Dear Stephen King: Please Don’t Call Dylan Farrow’s Abuse Story ‘Bitchery’

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About Lynn Beisner

Lynn Beisner writes about family, social justice issues and the craziness of daily life. Her work has been featured in The Guardian, Altnernet, The Good Men Project and in Role Reboot where she was a contributing writer. Her articles and ideas have been discussed internationally and in forums as diverse as MSNBC, The Young Turks, BBC and USA Today. To protect her family, she has been writing under this pseudonym since 2011.

Comments

  1. Joanna Schroeder says:

    I was compelled by a lot of the information in this piece, by a man who is a fan of Allen’s films, but also an advocate for survivors. Objective and smart, very compelling.

    And he hits on many of the points you make, as well.

    http://rogercanaff.com/site/2014/02/dylan-farrows-allegations-against-woody-allen-a-short-list-of-truly-unfair-considerations/

  2. As a long-time admirer of Woody Allen and witness to how some mothers will in fact, resort to malicious slander of an ex, it depresses me to admit that I feel inclined to give Dylan Farrow the benefit of a doubt. Some people might cite the hysteria with the McMartin preschool hysteria of the 80s as an example of manipulating children. However, once they reached adulthood, the former children in the McMartin case admitted that they had been forced to lie by their parents, who had monetary motives. By contrast, Dylan Farrow, now a nearly 30 year-old adult, and married, has not changed her story. To believe she is “brainwashed”, you would have to believe that she somehow either buried, or is in denial about, memories she has of Mia Farrow forcing her to believe a complete lie. And that at 28 years of age, she would not have the slightest misgivings about how her mother raised her if Mia Farrow did resort to such mental abuse. Jessica Hendra, the daughter of National Lampoon scribe, Tony Hendra, was similarly savaged when she came forward with how HER father raped her. But neither Jessica Hendra nor Dylan Farrow claimed repressed memories surfacing, but rather memories of experiences they have never been able to forget.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Obviously, many men also slander their wives during divorce proceedings. Divorce can be really, really horrible.

      Glad for all the points you made here about how this case does NOT echo the McMartin preschool case at all and about the fact that nobody is claiming repressed memories.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      On the subject of people claiming abuse during divorce, here are some facts:

      “The allegations arising in the context of a custody dispute. Many have bought into the pernicious myth that children are easily and often coached to fabricate allegations of sexual abuse, usually by their mother against a targeted male figure. This is a particularly attractive idea against Mia Farrow, whose perceived bitterness at Allen’s actions with Soon-Yi Previn fuel the myth. In fact, sex abuse allegations made during custody disputes have about the same very low rate of false reporting as in any other case. Further, the risk of suggestibility drops off sharply after around the age of 5, two years before Dylan reported.”

      http://rogercanaff.com/site/2014/02/dylan-farrows-allegations-against-woody-allen-a-short-list-of-truly-unfair-considerations/

      • The studies about the alleged myth for false accusations of child abuse in divorce, tend to claim its a myth, and then go on to cite shocking high numbers, the first one I saw that was claiming its a myth, cited 25% as the rate of FAs. In this one its higher.

        “Mother’s allegations against father were
        considered likely to have been accurate in 49 percent of cases
        and unlikely in 33 percent. Father’s allegations against mother
        were considered likely in 42 percent of cases and unlikely in 41
        percent. The remainder of the cases were indeterminate.12″

        h ttp://aja.ncsc.dni.us/courtrv/cr35-1/CR35-1McDonald.pdf

  3. Wow Lynn Beisner. That was the most amazing piece I have read on GMP. Stephen Kings tweet was more a confirmation of his belief this was a fabricated story. It angers me as it shows how much ignorance and misunderstanding exist even among the intelligent. What bothers me is all the men who want to cuddle with their daughters and show appropriate affection who have to rethink how that is perceived. I would not want to remove touch from a relationship between a father and his children. I am glad you wrote that letter to Mr. King. He needs to read “The Trauma Myth.” He might rethink his stupid fucking tweet.

