Thoughts On Dylan Farrow

~by Nancy Lee Grahn

Much is being writ­ten about Dylan Farrow’s open let­ter in Saturday’s New York Times about the sex­ual abuse she suf­fered as a child, thanks to her pow­er­ful adop­tive father, film­maker and cur­rent Oscar nom­i­nee Woody Allen.

What isn’t being dis­cussed by the var­i­ous talk­ing heads on every major net­work are the hard and cold facts about child sex­ual abuse, par­tic­u­larly when this life-altering crime is han­dled by fam­ily courts dur­ing a divorce or cus­tody dispute.

Dylan wrote that, “There were experts will­ing to attack my cred­i­bil­ity. There were doc­tors will­ing to gaslight an abused child… I didn’t know that he would accuse my mother of plant­ing the abuse in my head and call her a liar for defend­ing me. I didn’t know that I would be made to recount my story over and over again, to doc­tor after doc­tor, pushed to see if I’d admit I was lying as part of a legal bat­tle I couldn’t pos­si­bly understand.”

Through my and my daughter’s own four ago­niz­ing years in fam­ily court, I saw the flaws of this impen­e­tra­ble court sys­tem up close and per­sonal.  While my case did not involve sex­ual abuse, it was no less dis­turb­ing. While I do not wish to dis­cuss the specifics of my case at this time, I can tes­tify to the anguish this sys­tem puts on the chil­dren involved in an effort to pro­tect the par­ent in question.

While I know a thing or two about the ter­ri­ble state of this country’s fam­ily courts, and I’ve tes­ti­fied in Sacra­mento about the need for judi­cial over­sight and sys­tem reform aimed at keep­ing chil­dren safer dur­ing cus­tody dis­putes, I wasn’t as famil­iar with the facts about how child sex­ual abuse sur­vivors are far­ing in the nation’s fam­ily courts.

Since so many pun­dits are bas­ing their opin­ions on “vic­tim blam­ing,” “mother blam­ing,” or a mis­un­der­stand­ing of child sex­ual abuse and the courts’ treat­ment of it, and since Dylan’s open let­ter speaks directly to the legal system’s mis­han­dling of her child­hood trauma, I want to share with you some impor­tant facts that expose just how bro­ken the fam­ily court sys­tem is, par­tic­u­larly for chil­dren who have suf­fered sex­ual abuse by a par­ent or author­ity figure.

The Cen­ter for Judi­cial Excel­lence, which tracks hor­rific cases like Dylan’s, and advo­cates for wide­spread sys­tem reform of the nation’s fam­ily courts, shared the fol­low­ing star­tling facts with me, which were com­piled by their col­leagues at Child Abuse Solutions.

Every dis­cus­sion about whether Dylan is telling the truth needs to be grounded in facts.

  • 1) Chil­dren hardly ever fab­ri­cate alle­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse. Stud­ies ana­lyz­ing mali­ciously fab­ri­cated alle­ga­tions of child sex­ual abuse have found that chil­dren bring only 0% to 2% of such alle­ga­tions. There is no rep­utable research to sup­port the notion that chil­dren can be brain­washed to believe they have been sex­u­ally abused when they have not.
  • 2) Mali­ciously fab­ri­cated alle­ga­tions of child sex­ual abuse are exceed­ingly rare. Most stud­ies find that only 1% to 6% of all child sex­ual abuse alle­ga­tions in cus­tody and vis­i­ta­tion dis­putes are mali­ciously fab­ri­cated. The remain­ing 94% to 99% of such alle­ga­tions are either true or were brought in good faith, based upon a rea­son­able sus­pi­cion. Stud­ies find that fam­ily law judges con­sider alle­ga­tions of child phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse to be mali­ciously fab­ri­cated far more often than is sup­ported by the research.
  • 3) Research has estab­lished that while moth­ers accuse fathers of child sex­ual abuse in 48% of cases involv­ing such alle­ga­tions, their alle­ga­tions are found to be mali­ciously fab­ri­cated only 1.3% of the time.
  • 4) Med­ical evi­dence is very rare in cases involv­ing child sex­ual abuse. Even in legally con­firmed cases of vagi­nal pen­e­tra­tion, the rate of abnor­mal med­ical find­ings is only 5.5%. The rate of abnor­mal med­ical find­ings in legally con­firmed cases of anal pen­e­tra­tion is only 1%.Genital tis­sue is very elas­tic and heals rapidly. Unless the child is exam­ined by a medico-legal sex­ual assault spe­cial­ist within 48 hours of the rape, any gen­i­tal tears are likely to have healed and DNA or semen will have disappeared.
  • 5) The sin­gle most impor­tant indi­ca­tor of child sex­ual abuse is dis­clo­sure by the child to a trusted adult. Because fam­ily courts use a civil stan­dard of proof (a pre­pon­der­ance of the evi­dence, or just over a 50% like­li­hood) rather than the higher crim­i­nal stan­dard of proof (beyond a rea­son­able doubt), sub­stan­tially less evi­dence is required in fam­ily court to meet the bur­den of prov­ing that a child needs pro­tec­tion from sex­ual abuse. NOTE– This is why the fam­ily court judge was able to deny Mr. Allen vis­i­ta­tion with Dylan despite the fact that he was never crim­i­nally charged.
  • 6) Chil­dren who dis­close sex­ual abuse by a par­ent in the con­text of a cus­tody dis­pute are fre­quently not pro­tected from fur­ther abuse. Research shows that:

