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Dylan Farrow’s Open Letter: What Would You Do?

03/02/2014

I was thinking, if I don’t speak out, I’ll regret it on my death bed.” Dylan Farrow

candle lit for victims of violence

candle lit for victims of violence

Dylan Farrow, 28, is the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. In 1992, at age 7, she accused Woody Allen of sexually abusing her. The ensuing custody battle case wound its way through the courts eventually giving Mia custody of the children and exonerating Mr. Allen of child molestation. Frank Maco, a Connecticut prosecutor on the case, admitted that there was enough evidence – “probable cause” – to charge Mr. Allen with molestation, but that he chose not to pursue it because he didn’t want to traumatize Dylan any further.

Nicolas Kristoff’s blog post: nytimes.com/ontheground prepares us for Dylan Farrow’s painful Open Letter about her molestation, as a child, at the hands of her dad, Film maker Woody Allen. He shares the back story of this family tragedy; including the fact that he reached out to Woody Allen for comments on both articles and to address Dylan’s 1992 allegations of abuse. Mr. Allen declined to comment. The question that kept coming up as I read both articles was: What Would I Do? What Would You Do?

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. Dylan Farrow via NYTimes

Reading Dylan Farrow’s Open Letter was quite upsetting. It broke my heart and left me wondering why our society won’t fully accept that, like the rest of us, celebrities have flaws; they have proclivities that are objectionable too. It took enormous courage for Dylan to step back into the limelight and write about an incredibly painful time in her life. Taking the time to craft a letter detailing memories of molestation is never easy. It demands a willingness to expose oneself to both criticism and care… this was not an easy feat for her.

What would I do? First of all, speaking up about the abuse takes courage and is a critical step to exposing the perpetrator(s). According to RAINN.Org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 60% of victims don’t file a report. It is important to let someone know. In Dylan’s case, she told her mother, Mia. It is also imperative to file a police report because the police will help document information needed for that first step to prosecution. Seeking legal counsel and definitely therapeutic care are necessary steps to ensure the offender is held accountable and the healing process can begin.

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. Dylan Farrow via NYTimes

What can we do as parents? What can we do to protect our sons and daughters? I like RAINN’s five tips: Talk openly and build trust so they won’t need to hide information from you. Teach them safety rules and what’s unacceptable touching. Empower them to speak out and say NO to abuse. Implement safety guidelines and parental controls on the internet through the Google Family Safety Center and have regular discussions about online and offline safety with your kids. Educate yourself and your family about the warning signs of abuse and act quickly to stop it. If you’re a teacher, pay attention to your students and report your concerns to the authorities. Each of us can be an extra pair of eyes and help stop abuse.

RAINN’s statistics show that 2/3 of assaults are committed by people we know, and 38% of rapes by friends. The lingering pain that comes from such a betrayal of trust can be debilitating and, when we factor in a family member, the damage to the relationship can be permanent. Parents of young children must start early educating them about sexual abuse; especially about inappropriate touching. If you or your child has been victimized, don’t blame yourself for what happened. It’s not your fault. Report it to the authorities. Seek the support of trusted friends and family and the help of a skilled therapist; both are key steps to healing and full recovery. Healing will come with time…

MORE BELOW

“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” Dylan Farrow via NYT

How did you react to the Open Letter? In situations like this, people speak up and often take sides. Some in Hollywood have defended Woody Allen, while others have spoken in support of Dylan. As a reader, my first instinct was to read the letter with compassion and sensitivity. She was seven (7) when this information came out and I doubt she could’ve maliciously made up the story in 1992. Is Woody Allen guilty? Is his perspective on what did/didn’t happen plausible? I don’t know.

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. Dylan Farrow via NYTimes

Personally, I believe that back in 1992, Dylan’s motivation was to put a stop to the pain and secrets. I believe Dylan’s motivation in writing the Open Letter was to not only share her story, but to support other victims, and remind us that, as she put it, “… others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.” It pains me that some in Hollywood are choosing to dismiss Dylan, and it irks me that Woody Allen chose not to, at least, share his side of it.

