Dylan Farrow, the adoptive daughter of celebrated filmmaker Woody Allen, has over the weekend published an open letter in which she details the horrific sexual assault she says he put her through, aged just 7 years old.
This is not the first time these allegations have arisen, surfacing for the first time in the early 1990s – very shortly after Allen’s split from long term girlfriend Mia Farrow, upon discovering he had been having an affair with Soon-Yi Previn, her adopted daughter. Woody Allen has never been prosecuted, and continues to deny the allegations, with his camp claiming that he has been subject to a kind of witch-hunt. Mostly, that Dylan had been coached by her mother to make the accusations against Woody Allen because of the end of their relationship.
In the letter, Dylan bravely writes,
‘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. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.
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.
When I asked my mother if her dad did to her what Woody Allen did to me, I honestly did not know the answer. I also didn’t know the firestorm it would trigger. I didn’t know that my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me. 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.
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?’
Now, Dylan Farrow is happily married and well-supported, but remains tormented by the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of Woody Allen. Living in a world that celebrates him, valuing his creativity and his films over the 7 year old girl who has had to live a lifetime stricken with mental scars.
Farrow opens and closes the letter with a pervasive question – ‘What is your favourite Woody Allen movie?’ – It is a truly harrowing read, coming in the light of Allen’s recent Oscar nomination and Golden Globe lifetime achievement award. It is stark reminder of how terribly our society fails the survivors of sexual abuse, and all-too-often, how blind we can be.