"The message that Hollywood sends matters," writes Dylan Farrow in a wrenching New York Times Op-Ed recounting a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her adoptive father, filmmaker Woody Allen.
Farrow, a 28-year-old writer and artist, is speaking out for the first time about the notorious 1992 allegations that Woody Allen had molested her when she was seven.
"[W]hen I was seven years old," Farrow writes, "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."
These allegations first surfaced during the firestorm breakup of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow in 1993, after Justice Elliott Wilk of the State Supreme Court of New York awarded Farrow custody of their three children, Moses, Dylan and Ronan (then Satchel). According to a report in the Times, the judge wrote "a scathing 33-page decision" and "denounced Mr. Allen for carrying on an affair with one of Ms. Farrow's daughters, trying to pit family members against one another and lacking knowledge of the most basic aspects of his children's lives."
The judge also denied Mr. Allen immediate visiting rights with his 7-year-old daughter, Dylan Farrow. Last summer Ms. Farrow accused the 57-year-old film maker of molesting the child. Justice Wilk said it was unlikely that Mr. Allen could be prosecuted for sexual abuse based on the evidence. But while a team of experts concluded that Dylan was not abused, the judge said he found the evidence inconclusive.
Dylan Farrow, who now lives in Florida under a pseudonym, was offered NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's blog to limn her side of the story after Allen's recent Golden Globe lifetime achievement award raised questions about his worthiness. On the night of the Globes ceremony, Ronan Farrow tweeted: “Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”
Mia also chimed in, tweeting that she was skipping the Allen tribute to watch HBO's "Girls" -- but the indignant tweets had already ignited a crusade of commentary, with pundits ruminating on whether it is possible -- or indeed, necessary -- to separate the art from the artist. Allen's friend and documentarian, producer Robert B. Weide was so incensed by the idle gossip he took to the Daily Beast to write a passionate defense of Allen.
But now, in light of Dylan Farrow's painful proclamation, all the rest is hearsay.
In a preface to Dylan's letter, Kristof disclosed that he is friends with her mother, Mia, and her brother, Ronan. He also addressed potential skeptics by explaining why he chose to resurrect this issue now, two decades after it happened.
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.
"Look, none of us can be certain what happened," Kristof continued. "The standard to send someone to prison is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but shouldn’t the standard to honor someone be that they are unimpeachably, well, honorable?"
Adding to the horror of Farrow's experience was confronting the reality of an indifferent public, or worse, a public that adored and acclaimed her "tormenter." She writes:
Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
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?
Read Dylan Farrow's open letter here.