· Only 10% of chil­dren alleg­ing incest are ade­quately pro­tected from their iden­ti­fied per­pe­tra­tors by fam­ily courts through long-term super­vised vis­i­ta­tion orders or no-contact orders.
· The remain­ing 90% of chil­dren dis­clos­ing abuse receive no pro­tec­tion, with 70% con­tin­u­ing in shared cus­tody and vis­i­ta­tion arrange­ments with­out any super­vi­sion, and 20% being placed in the cus­tody of the par­ent they accused of the sex­ual abuse, and los­ing unsu­per­vised or all con­tact with the par­ent who sought to pro­tect them.

xmia-farrow-family edited

Given this last fact, what is remark­able about Dylan Farrow’s expe­ri­ence is that the fam­ily court in her case actu­ally pro­tected her from ongo­ing con­tact with her alleged abuser.  She was part of the only 10% of child sex abuse vic­tims who are pro­tected from their abusers dur­ing and after a divorce and/or cus­tody fight.

In her case, the Judge appar­ently found her claim of abuse “more prob­a­ble than not” despite the Yale psy­chol­o­gists’ reports sub­mit­ted by Woody Allen’s attor­neys.  Much is made by Woody Allen’s camp that a group of Yale psy­chol­o­gists found that the abuse did not hap­pen and was either Dylan’s fan­tasy or that the abuse was “implanted” by Mia Far­row.  These Yale psy­chol­o­gists, how­ever, were notably psy­chol­o­gists that Woody Allen treated with, and paid.  Addi­tion­ally, they never inter­viewed the cor­rob­o­rat­ing wit­nesses and they destroyed their notes, which in these cases are never done.  It is not sur­pris­ing that the judge noted that he had reser­va­tions about the reli­a­bil­ity of the Yale report.

More impor­tantly, the State’s team of psy­chol­o­gists — note they were not hired by Woody Allen or Mia Far­row — did find Dylan’s claims cred­i­ble.

While it is true that Woody Allen was not charged crim­i­nally, the pros­e­cu­tor explained that while he had prob­a­ble cause to charge Woody Allen, he was not doing so because of his and Mia Farrow’s con­cern for the fragility of Dylan and what going through a crim­i­nal action would mean to her.  So, yes, Woody Allen has never been found guilty under the crim­i­nal code for child sex­ual abuse.  But the judge in the fam­ily court action effec­tively made the deter­mi­na­tion that it was more prob­a­ble than not that the abuse occurred and Woody Allen received no visitation.  This find­ing was upheld by an appel­late court that affirmed the judge’s order on this point.

