The New York Times has published an open letter from Dylan Farrow about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of Woody Allen. Farrow's name has been invoked many times in the weeks following Allen being given the lifetime achievement award at The Golden Globes, and while she's been mostly silent until now, Farrow has chosen to write about her painful experience.
The open letter, published today on The New York Times' blog, begins with an introduction by Nicholas Kristof, a columnist at the publication, who explains why the story is being brought up now. He states:
So why publish an account of an old case on my blog? Partly because the Golden Globe lifetime achievement award to Allen ignited a debate about the propriety of the award. Partly because the root issue here isn't celebrity but sex abuse. And partly because countless people on all sides have written passionately about these events, but we haven't fully heard from the young woman who was at the heart of them.
With that, Kristof turns it over to Farrow, who pulls no punches, describing what Allen had done to her in detail:
When I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother's electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we'd go to Paris and I'd be a star in his movies.
She goes on:
For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn't like. I didn't like how often he would take me away from my mom, siblings and friends to be alone with him. I didn't like it when he would stick his thumb in my mouth. I didn't like it when I had to get in bed with him under the sheets when he was in his underwear. I didn't like it when he would place his head in my naked lap and breathe in and breathe out. I would hide under beds or lock myself in the bathroom to avoid these encounters, but he always found me. 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.
Whatever you may feel about Allen's film-making, it is difficult to read this story and be able to argue for him. While not everyone believes Farrow's story it also raises the question of why she would lie. This is a woman who remained silent for 20 years. What would she have to gain now? It seems that her only interest is in telling her truth (no one's going to try Allen) and offer both hope and a plea for others not to ignore sexual abuse.
Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.
But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.
What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?
It's heartbreaking that Farrow had to experience this, but it's important that we listen to her so the events that she reports don't happen to other children; that we recognize that sexual abuse can affect all children regardless of class or stature; that we need to make every effort to stop it.
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