. I believe you. I believe you. I believe you. No movie that your abuser ever made or will make is worth a second of your suffering. You are more important than any piece of film, and I am proud, so proud of you.
A J Sharp
Las Vegas 15 minutes ago
I’m sorry, but it’s pure idiocy to write that Woody Allen “deserves the presumption of innocence.” That presumption applies only to a jury in a courtroom, who must either find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (after beginning with a presumption of innocence) or acquit. That presumption has no application outside the courtroom. I am perfectly entitled to decide, based on my own perception and common sense, that I believe Ms. Farrow and have concluded that Mr. Allen is a pedophile.
My husband has never seen a WA film, so a while back, we rented Annie Hall. We watched for about 10 minutes until we both realized that it was not possible to watch without being sickened by thoughts of this horrible time. I’ll never try to watch one again.
Cindy Cathey Rock
Portland, Oregon 16 minutes ago
I believe Dylan’s account of what happened at the hands of Allen. Unfortunately, pedophilia is an illness that psychiatrists treat, court’s sentence and prison systems deal with every day. Portland, Oregon had a very young and powerful Mayor Neal Goldschmidt, who as has been published, molested his secretary’s young daughter regularly to the point that she thought she was supposed to marry him as a teenager. He victimized her for years and It is no surprise this girl grew up to be deeply troubled. She told everyone, hush money was paid, officials pretended she was crazy and lying. Years went by and he maintained contact. She became a drug addict and eventually her poor health declined and she died, still a young woman, still fighting to be believed. The truth of what happened has been buried, except for a few articles in the Oregonian and people who remembered her. If it weren’t for people covering up the sins of the powerful, justice could be attainable for these victims. I remember Mia Farrow mentioning telling Frank Sinatra and his response was, “Do you want me to break his legs?” As odd as it sounds, that would have been justice for Dylan. Thank you for speaking out, standing up and not cowering with those who find something to award Allen for. He can make all the films he wants and the actors and actresses can believe it’s all about the “art”. But what is “art” but an imitation of life. I stand for life and Dylan’s choice to have one.
Carmel, NY 17 minutes ago
Somehow this accusation escaped my notice and awareness when it originally was made, years ago. I have been avoiding Allen movies for may years solely on the basis of his marrying his children’s sister. I’ve been amazed all that time that the public and celebrities turned a blind eye to that. This just makes makes it even worse. Will the culture finally shun him now? Maybe, maybe not. After all, nothing is more important than going to the movies.
new brunswick canada 18 minutes ago
Way to go Dylan ! ! ! it is to often that people of power and influence get away with these deeds. Its over the years it has become like some type of pride to be some one who has done these nasty things to kid right from the church and the rest of the way down I remember a time when kids could be kids but now days that never seems to happen any more…….
Grovers Corners, NH 18 minutes ago
I so enjoy Allen’s productions and worship his genius and at the same time deeply sympathize with Dylan. What a horror.
At issue is a question that has plagued the history of literature, at least, since its inception–you may not be able to separate the dancer from the dance, but is it right to connect a genius’s work with his private life? History is filled with answers. The grew thing about Homer, the font of literary art, is that little betrays what he did in his private life–did he take pleasure in Astyanax being thrown from the walls of Troy to his death, a better fate than lifelong slavery to the enemy? What about Demeter’s method of immortalizing the child whom she supervised–baby Demophon? She placed him in a fiery hearth to achieve this. Socrates, the ultimate sophist, made hash out of his dialogic companions, though he himself was cornered at least once. I consider his skill with words, logic, and philosophy as sadistic as it built the foundations of rationalism and philosophy wherever it resides–in so many fields.
In other words, should we boycott Allen for how he behaves in his private life? Boycott Catullus’s contempt for courtesans? Horace’s? A slippery slope is involved. Many of Western civ’s heroes led unspeakable private lives, whether evident or not in their opus.
Pederasts belong in jail indeed. I’m sure that Woody could keep writing there. Is that the answer?
Chicago 18 minutes ago
Very well said Ms Farrow and I admire your courage. I think you obviously got your remarkable strength from your mother. I’ll be very interested in hearing what Diane Keaton, Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, etc. have to say and I imagine the Woody Allen/Blue Jasime publicity machine is at DefCon 1. Stay strong.
St Paul, MN 18 minutes ago
So sorry you suffered for so long. Ever since I learned about Mr Allen’s abuse I have never watched one of his movies or supported his career in any way. It is a tiny gesture, but I hope it brings you some comfort.
Los Angeles 18 minutes ago
What has happened to a society who willingly believes a celebrity, and/or forgives him, but quickly castigates and condemns a priest, any priest, and wouldn’t think of forgiving one. The molestations by priests were written about at great length and with great anger. Even though sexual abuse by teachers is more statistically prevalent. And whereas, we must send our children to school, sending children to church is by choice.
ÜT: 36.866086,-94.886581 18 minutes ago
I used to be a fan of Woody Allen. But, after reading this, I can no longer find it within myself to support him in any way, including through his work. What he did to you, Dylan, was horrible. It doesn’t matter if he is never convicted by a court, he has been convicted by those who believe you and stand with you. He has been convicted within himself.