The more we report incidents of abuse without vilifying the victims, the greater the chance that more abusers will be prosecuted. Until we stop treating celebrities like demigods, cut down on reading glossy PR stories, and start holding ALL abusers (regardless of their social standing) liable for their actions, not enough would be learned from Dylan’s brave actions. I hope more people would take a stand against child molestation, sexual abuse, incest and other predatory behaviors. For now, Dylan needs healing prayers and blessings. What would you do?

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual abuse, report it. Free and confidential help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (800.656.HOPE (4673) and online.rainn.org).

For More: Women’s Lives & Issues 

Positive Motivation Tip: The best way to be an attentive friend is to offer support and advice at all times. Do not walk away. Lend a sympathetic ear.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos Candle from Wikipedia, Statistics poster and RAINN banner from RAINN.Org or my Personal Collection.

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

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41 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/02/2014 1:31 pm

    Oh, Elizabeth, you hit a chord here. I had been avoiding reading her letter. I read Kristof’s column, but I couldn’t bring myself to read her actual letter. I had some ‘near misses’ when I was a child. Maybe because I was way too savvy at way too early an age, but somehow I managed to outsmart the perpetrators.

    However, even those moments of knowing it might get physical in a way I knew was wrong make my stomach turn to this day, when something triggers that memory. These bastards are evil and castration should be the punishment for what they do, even for the mind games.

    I read her letter here. It made me nauseous. I applaud her coming forward. I hope she knows she has helped others who’ve been unable to speak up. It is the right thing to do.

    No one who’s ever been abused will forget it. But, you hopefully find your way to a whole and loving life. I hope she has. I’m sure this letter helped.
    b

    Like

  2. Goz permalink
    03/02/2014 2:09 pm

    very powerful. Great piece Eliz..
    Goz

    Like

  3. 03/02/2014 2:52 pm

    It is really, really hard not to cry Reding your thoughtful take on this. When my sister and I testified against a child molestor many years ago, the perpetrator tapped into his mother’s ample funds to create a winning defense based on accusing my mom of seeking his mom’s money. The trial became about how she was a bad mom, and how our stories were planted by her on Ann effort to fulfil her economic desires. It pains me typing that to this day.

    Our attorney told us from the get-go that we would not win. People don’t like believing others capable of such heinous acts, and we weren’t the most plausible witnesses. I specifically was admonished for being too angry and not sad enough. Apparently, jurors believe the correct response to assault is weeping. May they never know first hand.

    The only thing all jurors were unanimous on was that they would never, ever go to court If one of their loved ones were assaulted. The judicial system worked an assault all its own.

    Few make up these tales, particularly 7yo children who still know so little about these things unless given terrible, untimely lessons.

    When I read Dylan’s letter, I felt it. I felt the truth of it. Good enough for a court of law? No. But the truth is in those little details.

    I am so glad she spoke out. I am glad she eventually found some healing. And I am glad, so glad, that her mom believed the unbelievable, and fought for her daughter even against an acclaimed perpetrator. There are heartbreakingly many instances where this does not occur, so I offer only love and respect for those who choose to believe and pursue instead of writing off that kind of terror as something that happens to other people.

    Like

  4. 03/02/2014 3:14 pm

    Glad you decided to bring this to a point of discussion… so much is hid…making the one abused…feel like THEY are the wrong doer…So sad!…and so destructive…

    Like

  5. 03/02/2014 3:58 pm

    An abuser is an abuser, no matter who he or she is. They should always be held accountable for their actions.

    Like

  6. 03/02/2014 4:05 pm

    Speaking out is very hard, but I think staying quiet is even harder. Celebrities aren’t infallible – look at the recent celebrity deaths involving drugs!

    Like

  7. 03/02/2014 4:16 pm

    It is really sad how high celebrities are held above the law. It’s infinitely worse when a child is involved in something like this, and their innocence is stripped away.