  4. Rabbi Justin Kerber says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: King writes so compellingly about all kinds of abuse in The Shining and its recent sequel, Doctor Sleep. It doesn’t add up that he would be so callous.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I think the fact that he probably didn’t realize it’d be public made him careless. And our generations (maybe centuries) of making women feel crap for how they are treated has probably affected the way he sees stories like this, just like it affects us all. I’m more of an asshole in private (not THIS much of an asshole – and not about this), as we all are.

      He needs to apologize and explain that he understands the harm that his mistake caused many survivors who saw that tweet.

  5. If I had to guess, I would say that Woody Allen’s odd relationship with his step daughter does lend much more likelihood to his guilt in this matter. But that’s just a guess, based on very little information; and very little information is what most people not directly connected to this case have. But that’s where my agreement with the article ends.

    “If you are saying that you cannot know the truth, you are saying that there is some credibility to Woody Allen’s version of events, and that this might truly be as Allen’s lawyers said, the product of a ‘vengeful lover’.”

    I’m saying you/I cannot know the truth. AND I am not saying there is some credibility to Woody Allen’s version of event. I AM saying there may be, but you and I don’t know. Here is the break in logic that happens with so many victim’s advocates. They are doing exactly what they accuse the other side of doing. They like to say that people who don’t “believe” victims outright are blaming them and “defending” the perpetrators. But they’re putting the quotation marks around the wrong words; they should be quotating “victims” and “perpetrators,” or using the word “alleged” as a qualifier. Because people who claim not to know are simply telling the truth, whereas people like the author of this article have clearly decided that the use of the word alleged isn’t necessary. Perpetrators are guilty; victims deserve care and justice.

    I’m sure it IS the case that false accusations of crimes are much rarer than true ones, so I guess if you’re placing a bet, given even odds, that’d be the way to go. But this is justice. Justice necessarily leans in the favor of the accused. The accuser has the burden of proof for very good reasons. Otherwise, what’s to stop anyone with a motive from making up any story they want about you? It’s imperative that our justice system have a policy that virtually no innocent person is convicted. And this spirit ought to be reflected in the public and the press. Innocent people have been accused and convicted of crimes like this; and their lives have been ruined. And those people aren’t just destroyed by the betrayal. Their fate is to spend a significant portion of their life in prison, living in constant fear from truly horrible people, and when they emerge having no one except maybe their mother believing that they are innocent.

    In the case of child molestation, there are two other things to consider. The first is that young children will often do and say what they think is expected of them. Whether it’s out of fear or the need for approval, they are vulnerable to adult pressure, by molesters and manipulators alike. The second is our puritanical society being particularly difficult for children to understand; children often know nothing about sex other than it’s dirty, forbidden, and will get them in trouble. When it comes to testimony, they are bound to be confused and guarded, and easily coached.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen all too frequently, or that it didn’t happen to Dylan. It may have; and hopefully she’s being helped. In fact, maybe that’s where the focus of the energy should be, in helping alleged victims. Because even in the case that accusations are false, the accuser must need some kind of help. But unless there is some significantly damning evidence, I maintain, very strongly, that I don’t know the truth.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I think the HUGE distinction here is that we, the public, are not a court of law and we are not trying to remove his rights.

      We, as the public, are deciding where our guts land on this. Nobody should be attempting to remove his rights to be found innocent or guilty by a court. But aside from that, we do need to judge – with the information given – what we think is most likely. We need to do that in order to decide if we’ll consume his products, or endorse him as a human or director.

      There is a strange, but important, little turn of phrase one of my friends used recently about something unrelated to this particular case.

      “I believe her, but that doesn’t mean I know it’s the truth.”

      It’s so slippery to plant your feet in this, but it’s so true. I believe Dylan Farrow. But can I ever know if it’s the objective truth? Certainly not.

