If you read one thing today, make it this. Dylan Farrow, Mia Farrow's daughter, publicly spoke out in an open letter for the first time about allegedly being sexually assaulted by Woody Allen when she was seven. (For relevance to this blog, Dylan Farrow is a beautiful redhead.)
The essay tugs at the heartstrings, to use a cliche, but even more than that, it makes you think about celebrity culture. I have a former middle school friend, now Facebook friend, who recently "came out" that her uncle had been sexually abusing her since she was four. The worst thing is, that when she has the strength to post about it on Facebook, to let us know she needs help and to raise awareness, other family member of hers attack her for lying and badmouthing her family. The same seems to be happening -- and has happened -- to Dylan and Mia Farrow.
For example, The Daily Beast posted an article reasoning why the allegations could be false. The writer also happens to be someone who knows Woody Allen professionally and produced a documentary about him. The bias in his writing is quite clear; it's obvious he thinks that Woody is a good guy. What he (and we as a society, collectively) fail to remember is that abusers tend to be some of the most charismatic people to everyone but those within their inner circle. It's easy for us to think that someone is great, without really knowing who they are or understanding their most intimate relationships. Woody, being a professional actor, is a professional at being charismatic in a non-traditional way. He's made a brand out of his neurotic Jew schtick, selling that vulnerability as certain breed of charisma.
Both my friend and Dylan Farrow have probably felt shame and embarrassment and maybe that they did something wrong to make this happen to them. It took strength for them to speak out. But here's the stinger: their fears about speaking out were valid. Because instead of being supported, they are being victimized a second time, by people who don't understand. Who accuse them of being the bad ones. Who might even, if they don't have the right therapy or people around them, falsely confirm their suspicions that they are actually the ones at fault.
In every single abuse case I've seen, victim blaming by people who most would expect to support the victim is an issue. As a 16-year-old, a friend of mine had consensual sex with a married 44-year-old man with children, which is (obviously) statutory rape. But because it was consensual, many of her friends blamed her for instigating it and frankly, wanting it. But what she couldn't have known as a 16-year-old is how badly it would destroy the rest of her life or wreak havoc on her self-esteem (already low) or make her feel that she was at fault. What she didn't know was just how innocent she was and how doing that would destroy it. As an adult, he is the one who knew ... or should have known ... what that could do to her. He should have been someone, who with that knowledge, protected her from getting hurt. That's why consensual sex with a minor is statutory rape.
What I'm trying to say is, we have a culture of victim shaming and turning our heads. Most of us probably think "I would never do that," but until we are in that situation, we don't know how we'll react. Things become less black and white when our emotional biases and judgments get involved. In the Woody Allen case, because he's on a celebrity pedestal, many of us, and especially those in the Hollywood community, are turning our heads. And trying to logic and reason our way out of believing this is true, because of the emotional bond felt with Woody Allen (for us plebeians, through the screen). Yet Dylan Farrow's writing has a raw and unpolished sting that captures my intuition and makes me believe she is telling the truth. And even if she isn't, we need to learn to give ANYONE who makes accusations about abuse and open and nonjudgmental heart. Because if the allegations are true, and in most cases, they likely are, the accuser went through victim shaming once already...when they did it to themselves.
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