    Like

  8. 03/02/2014 4:24 pm

    It’s very troubling that celebrities are able to get things brushed under the rug more easily. What’s wrong is wrong and there should be accountability regardless. I feel horrible for how it has scarred her for life.

    Like

  9. Amy Desrosiers permalink
    03/02/2014 5:16 pm

    I always encourage my kids to be open with me, and talk to me about anything troubling. This just goes to show you that celebs are people too!

    Like

  10. 03/02/2014 5:36 pm

    I admire Dylan for writing the letter – so disturbing.

    Like

  11. 03/02/2014 6:32 pm

    Abuse is abuse and obviously celebrities are not immune. It’s a very sad thing and he should be held responsible just like anyone else not a celebrity would be.

    Like

  12. Jaime permalink
    03/02/2014 6:50 pm

    As a parent, I would have fought long and hard for my child in the courts. This whole situation is disturbing and it’s sad how it was dismissed – not considering how it would affect Dylan later in life.

    Like

  13. 03/02/2014 6:52 pm

    As a parent, I would have fought long and hard for my child in the court system. This whole story is very disturbing and it’s sad how the courts didn’t do anything. The system truly failed Dylan.

    Like

  14. 03/02/2014 7:23 pm

    How hard it must have been for her to write that letter, but I admire her courage in speaking out. It makes me so angry how celebrities seem to get away with way more than the average citizen does just because they are famous.

    Like

  15. 03/02/2014 7:33 pm

    i’m not in a place that i can read her letter. it hits close to home. it really makes me so heartbroken that celebrities can just ‘get away’ with ignoring things or paying for things to go away. children are innocent and must be protected from predators.

    Like

  16. Pauline Cab permalink
    03/02/2014 7:37 pm

    The abuser, regardless of his social standing, should be held liable for his actions. This is a sad thing and victims are most of the time scarred for life.

    Like

  17. sippycupmom permalink
    03/02/2014 8:18 pm

    I feel so sick for her. I hate that he has gotten away with this and people celebrate him.

    Like

  18. candyolivares permalink
    03/02/2014 8:24 pm

    That letter was heart wrenching.. To celebrate him was offensive to victims everywhere.

    Like

  19. 03/02/2014 8:50 pm

    This is such an important message to share. Thank you for spreading the word of encouragement and help for others.

    Like

  20. mommybknowsbest permalink
    03/02/2014 9:53 pm

    This makes me so sad. Thank you for posting all of the facts about this issue and that it’s not just about feelings or hopes and wishes, this is happening far too often. Thanks for the education that people may not have when it comes to this form of abuse.

    Like

  21. 03/02/2014 10:42 pm

    I didn’t know about any of this. What a brave lady, her courage will help many others.

    Like

  22. 04/02/2014 5:37 am

    I hate that celebrities get away with things that the average person wouldn’t and this, in my opinion, is one of the WORST offenses. The people who exonerated him should be ashamed of themselves, the people who worked with him afterwards should be ashamed of themselves, and the people who are currently defending him should be ASHAMED of themselves!

    Also, I thought Mick Foley was awesome before this now he’s even more so! That is all. 🙂

    Like

  23. SixFeetUnderBlog permalink
    04/02/2014 6:17 am

    I just heard about this. Thats too bad that many celebrities seem to be able to do what they want and that a child’s word is nothing-even as an adult.

    Like

  24. 04/02/2014 7:01 am

    I can’t read the letter. It’s too close to home for me. I was molested by a “family friend” when I was younger. It’s something that needs to really be addressed and hopefully we can save our future generation from these predators.

    Like

    • 04/02/2014 9:37 am

      I’m sorry to hear that Christina! My heart goes out to you and all survivors. Definitely, I agree with your pov on predators. They must be stopped.

      Like

  25. Veronica Spriggs permalink
    04/02/2014 8:43 am

    I saw the headlines about the release of this book. Of course we can only assume what she says is true. But really how can we be sure?

