Home » Articles » Dylan Farrow’s Allegations Against Woody Allen: A Short List of Truly Unfair Considerations

Dylan Farrow’s Allegations Against Woody Allen: A Short List of Truly Unfair Considerations

Sexual abuse allegations against Woody Allen were made first in 1992 by his daughter Dylan. They’ve resurfaced since Allen was honored at the Golden Globes, culminating with an open letter last week from Dylan herself.

Allen stands legally innocent of any crime. The question in raising the issue is whether he’s acted so dishonorably as to be morally disqualified for an honor like the Cecil B. DeMille. I don’t know what if any character component is relevant to the award; personally, I long ago abandoned the idea that talent or even hard work at a particular pursuit necessarily have much to do with character and honorability in any other sense.

What I would suggest, after prosecuting, evaluating and consulting on child sexual abuse cases for over 15 years, is to largely disregard a few of the more popular considerations currently being touted as reasons Allen should be exonerated and Dylan (or Mia Farrow) either blamed or pitied. While nothing can be debated now that will ever settle things factually, there are a few “points” being touted that simply merit far less consideration than they’re being given:

1. No physical evidence “proving” the case. Anyone with a cursory understanding of both the typical nature of child sex abuse and pediatric anatomy knows that child cases almost never yield compelling physical evidence, even when reports are immediate. Very few abusers seek to inflict injury and know that doing so will likely interrupt the grooming process and trigger a report. Further, the genital area is blood-rich and heals very quickly even if tissue is damaged. Dylan reported nothing to my knowledge likely to yield physical evidence.

2. The allegations arising in the context of a custody dispute. Many have bought into the pernicious myth that children are easily and often coached to fabricate allegations of sexual abuse, usually by their mother against a targeted male figure. This is a particularly attractive idea against Mia Farrow, whose perceived bitterness at Allen’s actions with Soon-Yi Previn fuel the myth. In fact, sex abuse allegations made during custody disputes have about the same very low rate of false reporting as in any other case. Further, the risk of suggestibility drops off sharply after around the age of 5, two years before Dylan reported.

3. The Yale-New Haven Hospital report. A team of investigators, in the still early days of modern child sexual abuse investigation, appear to have questionably investigated and then questionably concluded that Dylan had not been abused. Aside from other very troubling aspects of this investigation that observers have raised, that particular conclusion was neither theirs to reach nor accepted practice with the information they appear to have had.

4. Most of what Robert Weide says in his 1/27 Daily Beast piece on the subject. Weide apparently knows Allen personally (and his pro-Woody bias is clear) but he knows almost nothing about sexual abuse dynamics or what is reliable in terms of indicators. What we believe we know about friends or colleagues is simply not relevant, most of the time, to what they might be capable of, period.

5. Evidence that Dylan suffered with mental health issues, either as a child or since. Nothing indicates that mental illness- certainly the kind she appears to have faced- is likely to cause delusions of abuse or an inclination to lie about being abused. Further, individuals who suffer sexual abuse often develop mental illness subsequently. And, if the condition was pre-existing, it tends to make sufferers tragically logical choices for abusers who know they won’t be believed.

As for what’s worth considering?

Dylan’s account. It’s not dispositive either, although it could be sufficient in a criminal court. The kind of sensory detail she gives even now, and the surrounding details of other acts she remembers very clearly, are exactly the kind of indicators that have helped win rightful convictions in child abuse cases as we’ve improved in investigating it over the last 25 years. Those memories, in a competent investigation and prosecution, can also yield powerful corroborative evidence.

I love Allen’s work and have no desire to demonize him. But I cannot in good conscience deny the plausibility- at least from where I stand- of Dylan’s accusations. It’s sad. But as Allen himself often showed us, so is life.

23 comments

  1. Judy Benitez says:

    You captured a lot of the factors that I’ve been thinking about. Whatever else is true, I think it’s readily apparent that Dylan has suffered some kind of trauma and deserves to be respected and supported – not called names by the likes of Stephen King.

  2. murph says:

    Trying to jump on those coat tails too. That’s some professional integrity you show there. Maybe you can get an interview on Ronan’s show.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Murph. I’m actually very comfortable with my professional integrity as it’s never been remotely questioned in a long career. Again, thanks for stopping by.

  4. Everything in regard to this is so generally stated that it could mean almost nothing. In regard to Weide, at least he addresses basic issue that has come. If the argument is that Weide knows nothing about child sexual abuse, one could also argue that Mr. Canaff knows nothing specifically about the case. Let him do a point by point rebuttal to Weide’s claim.

