What if Dylan Farrow was your daughter?

I cannot even begin to imagine how many sexually abused victims out there – many girls and women – feel when their reported abusers and are, unfortunately, not taken kop-toe, always treated with suspicion and mistrust.

Published in one of the New York Times blog, yesterday I came across a very heartbreaking and sad open letter by Dylan Farrow in which she relayed and relived the sexual abuse experience she endured at the hands of someone who was supposed to protect her from such ill-human acts – her adoptive father (emphasis). This of course does not in any way suggest that Allen is guilty of the crime (emphasis) as alleged by Dylan. No, he is not…. at least unless found guilty by a court of law which has, to date, not found him guilty.

At seven years, alleges Dylan, Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. She alleges Allen told her to lay on her stomach and play with her 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.”

Despite all this, it appears the police at the time failed to prosecute Allen as is often the case in sexual abuse cases: no-one had faith in Dylan to believe her. Worse, even her own mother did not believe her at the time, she says. Instead, her mother let her down by declining to pursue criminal charges again Allen despite findings of probable cause by the State of Connecticut that she was a “child victim.” Instead Allen, claims Dylan, used his sexual relationship with her sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on her. “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”.

What is even bizarre and more painful for any sexual abuse victim especially when these (victims, mainly kids) tell their parents – is when their own parents want them change their story that the incident never happened either for fear of embarrassment this will bring to the family or to merely protect the alleged perpetrator. This is confirmed by Dylan that: “At one point, my mother sat me down and told me that I wouldn’t be in trouble if I was lying – that I could take it all back. I couldn’t. It was all true. But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily”.

It is even heartbreaking that experts that had to help Dylan get through this ordeal were in fact “willing to attack [her] credibility” while the doctors, on the other hand, were “willing to gaslight an abused child.” This is despite the fact, claims Dylan, that Allen “had been doing things to me [sexually abusing] that I didn’t like”.

Dylan said “these things [the sexual abuse] 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 read this I was reminded of Annelie Botes’ Thula Thula novel (which I recommend) that deals with a child who is repeatedly sexually abused by his own father. What is even sad about the Thula Thula story is that the mother is very much aware of the abuse her daughter is subjected to by his husband. As the story goes, one gets to learn that the mother, too, had, as she was growing up, been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of people she knew but despite her experience, she failed to protect his daughter from his monster husband until he died. To date Allen is yet to be convicted or charged because Dylan’s mother failed to press and or pursue charges against him. This, unfortunately, means Allen is a free man roaming the street.

Dr John Leventhal, who led the investigative team and conducted repeated interviews with Dylan, has reportedly said he and his colleagues had discredited Dylan’s testimony because they felt she “was coached or influenced by her mother”.

Now, as a parent, can you really imagine if Dylan was your daughter and she had to see her alleged abuser everyday of her life on the street because you, as a mother/parent, failed to see justice being done? Or that because the police believe you groomed her into lying about abuse that it happened when in fact it did not?

Can you really imagine what Dylan must be going through every time she has to recall that experience or how you failed her?

Or can you even imagine how she must be feeling every time she has to suppress those memories of when she was being sexually abused by the very person who was supposed to protect her? Again, I am not saying Allen did commit the allegation(s) as claimed by Dylan.

If you do not know, here’s how Dylan et al out there see their alleged abusers not facing the full might of the law: “That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself… Each time I saw my abuser’s face – on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television – I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.”

As a parent/mother/brother/sister, we should always remember that our failure to protect those who are more vulnerable – women and children – from abuse and to see to it that the perpetrators face the full might of the law, as Dylan noted: we let these criminals be the “living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.”

Now, as a 28-year-old man, I ask: What if Dylan Farrow was your daughter?

UPDATE:

  • Denying the allegations on BBC through his Publicist Leslee Dart – Allen said he would respond “very soon” to Dylan’s allegations. Dart maintained a “thorough investigation was conducted by court-appointed independent experts” when the allegations were first made and that “the experts concluded there was no credible evidence of molestation; that Dylan Farrow had an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality; and that Dylan Farrow had likely been coached by her mother Mia Farrow”.
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