“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator…All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”
~ Judith Herman
From 1989-1993 I worked in Massachusetts for the Child-At-Risk Hotline at Judge Baker Children’s Center, in the Longwood Medical Area. We covered the entire state after hours for reports of suspected child abuse and neglect when the departments of investigation were closed for the day and on weekends. I was a supervisor, which meant that every single suspected case of abuse or neglect was “run by” me. With the screener’s help I determined whether it was a case that was false, probably true or so emergently true that we had to take action that very shift.
Children’s lives and well-being hung in the balance so we were very highly trained and conscientious in our work. Over that period I estimate that I heard somewhere around 15,000 stories of child abuse. I developed a very good BS detector.
Like many I had heard vague allegations about Dylan Farrow when she was a child, but it was hard to know what to think and why the case had not been prosecuted.
This week’s publication of her letter to the New York Times has changed all that for me.
Since it was published last week there has been a firestorm of responses and conversations popping up all over social media, some helpful and others not so much.
As a child abuse prevention professional and a treater of many adult victims of childhood trauma I would like to add my perspective. I believe Dylan. Her story is coherent, believable and internally consistent.
Let’s look at the list of secondary gains that each side gets from lying. For Woody and Dylan there are reasons to lie and reasons to tell the truth. There are also many reasons not to.
She gets attention in the press. She and her family is vilified in the media.
She gets people to feel sorry for her Her credibility is forever tarnished
in the eyes of friends, employers, etc.
She’s going for a book or movie deal? Her accused is a Hollywood insider.
She could be sued for defamation.
Maybe I lack imagination but I’m already out of reasons for her to lie about this. Usually when people tell big lies there is a big positive payoff. I don’t see it here. Do you? The Cons are overwhelmingly negative and threaten to ruin her life. Just to be a somebody in the press? There are easier ways. OK, let’s look at the other side.
He keeps making movies He gets a clean conscience (if he’s not
He keeps all his money He may need to pay a lot of money in a
People keep loving him and his work People will be revulsed by him and his work
He keeps his relationships He loses friends and business contacts
The Romans used to ask an important question, Qui Bono? Who benefits here? Dylan suffers more by lying than she gains. Woody suffers more by telling the truth by far. Lying is in his best interest as it is in the case of most perpetrators. Even if we look at just dollars and profit motive, Dylan stands to lose more than she gains by lying where the opposite is true with Woody. It is incredibly hard to win lawsuits against perpetrators, especially when there was no original conviction.
But what about the argument her mother made her do it by “implanting” memories. Oh please! Maybe (maybe!!! although I’ve never seen it in decades of practice) a seven year old could be persuaded. But an adult knows better. Mind control is possible, but it requires years of skilled training to do and the only experts in the world are black ops top secret level psy military people who do not publish manuals. Occam’s razor suggests that this argument is full of giant holes. Like smoke and fire, reports of abuse almost always coincide with actual abuse!
As for Woody, well we already know him as a man with exceedingly poor boundaries and someone who acts without considering the consequences for those around him by marrying his long-term partner, Mia’s teenaged daughter. Everyone who “testified” for him at the awards show (wasn’t that strange) talked about all the roles he had written for women, not anything about his character. I had the sense that the women supposedly speaking on his behalf were really speaking on their own interests. But having said that perps are exceedingly good at getting people to believe them. And the longer the friendship, the harder to see the perp inside the man.
If you look at the Herman quote above you will see why. I have written in The Trauma Tool Kit how the mind wants to avoid material it sees as threatening to its own sense of security and comfort. Contemplating that your best loved films were created by a monster creates a level of cognitive dissonance that most people cannot handle.
But, you see, we must. Because this is one story among millions. Every day there are victims who tell the truth and are shut out of their families because the perpetrator is believed. Because the people they tell will not or cannot tolerate a change in perspective and a re-ordering of their own lives and view of reality.
Our culture is sick. I agree with the neo-feminists who talk of the ‘rape culture’ in which we live. All over the world from time out of mind women and children have been raped, dominated and treated like property. Men have relied on each other to maintain power, to satisfy their lusts and desires and do what they want. Just because they can. For humanity to evolve, this has to end. That means TELLING THE TRUTH, no matter how unpleasant or personally uncomfortable that makes us. After all, it could be your daughter or son, neighbor, friend or cousin who is the next victim.
Only then will the real healing begin for individuals and society as whole.
As for me, I’m breaking up with Woody and all his films. I wish Dylan a sense of wholeness, peace and healing for her future. She has suffered enough.