What We Should Talk About When We Talk About the Dylan Farrow Case

Unless you shut down your laptop or smartphone and smashed them under a rock, then you've probably seen all of the articles swirling around this weekend (or past week and month) concerning the 1992 child molestation investigation against Woody Allen. In reading these articles, or seeing them bandied about on Facebook and Twitter, you've probably heard a ton of irrelevant information about Mia Farrow and Allen himself that people hold up as indisputable fact that he molested his adopted daughter Dylan or not.

This is why, in the interest of helping you make informed decision about whether you believe Dylan free from all the noise, here are some the common facts cited in media coverage about the case, with both sides accounted for.

The Babysitters

In "Mia's Story," the Vanity Fair profile on 1993 about the Farrow-Allen custody case, writer Maureen Orth cites witness accounts from two babysitters that corroborates the story from Dylan's side that on the day of the molestation, both Allen and his adopted daughter disappeared for around 15 minutes, and then reappeared, with Dylan missing her underwear. After denying these charges, Allen "refused to submit hair and fingerprint samples to the Connecticut state police or to cooperate unless he was assured that nothing he said would be used against him."

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Another babysitter corroborates the allegation that Allen would put his head on Dylan's lap:

That day, August 5, Casey called Mia to report something the baby-sitter had told her. The day before, Casey's baby-sitter had been in the house looking for one of the three Pascal children and had been startled when she walked into the TV room. Dylan was on the sofa, wearing a dress, and Woody was kneeling on the floor holding her, with his face in her lap. The baby-sitter did not consider it "a fatherly pose," but more like something you'd say "Oops, excuse me" to if both had been adults. She told police later that she was shocked. "It just seemed very intimate. He seemed very comfortable."

The Daily Beast op-ed in defense of Allen cites a Farrow-Allen babysitter who testified differently:

In the midst of the proceedings, on February 2, 1993, a revealing article appeared in the Los Angeles Times, headlined: "Nanny Casts Doubt on Farrow Charges," in which former nanny Monica Thompson (whose salary was paid by Allen, since three of the brood were also his) swore in a deposition to Allen's attorneys that she was pressured by Farrow to support the molestation charges, and the pressure led her to resign her position. Thompson had this to say about the videotape: ""I know that the tape was made over the course of at least two and perhaps three days. I recall Ms. Farrow saying to Dylan at that time, 'Dylan, what did daddy do… and what did he do next?' Dylan appeared not to be interested, and Ms. Farrow would stop taping for a while and then continue."

The Shoulder

That same Daily Beast article quotes Farrow herself expressing doubt about the charges:

A New York Times article dated March 26, 1993, quotes from Mia's own testimony, during which she recalled taking the child to a doctor on the same day as the alleged incident. Farrow recalled, "I think (Dylan) said (Allen) touched her, but when asked where, she just looked around and went like this," at which point Mia patted her shoulders. Farrow recalls she took Dylan to another doctor, four days later. On the stand, Allen's attorney asked Mia about the second doctor's findings: "There was no evidence of injury to the anal or vaginal area, is that correct?" Farrow answered, "Yes."

Dylan herself clears up confusion about the shoulder story in "Momma Mia," Orth's 2013 follow-up to her original article on the molestation allegations:

Right after Dylan told Mia her account of what had happened, Mia made a video of her talking about it and took her to a pediatrician. Dylan first told the doctor she had been touched on the shoulder, because she was embarrassed, she explained to me. After that, she stuck to her original story. "My mom would tell me it wasn't my fault. She never put me in the place where I felt like I was the victim." Dylan had to be examined multiple times for the criminal investigation, and over and over again for the bruising custody battle. "There was a period when I had to go to all these different offices; I had to tell what happened. I felt the more I had to tell it, the less I was believed. I felt they were making me say it because I was lying." (Woody Allen's lawyer Elkan Abramowitz says that Allen still denies the allegations of sexual abuse.)

The clarification also occurred in the 1992 article:

According to people close to the situation, Mia called her lawyer, who told her to take Dylan to her pediatrician in New Milford. When the doctor asked where her private part was, Dylan pointed to her shoulder. A few minutes later, over ice cream, she told Mia that she had been embarrassed to have to say anything about this to the doctor. Mia asked which story was true, because it was important that they know. They went back to the doctor the next day, and Dylan repeated her original story—one that has stayed consistent through many tellings to the authorities, who are in possession of the tape Mia made. The doctor examined Dylan and found that she was intact. He called his lawyer and then told Mia he was bound by law to report Dylan's story to the police.

The Videotape

According to the Daily Beast article, there may be a good reason for the stops and starts in Dylan's videotaped testimony, but that one might also attribute them to dishonesty on Farrow's part:

As for the evidentiary videotape of young Dylan's claims, it's been noted that there were several starts and stops in the recording, essentially creating in-camera "edits" to the young girl's commentary. This raises questions as to what was happening when the tape wasn't running. Was Mia "coaching" her daughter off-camera, as suggested by the investigators? Mia says no—she merely turned the camera on whenever Dylan starting talking about what Daddy did. Maybe we should take Mia at her word on this. Since I wasn't there, I think it's good policy not to presume what took place.

