Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen, and validation of abuse accusations

Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen, and validation of abuse accusations

Who should we believe? Dylan Farrow or Woody Allen?

Dylan shared a story about how Woody, her dad, raped her. Ever since that, there have been TONS of articles, commentary, and people weighing in on the allegations. Many people praise her for speaking up even though it's difficult--but a TON of people have been unkind toward Dylan and/or unduly defensive of Woody.

This is why I absolutely heart Rage against the Minivan's take on the whole thing. Here's a snippet, but you should totally go and read it.

 Q: Is it okay to assume a person is lying because the perpetrator seems really nice?
A: No.

Q: Okay, what if the victim seems kind of unstable or histrionic?
A: Nope.

The point is that speaking out about having been raped is hard. It's hard partially because of the psychological trauma and partially because the abuser usually says something like, "This is our secret. If you tell anyone I will kill you."  And it's partially because, even though we've made progress as we've made as a society, we still have a tendency to blame or discredit victims. Surely she's just imagining it. She's exaggerating. She's dramatic, just ignore her. No way he could have done that--he's a good man.

This just makes people not want to speak out because the potential trauma of invalidation can compound the original trauma.

My dad was emotionally and psychologically abusive, but I was afraid to say anything to anyone because I wasn't sure they'd believe me. When I was finally disowned and started talking about some of it to some people, there were people who still didn't believe me because my dad is "such a great guy!" or that "He is absolutely wonderful and charming; you're lucky to have him as a dad." He was such an upstanding character in the homeschooling circles that people didn't want to believe it.

It was hard enough for me. It's even harder for Dylan because of the stigma surrounding sexual abuse, and because her dad was so highly regarded by so many other people. Still--there are some reprehensible people who have lied about being raped by famous people just to get some fame or as revenge. Could Dylan be among those?

So, who should we believe, her or her dad?

That's setting up a false dichotomy. You don't have to pick one or the other because it's okay to fall somewhere in the between. It's okay to generally believe Dylan while also harboring some doubt. It's okay to not pick a side.

That's still besides the point. The point is validation. The story is true to her right now, and the trauma is real. That much is visible. It is not our duty to question her accusations, but it IS our duty to listen to the story, and acknowledge her feelings and trauma. Applaud her for her courage. Thank her for speaking up. Encourage her to seek therapy and treatment.

If your initial reaction is to defend the accused, take a moment, breathe, and hold it in. Think about why you reacted that way.  And then think about the possibility of it being true. Try to hold both thoughts equally in your mind.

It is possible to both believe Dylan and be skeptical at the same time. Perhaps this isn't the best comparison, but Schrodinger's cat is both alive and dead in the box at the same time-- until you actually investigate.  Dylan's story is true, partially true, AND false--until verified in some way.

Because we are still in a state of uncertainty, the kind, and most human course of action, and the best way to help Dylan heal, is to validate her feelings. We don't have to believe Dylan to validate her, but validating her lets her know that it is safe to share the story. It lets other people who have been abused know they can trust you and others, that it's okay to share the story. We WANT more children to come forward after being abused, and sooner after being abused, and the blatant discrediting and invalidation of Dylan in the media is not conducive to this goal.

You can be skeptical. But don't be invalidating.

(Though in full disclosure I do generally believe accusations until proven otherwise.)


Filed under: Abuse


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  • An excellent point that we all have our own version of reality, and it's just that...very real to us. I really appreciate you take on this.

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