    Like

  26. 04/02/2014 9:17 am

    Very powerful post. RAINN is a great organization, and I am happy that you shared it. I didn’t know any of the allegations surrounding Woody (maybe I was too young when they were in the news), but I can’t believe it! Abuse is abuse. Doesn’t matter if you’re famous. 😦

    Like

  27. 04/02/2014 11:51 am

    That is crazy, I haven’t heard her story. It makes me so incredibly sad when parents abuse a child in any manner.

    Like

  28. 04/02/2014 12:03 pm

    Wow, this is really heartbreaking. I didn’t realize the extent of the abuse was so severe for Dylan Farrow. Thank you for the parental tips. Very, very helpful. We can never do enough to protect our beautiful children!

    Like

  29. 04/02/2014 12:04 pm

    Wow, very powerful post! I did not realize the extent of Dylan Farrow’s abuse. Thank you for the parental tips. We can never do enough to protect our beautiful children!

    Like

  30. 04/02/2014 12:47 pm

    I don’t know what goes through the minds of those in positions of authority. I want to hope that they truly were putting Dylan’s best interests first and not just being lazy and trying to avoid controversy.

    Like

  31. 04/02/2014 2:44 pm

    I read this the other day, and it broke my heart. I’m not a fan of Woody Allen and have never liked any of his movies. But my heart breaks for that poor girl. 😦

    Like

  32. 04/02/2014 6:00 pm

    Dylan’s letter was so heartbreaking. To go through that as a child and then to have to constantly be faced with your abuser would be torment.

    Like

  33. 04/02/2014 6:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing RAINN information. This is such a painful subject and yet it happens in too many children’s lives. It is important they know they are not alone, even if their dad’s are famous.

    Like

  34. Karen Hartzell (@InTheKitchenKP) permalink
    04/02/2014 7:01 pm

    I am completely disturbed that this may be the truth and that it was not brought to light so long ago. I too as a Mother, would have fought long and hard for my child. I am their primary resource and advocate for safety. Where does Mia farrow stand on all of this now coming out into the open?

    Like

  35. mommye permalink
    04/02/2014 10:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information. I have seen Woody Allen in shows and movies for the last couple decades but never knew of his personal life.

    Like

  36. 05/02/2014 6:12 am

    You asked a lot of good questions and providedsome good resources. Children who are sexually abused need proection, help and support as they tell their stories and seek justice,peace, healing and success.

    Like

  37. Ashley M permalink
    05/02/2014 2:05 pm

    As a victim of sexual assault it is so hard for me to read this. Especially having my own three year old daughter and the incredibly difficult issue I have with trust. At the end of the day I will ALWAYS believe the victim. In these cases I feel you’re guilty until proven innocent.

    Like

    • 05/02/2014 8:55 pm

      I’m sorry to read about your pain… It is so sad when people attack the victim and victimize them all over again… Sending you hugs and love…

      Like

  38. 05/02/2014 10:21 pm

    I find Dylan’s letter very painful, Eliz. I know that she feels very let-down by the way that Hollywood stands apart from her, signifying they are supporting Allen. I don’t know how true that really is. It has to be very hard to be part of such a public family. The rumors have been loud so long, I wasn’t shocked. So now it’s all about her own feeling free for telling her story. It’s a very sad circumstance.

    Like

  39. 08/02/2014 4:34 pm

    Eliz, when I read Dylan’s letter in the New York Times, I found it hard to believe that she would make up this story. I can only imagine what it would be like for her to see or hear about her father getting a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globe awards and having so many celebrities sing his praises.
    t has always bothered me that Woody Allen also married his adopted daughter,. As a parent that too seems like an abuse to me, and makes me think it’s even more likely that Dylan’s story is true.
    It’s difficult, because there is a brilliance to Woody Allen movies, and I can appreciate his gifts and talents. We so often forgive celebrities whether it’s a movie director or a president for their lies about their relationships with women. We want to see only the good, and not the dark side of power. I hope that somehow, justice will be served in this case, but it seems hard to imagine.
    I appreciate your post!

    Like

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