As Orth's 1992 article recounts also discusses the videotape as well as Allen's side:

Those close to Allen have insisted that the alleged incident with Dylan described above never occurred, and that the longest period of time unaccounted for on the afternoon of August 4 was less than five minutes, although a principal involved has given an affidavit to Connecticut police stating clearly that the time was at least twice that long. Woody's lawyers say that he has passed a lie-detector test, and Woody's side charges that the videotape is suspect because it was made in a series of stops and starts. They also maintain that Dylan's story is either a fabrication of Dylan's or a fabrication of Mia's that she talked the little girl into telling.

The Psychologists and the State Prosecutor

As head Yale-New Haven hospital investigator Dr. John Leventhal said, according to the Daily Beast:

On April 20, 1993, a sworn statement was entered into evidence by Dr. John M. Leventhal, who headed the Yale-New Haven Hospital investigative team looking into the abuse charges. An article from the New York Times dated May 4, 1993, includes some interesting excerpts of their findings. As to why the team felt the charges didn't hold water, Leventhal states: "We had two hypotheses: one, that these were statements made by an emotionally disturbed child and then became fixed in her mind. And the other hypothesis was that she was coached or influenced by her mother. We did not come to a firm conclusion. We think that it was probably a combination."

And then according to "Momma Mia":

Thibault cited a litany of practices employed by the Yale–New Haven clinic that at least one expert put into question. Based on an examination of court documents and the report, he wrote, "The Yale team used psychologists on Allen's payroll to make mental health conclusions." He reported that the team had destroyed all of its notes, and that Leventhal did not interview Dylan, although she was called in nine times for questioning. They did not interview anyone who would corroborate her molestation claims. Judge Elliott Wilk, who presided over the custody hearing brought by Allen, wrote in his decision that he had "reservations about the reliability of the report."

As for those destroyed notes, Daily Beast editorialist Robert B. Weide speculates on a plausible explanation about that (even though he first say it's far beyond his expertise to do so): "Much is made by Mia's supporters over the fact that the investigative team destroyed their collective notes prior to their submission of the report."

He also reasons about the Yale team consulting psychologists on Allen's payroll:

The only way I can explain this is that the investigators, naturally, would have spoken with Woody's shrinks before giving him a clean bill of health. So technically, yeah, Woody's shrinks would have been paid a lot of money by Woody over the years. (Let's even call it an annuity.) The same would be true of his dentist, his eye doctor, and his internist.

It's also worth noting that state psychologists who evaluated Dylan came to a different conclusion than the Yale-New Haven ones:

Unlike the Yale–New Haven staff, the state investigators found Dylan credible. "When a little girl says someone digitally penetrated her," one of them told me, "if a child relates pain to the incident at that age, that's credible." Maco had steered clear of any questioning of Dylan during the Yale–New Haven inquiry. After Wilk's decision, however, he decided he needed to see for himself if she could be relied on to take the witness stand. "I sat down with the child, with my secretary, with another female from the state police, and we rolled around—we had stuffed animals. As soon as I broached the idea of Woody, the child just froze. Nothing."

In a weird twist, Maco declined to file charges against Allen, but then held a press conference saying that he still had "probable cause" that Allen did it. Both the Daily Beast and Vanity Fair coverage discuss how the state criminal justice commission found that Maco violated profession rules of conduct for making his personal thoughts public, with Orth writing in her 2013 piece:

"It should have been 'complainant' instead of 'victim,' " Maco admitted to me, but he had felt he owed his community an explanation: "It's not that the mother is a fabricator or concocter or that the child is unbelievable." Dylan just wouldn't cooperate, he said, so it would not have been fair to Allen or anyone involved to bring the case to trial. Allen's lawyers swiftly filed ethics claims against Maco with two Connecticut state boards. The Connecticut Criminal Justice Commission, which appoints state prosecutors, dismissed the complaint, and a local panel of the Statewide Grievance Committee, which reviews and investigates attorney complaints, also dismissed it, but its decision was overturned by one vote in the Statewide Grievance Committee. It was not until a year after public hearings were held, in 1996—a "mini trial" with both Maco and Allen testifying—that Maco was found not to have violated the rules of professional conduct. It had cost the state more than $250,000 to defend him. Maco, whose more than 20-year record remains unblemished, was forced to absent himself from trials for a time. He retired early, in 2003.

There you have it, both sides of the story concerning basic facts that have been in dispute about Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen molestation case since 1992. This post does not presume to pick a side, or that people even need to pick one, but that if you want to, then please look at what actually matter when determining the truth to an "inconclusive" child abuse case. Unfortunately, these three articles themselves have trouble adhering to that principle. To conclude, below is a list of instances where they go astray.

What's not relevant:

Woody Allen's relationship with Soon-Yi Previn; Farrow's relationship with Frank Sinatra, her general sex life, or her defense of Roman Polanski or her non-condemnation of her brother; other child abuse allegations against Woody Allen during his contentious custody case with Farrow; the Allen/Farrow dynamic before their breakup; Farrow signing a release to allow inclusion of her likeness in the Golden Globes tribute; Farrow being a "crazy lady who collects children"; the conspiracy floated in this ridiculous article wherein Lena Dunham supposedly tweeted in support of Dylan Farrow because Mia mentioned Girls in her anti-Allen tweets.

Image via Getty.