I’m actually really busy working on two other projects, so I didn’t want to write about this. But I have to. Too many issues close to the heart here, and people’s reactions to the letter have been eye-opening as well. Let me first say that as a victim of child abuse (not sexual, but physical, mental and emotional), I believe Dylan. It’s a gut feeling. Up until this letter was published, I believed Woody was innocent of molesting a small child, though I always bumped on his marrying Soon-Yi. Still, I was willing to forgive that. I love Woody Allen’s movies and because of that, as Dylan so aptly points out, I chose to give him more than the benefit of the doubt.
Dylan’s letter, however, cannot be ignored. Its passion is stirring; the details arresting in their authenticity. I’m so impressed by Mia Farrow who torpedoed her career to protect her daughter. My mother used me as a human shield, causing me to catch the brunt of the abuse. I know how brave it was for Mia to do what she did, and hope her story inspires other mothers who are too often complicit in the abuse.
There’s no motivation for Dylan to lie. Being a victim of sexual assault is stigmatized – somehow talking about it is even more so. In my own life, I’ve been date raped countless times. I didn’t even realize it was “date rape” until last year when I joined a women’s therapy group for a different reason entirely. Date rape, like molestation from a family member, is so confusing because you trust that person. You know that person, you probably like that person. And then that person does something to you that doesn’t feel right. What do you do? Cut yourself off from them and admit to yourself you were wrong? Or do you try to believe the best and give them another chance, the truth being too painful. Even Mia had a learning curve – it took a while for her to digest fully what Dylan said, and by her own admission she didn’t want to believe it. But thankfully, her desire to protect her daughter overcame the fear and sadness she felt facing the truth. She still woke up in the middle of the night feeling guilty for bringing Woody into her children’s lives at all. Sadly, the people who hurt us most are often those closest to us, those we also love and want to be with. So arguments that Dylan still loved her father and wanted to see him are completely consistent. We have to face these things, painful as they are, because they are also incredibly common. Statistics say one in five women have experienced some kind of sexual assault, but I put the number much higher. Anecdotally, it’s closer to four out of five.
Another disturbing facet of this case has been watching people’s reactions. Some of course are wonderful and inspiring (see Aaron Bady). But others reflect the culture of rape we live in. The mythology of false memory has arisen again. There seems to be a type of man (like Stephen King, Alec Baldwin) who is outraged by Dylan’s letter. As they rail against the “palpable bitchery” of sexual assault victims everywhere, may I gently suggest “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
Woody’s response to the allegations has always been a brief, blanket denial that blames Mia and even Dylan. That doesn’t surprise me. His failure to take any responsibility for the incident, even as the father of a delusional child (if we are to believe him which we don’t) illustrates his lack of compassion and scapegoatism. Does Woody ever take criticism without reacting in a burst of anger and blame? My guess is no, because the ability to examine himself doesn’t seem to be in his repertoire. We thought he examined himself in movies – maybe he does. But that examination appears completely divorced from his day to day behavior. Otherwise, he would understand that even if he were completely innocent (for argument’s sake) he would still be responsible for his minor daughter’s anguish to some degree.
I still love Woody’s movies but already I am seeing his struggles with right and wrong, criminal behavior, love of younger women through a different prism. Like most of us, Woody is deeply flawed and I hope he gets the help he clearly needs. Mostly, however, I worry about those two young adopted daughters of his, especially Bechet. Check her Twitter – she sounds confused. Like Dylan and I, she may not even know the definition of sexual assault – but she’s learning about it now. It’s highly unlikely Dylan’s his only victim. Did he marry Soon-Yi because it was a misdemeanor and a distraction from a crime?