The sys­tem fails many other chil­dren which is why The Cen­ter for Judi­cial Excel­lence and other child-focused orga­ni­za­tions are urg­ing peo­ple con­cerned about the dan­gers of fam­ily courts for child sex abuse vic­tims to sign their peti­tion demand­ing Con­gres­sional Over­sight Hear­ings on the Fail­ure of Fam­ily &Divorce Courts. Their Kids of Divorce Speak Out cam­paign also shares videos of young sur­vivors like Dylan who are speak­ing out about the cri­sis in the nation’s fam­ily courts that are steal­ing their child­hoods and harm­ing so many child abuse survivors.

We should all work to ensure that sur­vivors like Dylan Far­row are sup­ported when they speak out about their abuse. We should inves­ti­gate the facts, all of them, before form­ing conclusions.

I would encour­age peo­ple to not think of Woody Allen as a famous artist, but as a man.  No more or less spe­cial than any­one else. Whether art can be sep­a­rated from the indi­vid­ual is a per­sonal con­sid­er­a­tion and a deci­sion every­one is enti­tled to make on their own.

However, if you love Woody Allen movies, do not use your appre­ci­a­tion of Woody Allen’s art as a basis to chal­lenge Dylan Farrow’s cred­i­bil­ity.  Although for some the issue of whether the art can be sep­a­rated from the man is open to debate, for me it can­not.  I can, how­ever, state with absolute impunity that Dylan Farrow’s story and her cred­i­bil­ity is com­pletely unre­lated to how good a film­maker Woody Allen is.

I would also urge every­one to be wary of claims of bit­ter or vin­dic­tive moth­ers.  Any mother’s attor­ney will put the fear of God in a mother before abuse is ever men­tioned to a Court because of the high risk that the Court will end up remov­ing the chil­dren from her and giv­ing them to the abuser. You speak and risk removal, or you remain scared and silent. As unthink­able as this is, it hap­pens with great reg­u­lar­ity. Visit The Cen­ter For Judi­cial Excel­lence web­page and you will see just how often.

I have great appre­ci­a­tion for Dylan. Her courage to speak out in such a pub­lic way has insti­gated a long needed dia­logue about these “pri­vate fam­ily mat­ters” that are leav­ing our chil­dren unpro­tected and silenced by a sys­tem that must instead give them a voice and actu­ally lis­ten to them.

Nancy Lee Grahn

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6 Responses to Thoughts On Dylan Farrow

  1. Ricardo says:

    The difference between Dylan and you is that she was coaxed by her mother to invent false stories. You came up with them all on your own. Pathetic liar.

    • Alethea says:

      Who’s the liar Ricardo? You are. You cannot be true to yourself because you cannot even reveal your true identity. You hide.

      You are a coward and a liar, because you are a lie to YOURSELF.

  2. Little Nel says:

    This is a great post, Alethea.

    It is interesting that the judge mentioned in his findings that Woody Allen twisted Satchel’s leg in anger after Satchel tried to push Woody away from him by kicking at him. Satchel didn’t want Woody to pick him up. Mia saw the incident, intervened, and reported it.

  3. Mary says:

    Thanks for this post. There are so many people who still believe in manufactured memories, and vindictive mothers who would attempt to ‘plant’ ideas in their children. Obviously, there are evil mothers as well as fathers, so it’s not that I can’t fathom that a mother would be so selfish she would use her child to get back at her man. Realistically, to believe someone would be successful in forcing memories on someone, especially vivid, detailed memories, and get those memories to stick, and live in fear that the subject of that experiment would never waver or later remember the brainwashing and reveal it, that just defies credulity. I’m glad this author addresses the issue of whether we can love the art but dislike the artist. I struggle with that one. Who was Sandro Botticelli? Would I like him if I knew what kind of person he was in real life? I love the movies ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, and ‘Chinatown’, but I think Roman Polanski should have served felony time. I love the movies of Alfred Hitchcock, but in recent years we’ve been told he was a sexual harasser extraordinaire. I liked Woody Allen’s movies right up until the abuse accusation and the affair with Soon-Yi. I have a craving to rewatch ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’. It’s a pretty minor concern compared to the system reform that is needed to protect children.

  4. melissa lee says:

    Please, listen and give support to all incest survivors when they come forward, they are taking a giant leap of faith, as most where not believed when they told an adult, or hide the abuse out of great fear instilled in them by the abuser. Melissa Lee

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