    What are we, then, to make of Moses Farrow, Allen and Farrow’s son? He says that there were no dark or closed places and that everything was done in the open? He says that his mother brainwashed the children into hating Allen.

    This whole things reads like a bad psycho-drama being played out in the public, and the public, via the Internet, willing to be a lynch mobbed.

    Also, I find it very strange that Mia Farrow would allow her image to be used ( and she gave permission for it) for the Golden Globe wards which celebrated Allen’s accomplishments and then turn around and claim that the awards dissed child abuse victims. Why? This reads as a very calculated attempt to get at Allen for what couldn’t be accomplished via the legal system.

    Also, if Canaff is widely familiar with child sex abuse, he must surely know of the many cases in which adult were accused of sexual abuse in the 1980s, and then it was learned that the investigating authorities had coached, coaxed or led the children into giving erroneous accounts.

  5. Thanks for your comment, normankelly. As many do, you’re using a very small and remarkably atypical handful of anecdotal cases from the 80s (almost all involving multiple-victim cases) that have zero reflection on the Farrow case or the vast majority of others. A point by point rebuttal of Weide is actually something I’ve considered. I’m happy to do so- thanks for the inspiration. As for Moses Farrow, I have no idea what he perceived or what he’s motivated by. I admire Woody Allen professionally and his work in cinema has shaped my cultural life perhaps more than any other single source. But I’m simply not ready to discount the detailed, sensory, credible and un-sensationalized account of a 28 year-old woman who remembers being abused by him as clearly now as she did then.

  6. Isn’t also possible that she has had nearly twenty years to mold, shape and refine, and embellished her story over these years. I also remember Tawana Brawley claiming that she was sexually abused by three men and that turned out to be a hoax.

    Once again, what I find disconcerting about this is that it seems to be a high-tech lynching. First, Mia Farrow gives her permission to use her images from Allen’a films at the Golden Globe awards. Then she cynically slams the Awards for discounting sexually abused children by honoring Allen. Then her son Ronan steps in (and by the way, she has hinted that Ronan might be Ol’ Blue Eyes’ son not Allen’s, which may mean she was cheating on Allen). All that gets the ball rolling in various sites and then Nick Kristof gives Dylan Farrow a forum to place her story.

    It’s a little too convenient for me. As I said, before I remember the Tawana Brawley affair and I do know that children lie to please parents in family court cases, which is what Moses Farrow claim.

    And then we have the curious case of Mia Farrow’s own brother being a child molester.

  7. Arless McGee says:

    Roger, excellent article. May i ask 1) about the alleged fact that Woody Allen took a Lie Detector Test about this and passed it while Mia Farrow refused to take the test, is this simply untrue? And second, there is an article in Salon quoting Dylan about when she first came to her mother about the abuse it was the hardest conversation she ever had. But she also states her Mom said Woody claims he did not do it and Dylan told her ‘He’s lying’. ? So if its the first time she goes to her mother about it, how did Mia already know to ask Woody about the abuse and have his denial? That does not make any sense in Dylan’s story.

  8. Hi, Arless- thanks for stopping by. Robert Weide, in his slate piece, says that Mr. Allen passed a polygraph and Mia Farrow refused to take one. I cannot comment further- I just don’t know. As for the Salon article, I’ll have to look it up to see if I can follow your train of thought.

  9. Arless McGee says:

    thanks Roger, i did not mean to demean in any way the hurt and fears Dylan writes about, this is a very sad situation for her, its just there are so many conflicting stories on all of it. I’ve also never seen the exact allegations Dylan has made about this, only her ‘and then he molested me’ statement. I’m never sure what that means except that it is not a good thing. The Salon article with the quote was about another of Dylan’s brothers coming out in defense of Woody, if that might help you locate it or if you have a desire to read it. It’s a short article which has Dylan’s quote at the bottom.

  10. Rusty says:

    The King tweet was revealed to be poor word choice and nothing more – he wasn’t referring to a person, but a situation. Considering what we know about the author, I think we can accept his explanation of a faux pas.

  11. Hi, Arless- I completely understand. This is a sad situation, and I have no inclination to make definitive statements regarding guilt or innocence. That said, what I know about the facts and what I know about how child sexual abuse generally manifests itself lead me to believe that Dylan’s account is credible. I have seen the statement by Moses Farrow, who does not believe his sister was molested. Of course, that’s an opinion he has every right to hold, and he was certainly closer to the situation physically at any time than I was. Still, I can’t dismiss the credible account Dylan has made, and I don’t believe it was concocted.

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