      But I’m with the 99%+ odds that she is telling the truth, and all of the evidence I can see leads me to believe it, as well. Is it the objective truth? I don’t know. I’ll probably never know. But that doesn’t keep me from making a judgement. We have to make judgements without the 100% objective truth all the time.

      Beyond that, it’s irrelevant to this story. In THIS story, King said something that harms all survivors – present and future. That telling your story is a bitchy thing to do. A bad thing to do. And Lynn’s right, that adds to a culture of shaming and blaming victims.

      Mr. King knows better and can do better, and I suspect he will once he recovers from the shock of learning what it’s like to be wrong and have the voices of thousands (if not more) survivors telling him they’ve been hurt.

      • I suppose you do have a point to make in separating the legal argument from the public one. In this case, especially considering the Soon Yi thing, it’s difficult to defend Woody Allen against people’s suspicions. And the Stephen King tweet was unfortunate–I wonder if he’s been the victim of false accusations. But I still think presumption of guilt in the court of public opinion is terribly wrong as well. And I suppose, from the author’s words, and Dylan Farrow’s words from her open letter, that they would take a non-presumption of guilt of an abuser as a presumption of guilt of the alleged victim, (being guilty of false accusation); but again, I would argue that’s not the truth. It’s very sad that there are so many victims of abuse; I wish, like most people, that we could help these people and keep it from happening in the first place. In light of that, it feels heartless to present logic in the face of emotional pain, even though I believe it’s the right thing to do, and the right way to approach the issue.

  6. Iliana Veltcheva says:

    Wait a bit, then tweet the link to King. Right now might not be a good time – people are probably still flooding his mentions and direct comments so yours could get overlooked.

    Full disclosure: I’ve been reading and re-reading his books since I was 12. It was never about the spooks – even as a kid he didn’t scare me once, I wasn’t even aware he’s supposed to and, for a while, thought „horror book” meant „book for grownups with supernatural stuff in it” (don’t tell him that). What I fell for wasn’t the adrenaline rush I didn’t realize I should be getting – it was his insights, storytelling skills and turn of phrase. Not sure how exactly I should order these, in my mind each looms just as large as the other. Sometimes, when I realize how much he’s influenced (some of) my attitudes, my standards, and my enjoyment of language, it feels like he part-time raised me so after that monumentally tone deaf comment that made me physically recoil, I almost need a reason to trust him again.

    („Trust” is indeed the right word. I was a child, I had questions and he always had answers, also, he was one of the few writers I was aware of whose books didn’t make me feel like I’m peaking through the window of some „Boys Only” treehouse. There were enough female characters in the books I was reading, don’t get me wrong, but in most of King’s they were actually doing important stuff. Also, even the filler or villain women felt like full-blooded people, just like everyone else’s MALE characters. I had no idea if he meant to do that, but I felt included all of a sudden, and didn’t have to accept “important = man” as „just the way things are” anymore. I really liked him for it and yeah, in time that evolved into trust. Which I didn’t shake off even after I grew up and started spotting King’s own paternalistic streak and the issues that go hand in hand with that sort of thing. My bad, but in a world where misogyny is the bedrock of most societies, I needed to shield my admiration for at least one of the men I looked up to, and because everyone else on that short list kept tripping over himself to prove just how clueless he is, SK was an easy choice.)

    Having said that, I don’t have a hell of a lot of hope left he’ll do the right thing, and that’s got nothing to do with whether or not he’s a loving, big-hearted guy living in dread of hurting others (as his older son just tweeted). Or about how it’s sad he stumbled, but when someone’s good, you cheer when they get back up again (something else Joe Hill just tweeted). I won’t say I wasn’t moved, or that it didn’t hurt to watch people rip into the one male role model I’d picked in childhood that I hadn’t yet had to give up, but what’s required here is a willingness to challenge your own mindset. The problem being not all loving, big-hearted men have it. That doesn’t make them bad, but it sure is disheartening if all “getting back up again” is going to amount to is „No opinion, probably used wrong word”.

