My Thoughts on Dylan Farrow

Much is being written about Dylan Farrow’s open letter in Saturday’s New York Times about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, thanks to her powerful adoptive father, filmmaker and current Oscar nominee Woody Allen.

What isn’t being discussed by the various talking heads on every major network are the hard and cold facts about child sexual abuse, particularly when this life-altering crime is handled by family courts during a divorce or custody dispute.

Dylan wrote that, “There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child… 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.”

Through my and my daughter’s own four agonizing years in family court, I saw the flaws of this impenetrable court system up close and personal.  While my case did not involve sexual abuse, it was no less disturbing. While I do not wish to discuss the specifics of my case at this time, I can testify to the anguish this system puts on the children involved in an effort to protect the parent in question.

While I know a thing or two about the terrible state of this country’s family courts, and I’ve testified in Sacramento about the need for judicial oversight and system reform aimed at keeping children safer during custody disputes, I wasn’t as familiar with the facts about how child sexual abuse survivors are faring in the nation’s family courts.

Since so many pundits are basing their opinions on “victim blaming,” “mother blaming,” or a misunderstanding of child sexual abuse and the courts’ treatment of it, and since Dylan’s open letter speaks directly to the legal system’s mishandling of her childhood trauma, I want to share with you some important facts that expose just how broken the family court system is, particularly for children who have suffered sexual abuse by a parent or authority figure.

The Center for Judicial Excellence, which tracks horrific cases like Dylan’s, and advocates for widespread system reform of the nation’s family courts, shared the following startling facts with me, which were compiled by their colleagues at Child Abuse Solutions.

Every discussion about whether Dylan is telling the truth needs to be grounded in facts.

1) Children hardly ever fabricate allegations of sexual abuse. Studies analyzing maliciously fabricated allegations of child sexual abuse have found that children bring only 0% to 2% of such allegations. There is no reputable research to support the notion that children can be brainwashed to believe they have been sexually abused when they have not.

2) Maliciously fabricated allegations of child sexual abuse are exceedingly rare. Most studies find that only 1% to 6% of all child sexual abuse allegations in custody and visitation disputes are maliciously fabricated. The remaining 94% to 99% of such allegations are either true or were brought in good faith, based upon a reasonable suspicion. Studies find that family law judges consider allegations of child physical and sexual abuse to be maliciously fabricated far more often than is supported by the research.

3) Research has established that while mothers accuse fathers of child sexual abuse in 48% of cases involving such allegations, their allegations are found to be maliciously fabricated only 1.3% of the time.

4) Medical evidence is very rare in cases involving child sexual abuse. Even in legally confirmed cases of vaginal penetration, the rate of abnormal medical findings is only 5.5%. The rate of abnormal medical findings in legally confirmed cases of anal penetration is only 1%.Genital tissue is very elastic and heals rapidly. Unless the child is examined by a medico-legal sexual assault specialist within 48 hours of the rape, any genital tears are likely to have healed and DNA or semen will have disappeared.

5) The single most important indicator of child sexual abuse is disclosure by the child to a trusted adult. Because family courts use a civil standard of proof (a preponderance of the evidence, or just over a 50% likelihood) rather than the higher criminal standard of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt), substantially less evidence is required in family court to meet the burden of proving that a child needs protection from sexual abuse. NOTE- This is why the family court judge was able to deny Mr. Allen visitation with Dylan despite the fact that he was never criminally charged.

6) Children who disclose sexual abuse by a parent in the context of a custody dispute are frequently not protected from further abuse. Research shows that:

  • · Only 10% of children alleging incest are adequately protected from their identified perpetrators by family courts through long-term supervised visitation orders or no-contact orders.
  • · The remaining 90% of children disclosing abuse receive no protection, with 70% continuing in shared custody and visitation arrangements without any supervision, and 20% being placed in the custody of the parent they accused of the sexual abuse, and losing unsupervised or all contact with the parent who sought to protect them.

*For the specific research citations on all of the facts shared above, go here: http://bit.ly/1cVvM94 or visit Child Abuse Solutions.

Given this last fact, what is remarkable about Dylan Farrow’s experience is that the family court in her case actually protected her from ongoing contact with her alleged abuser.  She was part of the only 10% of child sex abuse victims who are protected from their abusers during and after a divorce and/or custody fight.  In her case, the Judge apparently found her claim of abuse “more probable than not” despite the Yale psychologists’ reports submitted by Woody Allen’s attorneys.  Much is made by Woody Allen’s camp that a group of Yale psychologists found that the abuse did not happen and was either Dylan’s fantasy or that the abuse was “implanted” by Mia Farrow.  These Yale psychologists, however, were notably psychologists that Woody Allen treated with, and paid.  Additionally, they never interviewed the corroborating witnesses and they destroyed their notes, which in these cases are never done.  It is not surprising that the judge noted that he had reservations about the reliability of the Yale report.