Thank you for having the courage to write this. I’m sorry it happened to you but thank you for opening yourself up and sharing your pain with us. You are brave, you are strong, you have won.
Being a survivor of sexual abuse I do know how you feel, no one believed me either and at 67 years old I am still having a hard time. It started when I was 9 years old and everyone thought it was for attention. When I heard about your abuse I no longer watched his movies or care to hear about him. Your mother was doing the best she could sweetie at the time she was probably overwhelmed and really I think I am making excuses for my own mother, sorry sweetie. He should not get ANY awards, we could for surviving and still working on that <3
Bravo to Dylan Farrow for her courage in telling this sad awful story. At the end of the day, celebrity should be no innoculator against the truth.
Southampton, MA 18 minutes ago
Dylan, I am so sorry for what you have gone through. This must be so hard for you to put into words and have it published. I can only hope that by you bringing this out into the open that it helps you heal, helps others heal and prevents even others from becoming victims. You are a wonderful person.
illinois 18 minutes ago
I always thought he was a slimy little creep, couldn’t understand how he got all these women. I totally believe this poor girl, after all isn’t he married to his adopted daughter now, who was a teen when he was doing her in her mother’s house. Yeah Hollywood give this creep another award. And Mia, u should have gone to the mats for your daughter and taken the charges all the way, shame on you.
Perth, Westralia 18 minutes ago
Dylan, your story is heartbreaking and it’s inspiring to see how strong you have become, even in the face of legal inaction and the unwillingness of celebrities to confront or acknowledge…or question even, what was inflicted upon you and presumably also the Stockholm-syndrome-daughter who went from predatory abuse victim on to become his lover and wife.
Once a fan, I can no longer watch his movies…indeed, thought something not right about him since the bizarre revelations about turning his daughter into his wife emerged. As a father and with a daughter myself it just seems so wrong.
The very role of father is supposed to be as protector from the kind of predator he apparently is.
Not that it’s an excuse, but I wonder if Allen was himself an abuse victim, or just a small man who needed an outlet to express power, to compensate for the puny, self-centred, spineless character behind the characters he portrays?
The sobering thought is that Allen is no kind of a monster, but merely another very human face, in breach of the unwritten and vaguely worded social contract that is meant to keep us from preying on each other. The suspicion that goes with it is that I bet I’m not the only one who would bet anything that it happens a hell of a lot more than our thin social veneer might indicate…ie., do not adjust your set, this IS normal transmission.
NYC 18 minutes ago
Woody Allen is a pedophile. Human garbage. But he has money, power, and creates fame. He is of the “one percent”. So we all fawn over him, admire him, seek his autograph. It truly does not matter what he does in the privacy of his own home. He can rape little girls every day for the rest of his life. He can marry his daughter or molest countless children. That is what America has become. We should all be proud that we worship the likes of Woody Allen, Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, Roman Polanski, Mark Foley and legions of predatory clergymen. Movies, sports, politics and religion and those who rule over it all are all so much more important than any random little girl or boy.
He cheated on his “wife” with her barely legal daughter. (FACT) That’s incest worthy of an appearance on the Jerry Springer Show. What other further proof do you need??
Alhambra, CA 18 minutes ago
It’s not so unusual that a man who was held down as an infant and his genitalia mutilated while he screamed in horror might grow up with some sexual issues.
Helsinki, Finland 18 minutes ago
What bothers me in her stance is that she cannot separate his public persona from his private persona. People and awards ceremonies celebrate Woody Allen as a filmmaker, as a creator, as a comedian. His lifetime achievement award is about his career, not literally about his everyday life. We talk about his movies and work with admiration, not about him as an individual; we don’t know him, only his friends and family do.
He’s talented at what he does at a professional level, she can’t help it, even if he did these atrocities to her.
You can be a great artist and a monster, it’s not incompatible, because humans are complex and multifaceted. Everyone has faults, or vices, or worse. It doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for liking his films and ban them or burn them like fools. I think this is what some people, Americans more than Europeans perhaps, have a hard time to understand. Everything is not black and white. If you commit a crime, it doesn’t mean you’re an unsavable garbage of a human being, it doesn’t mean there’s no good in you anymore or that nothing good will ever come of you again.
Big Island 18 minutes ago
Oh Dylan, Thank you for your story. I know how difficult it was to write this heart wrenching letter. I am proud of you. I understand your pain. I too was a victim but in a different manner. I hope that justice is served.
I have really never liked any of his movies, and when the allegations came out, I believed all of you. You’re a brave brave young woman. Thank you.
One thought on “An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow”
As a former investigator for HRS back in the 80s, I know that sexual child abuse is rampant in this county. Right here in Volusia. Right here in Port Orange…and I am not talking about strangers. Within the family is where sexual child abuse is most likely to occur. Most abusers are heterosexual. And someone always knows. BESIDES THE CHILD.
If this is going on and you know it, report it, stop it, confront the abuser. If you do not, life long damage to the child will result and all are corrupted by its continuation. I have seen the effects on those who did not stop it. Guilt and misery because of their guilty knowledge. And there will be more and more victims over the years if these predators are not stopped. A crime of opportunity. More and more children in your family will be irreparably harmed. Hard issue to treat. Prone to “relapse”.
Those who know it and do not stop it are complicit in this act.