    I’m glad (grateful, in fact) you took the time to write this, but you’re basically asking a man with a sizable ego to get over the fact a number of people dissed him; examine his privilege; realize, at 66 years of age, that he’s got blind spots of the sexist variety (even though he’s been married to a feminist for 40 years); then admit it publicly, apologize and write an account of what he learned, which implies something exists that he didn’t already know.

    I’d love to find King has it in him because he’s meant a lot to me for 21 years, but over the past 15 I’ve seen this exact scene (ALWAYS brought about by people calling out male privilege or rape culture blindness) play out with a number of celebs, from actors to writers and scientists – most of them loving, kind men by all accounts. It always goes like this:

    Commenters explain their heads off, compiling link lists and bibliographies, and write to fella, some nicely, others bluntly, hoping he’ll see the light. Fella acts like they don’t exist, or offers a not-pology, then acts like they don’t exist. Or he doubles down again and again until there’s nothing but MRAs left cheering in his corner. (The last, and certainly not first Internationally Acclaimed Dude I Care About who pulled that particular stunt before my unbelieving eyes was Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist who’d often use feminist rhetoric and co-opt women’s plight to score a point against organized religion, but had no issue sarcastically advising a fellow speaker at an atheist event that while there are muslim women being killed / forced to wear a burka, she has no business complaining that she worries about her safety when a strange guy propositions her in a hotel elevator at 3 AM.)

    Don’t get your hopes up is all I’m sayin.

  7. “The first is that young children will often do and say what they think is expected of them. Whether it’s out of fear or the need for approval, they are vulnerable to adult pressure, by molesters and manipulators alike.”

    I really don’t understand why so few people are bothering to distinguish between seven year-old Dylan Farrow from 1992, and 28 year-old — and married — Dylan Farrow in 2013. As if somehow Dylan somehow never went through adolescence and never developed an identity as a mature and independent adult, capable of assessing whether or not she is being manipulated, much less “brainwashed” by her mother today.

    As I mentioned before, in the McMartin preschool case, the children indeed were told to lie, but they were never “brainwashed” into believing they had been raped, something which in reality is virtually impossible to do outside of a Robert Ludlum novel. But when they became adults, and were free from parental pressure, they went to the press and told the facts. Yet somehow, people are convinced this 28 year-old woman is still living in fear of her mother’s disapproval and lying both to herself and the world?

    The real issue is celebrity culture, and how we don’t want to come to terms with the fact that sometimes are idols are all-too-human.

  8. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Dylan’s telling the truth. No-one would hatch such a story involving themselves if it weren’t true.

  9. Its possible King knew the back story

    “The doctors concluded that Mia Farrow clearly influenced Dylan’s statements.

    “Dylan retracted her abuse allegations and told the investigators inconsistent stories over the course of the multi-day examination.”

    http://radaronline.com/exclusives/2014/02/woody-allen-dylan-farrow-sexual-abuse-secret-report-exonerated/

  10. I read this article, and thought it was a fairly brilliant take on the situation from someone who’s been through his own struggle.

    http://gawker.com/woody-allen-is-not-a-monster-he-is-a-person-like-my-f-1518291644

    I find it truly courageous when someone can present a sober, logical assessment on a topic that is personally painful to them, when a victim has the ability to step forward and be perfectly fair, even to his perpetrator.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Karr noted, “Maybe he thinks the editorial writer bitchy. Or even me.”, King has received backlash for his implicit solidarity with […]

  2. […] Karr noted, “Maybe he thinks the editorial writer bitchy. Or even me.”, King has received backlash for his implicit solidarity with […]

  3. […] referring to them as “bitchery”, Lynn Beisner, herself a survivor of sexual violence, wrote an open letter to the legendary author here on The […]

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