I’ve avoided the latest Woody Allen sexual abuse furor so far, and this post isn’t going to be an exhaustive treatment of it. It’s one of those “he said, she said” arenas where what actually happened can be difficult to know for sure, and feelings are high (and angry) on both sides.
The allegations by Woody Allen’s now-grown adopted daughter Dylan that he sexually abused her when she was seven are not at all new; they were part of the custody trial that surfaced when the two adults split. They are also being spun by Allen—and accepted on many blogs and in many articles—as the fabrications of a vengeful woman (Mia Farrow) implanting thoughts into an impressionable child.
I want to firmly state that there is absolutely no question that some abuse charges are fabricated or “implanted” in children, and that accusations that surface in a divorce or custody trial for the first time must be looked at with particular suspicion.
However, I am astounded (although perhaps I shouldn’t be) at the amount of ignorance about this particular case shown by many people opining on it. Of course, how many people have willingly followed this sordid mess? But if you are interested, there are quite a few links I’d recommend for learning more details: this, and this, this.
Those are long, but they include the official court documents, and if you read them you will learn why the judge not only did not allow Woody Allen to have custody of Dylan, but also took away his visitation rights. But here are a few highlights of the case that might help in understanding what was going on:
(1) Farrow and Allen had never married, and they didn’t ever live together regularly, even at the beginning when their relationship was going well. By the time of the final split things had not been going well for years and the couple had already been quite estranged even before the Soon Yi affair and the subsequent custody battle.
(2) The abuse allegations came prior to the custody battle. Allen sued for custody shortly after the abuse allegations, which were initially reported to a pediatrician, who was mandated to report the charges to the authorities.
(3) Even prior to the abuse allegations, Farrow had noticed Allen behaving inappropriately with their (Mia and Woody’s) adopted daughter Dylan. This behavior had been going on for years and had been reported years earlier, beginning when Dylan was two or three, and had been witnessed by other people, some of whom testified during the trial. Farrow and Allen had been in couple’s therapy for years in order to deal with the problem of his inappropriate behavior with Dylan. These allegations of inappropriate touching occurred years before the Soon Yi affair was exposed, and the work of the couples therapy was to set limits on what was even then seen as an excess of physical affection of an inappropriate type (although not frank abuse such as was alleged to have later occurred).
(4) Farrow discovered Allen had been having an affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi because she discovered photos of Soon Yi in Allen’s apartment. The photos are usually described as “nude,” but they were actually Hustler-type (spread-eagled) nude photos, and Allen had left them where he should have known Farrow would have a very good chance of noticing them in his otherwise spare and completely neat apartment.
(5) Allen’s behavior regarding Dylan is often equated with his behavior with Soon Yi. But the latter might be called an example of ephebophilia, a technical term for attraction to late adolescents (although Soon Yi was about twenty-one when the affair was discovered, it almost certainly began in her late teens). There is nothing criminal about that, and it doesn’t necessarily involve any sort of abuse. The common denominator between Allen and Soon Yi and Allen and Dylan is that both were the daughters of his girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, and that Dylan was his own adopted daughter as well.
If you put yourself in Mia Farrow’s place, it really must have been an astonishing shock to find those photos. It would be bad enough to discover that your long-term boyfriend (or sort-of boyfriend, or even boyfriend you’re having some difficulty with) is having an affair with another woman. Add to that the fact that said boyfriend is around fifty-six years old and the “other woman” is twenty-one. Then add the fact that the other woman is your daughter, and that the affair has been going on for years, probably since she turned eighteen. It is rather like betrayal squared, or perhaps cubed—a truly exponential effect.
To top it all off, the guy feigns puzzlement (or truly is puzzled) as to why anyone might disapprove of any of this:
“What was the scandal? I fell in love with this girl, married her. We have been married for almost 15 years now.”
He added, “There was no scandal, but people refer to it all the time as a scandal and I kind of like that in way because when I go I would like to say I had one real juicy scandal in my life.”
That doesn’t mean that same person showing such insensitivity is going to be sexually molesting a child. Not at all. But put the two together—the well-documented inappropriateness and boundary-crossing with Dylan prior to the Soon-Yi affair’s discovery by Mia, and the affair with Soon-Yi itself and the failure to acknowledge anything upsetting there—and it’s no stretch to think that Allen might have committed a crime of opportunity with Dylan and rationalized it to himself.
And if you don’t much care about all of this, I wouldn’t blame you. My own interest in the case stems not from any special fascination I have with either Mia Farrow or Woody Allen, whose work (except for “Annie Hall”) I’ve never much cared for (both of them, that is). It’s the intersection of law, child abuse, the press, and public opinion that are the hooks for me.