Editor’s note: A few hours after Stephen King tweeted about Dylan Farrow’s abuse allegations, seemingly referring to them as “bitchery”, Lynn Beisner, herself a survivor of sexual violence, wrote an open letter to the legendary author here on The GMP.
Since then, Mr. King has issued an apology, and Ms. Beisner has taken an opportunity to write him again to talk about why apologies matter.
Dear Stephen King:
In an article a couple of days ago I strongly suggested that you may want to apologize for your tweet.
You responded with what I thought was a very sincere apology (excerpted below). As one of the first and loudest voices requesting an apology, I want to be sure that not only do I respond, but that I do so in as public of a way as possible.
Those of you who follow Twitter will know that recently I managed to put my foot in my mouth and halfway down my throat. A good many people came away from my tweet about the Woody Allen controversy with the idea that I had called Dylan Farrow or Mia Farrow (or both) a bitch. That wasn’t my intention, but the conclusion on the part of some readers is understandable. I used the wrong word to describe not Ms. Farrow—either Ms. Farrow—but a sad and painful mess. Some people seem to believe that writers never use the wrong word, but any editor can tell you that’s not true.
The maximum number of letters in a Tweet is 140. I think the following would fit: I apologize for screwing up.
In my request for an apology I asked that you remember that this is not about Woody Allen, but rather about all victims of abuse. In your apology you left out Mr. Allen, and I think that demonstrated well that you had absorbed that lesson. In your defense you focused on what you have done in the past to portray victims accurately, and reiterated your unequivocal stand against child abuse.
Your apology implied that we should give you the benefit of the doubt based on your history. And you are right. If this had come from an abusive womanizer like Charlie Sheen or from a person who has demonstrated disdain for women like Rush Limbaugh, this would be an entirely different matter. I would believe that their mis-statement was reflective of a deep loathing of women and it would take a lot more than a simple, “I chose the wrong word” to dissuade me.
But you have shown sensitivity and sympathy for victims. That is precisely why your statement the other night caused me distress. It seemed like such a departure from who I thought that I knew you to be.
And that is why I believe you when you said that you made a poor choice of words. I have, as a writer, chosen appallingly bad words at times. Thankfully, in most cases editors have caught my errors. As I think you have discovered, one of the horrible downsides of social media is that it does not keep your poor word choices from going forward. You are stuck with a horrible word and you can only pray that it does not end up in your eulogy.
It is easy to be critical of other people in today’s media, and then to ignore or to be dismissive of someone who tries to make right what he did wrong. In fact, I am risking my reputation and to some extent my career by acknowledging and accepting your apology. I think that I am supposed to consider it, at best, the minimum of what is due.
But I believe that if you call for an apology, then you should at the very least acknowledge it when it is made. So while I cannot speak for anyone else especially those who do not accept your apology, here is my response:
Thank you for the apology. You could have become defensive and come out swinging. Instead you said openly and honestly that you screwed up. I think you genuinely understand that you made a serious mistake. Your reputation and history make me believe you when you say that you did not intend malice or to hurt any of the Farrows or any other victims. That, together with the tone of your apology, prompts me to give you the benefit of the doubt, and no further explanation is necessary for me. Having accepted your apology, I plan to move on from here and read your upcoming books.
On a more personal note: Let me just say that you have warmed my heart and reminded me that good men are the rule and not the exception.