More importantly, the State’s team of psychologists – note they were not hired by Woody Allen or Mia Farrow — did find Dylan’s claims credible.  While it is true that Woody Allen was not charged criminally, the prosecutor explained that while he had probable cause to charge Woody Allen, he was not doing so because of his and Mia Farrow’s concern for the fragility of Dylan and what going through a criminal action would mean to her.  So, yes, Woody Allen has never been found guilty under the criminal code for child sexual abuse.  But the judge in the family court action effectively made the determination that it was more probable than not that the abuse occurred and Woody Allen received no visitation.  This finding was upheld by an appellate court that affirmed the judge’s order on this point.

The system fails many other children which is why The Center for Judicial Excellence and other child-focused organizations are urging people concerned about the dangers of family courts for child sex abuse victims to sign their Change.org petition demanding Congressional Oversight Hearings on the Failure of Family & Divorce Courts. Their Kids of Divorce Speak Out campaign also shares videos of young survivors like Dylan who are speaking out about the crisis in the nation’s family courts that are stealing their childhoods and harming so many child abuse survivors.

We should all work to ensure that survivors like Dylan Farrow are supported when they speak out about their abuse. We should investigate the facts, all of them, before forming conclusions.

I would encourage people to not think of Woody Allen as a famous artist, but as a man.  No more or less special than anyone else. Whether art can be separated from the individual is a personal consideration and a decision everyone is entitled to make on their own.  However, if you love Woody Allen movies, do not use your appreciation of Woody Allen’s art as a basis to challenge Dylan Farrow’s credibility.  Although for some the issue of whether the art can be separated from the man is open to debate, for me it cannot.  I can, however, state with absolute impunity that Dylan Farrow’s story and her credibility is completely unrelated to how good a filmmaker Woody Allen is.

I would also urge everyone to be wary of claims of bitter or vindictive mothers.  Any mother’s attorney will put the fear of God in a mother before abuse is ever mentioned to a Court because of the high risk that the Court will end up removing the children from her and giving them to the abuser. You speak and risk removal, or you remain scared and silent. As unthinkable as this is, it happens with great regularity. Visit The Center For Judicial Excellence webpage and you will see just how often.

I have great appreciation for Dylan. Her courage to speak out in such a public way has instigated a long needed dialogue about these “private family matters” that are leaving our children unprotected and silenced by a system that must instead give them a voice and actually listen to them.

Thank you for listening,

Nancy Lee Grahn

Birthday Paradise

Some people go to church to feel the spirit. I go to a 5 star hotel. I immediately fall to my knees, praise God and sing hallelujah for the grace that is bestowed upon me to end up in these places that I love so much. My appreciation for a “5 star experience” is often matched by the universe allowing me to frequent them time and again. This cosmic exchange is never taken for granted.

Most recently, my guardian angel of 5 star hotels somehow guided me to the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes. I’ve lived in LA for the past 28 years and never knew to go to Palos Verdes. I have been up and down the southern and northern coasts countless times but never found the gem of a coastline in front of the Terranea Resort until now.  It is paradise.

The minute I stepped onto the property I felt the glory. The grounds are eye candy. The resort itself is practically perfect in every way.

My two-day stay turned into a week. I went for two days again last week and left nine days later.

I was just there again this weekend for my birthday. Got there Saturday afternoon, went on a three mile walk along the coast, and planted myself in the most sacred place on the hotel grounds (that will remain my little secret).  I emptied my mind and stared at the majesty around me. It is so easy to get tapped in, tuned in and turned on at the Terranea. Had an exceptional dinner at mar’sel with my Kate.  It’s a 5 star restaurant right on the property overlooking the ocean.  Actually, everything you do there is overlooking the ocean. Slept like a baby.

Woke up on my birthday to a beautiful sunrise, meditated, visualized many things — including seeing a whale, and stayed in that happy trance for the rest of the day. Around 2:00 pm, per my request, three giant gray whales swam right up close to the shoreline. It literally took my breath away, after which I screamed “Whales!!!” startling everyone in the spa area who were basking in quiet after their spa treatments. After apologizing for scaring them to death, I took full credit for the whales’ grand appearance. The day ended as great as it started with my friends coming up for dinner at Nelson’s, while we watched the sun set. Then home. Leaving the Terranea is always difficult, so I plan my next trip up before I’m off the property.

I am so grateful to have found this sanctuary. It’s a treat for the soul.

p.s. The Terranea has been voted “best place to work” under the leadership of Terri A. Haak. Employees seem genuinely happy to be there and they actually like their boss. Terri is clearly doing things right.

I first heard about the Terranea from Terry Niemann, Real Estate Sales Executive and Director of Marketing. I love her. We have easily become fast friends. She even donated a weekend at the Terranea for my daughter’s school financial aid program. The folks at this resort are good people. I also want to acknowledge Brian Bennish for always being so kind and accommodating.

p.p.s. Don’t tell anyone else about this place. It’s our little secret.

Love,
me

Realized Dreams

I dreamed up my job on General Hospital in order to support my best dream … becoming Kate’s mom. As a single woman, GH provided me with the means to be a very available mom, bring home an ample supply of bacon, and love my job at the same time. As if that weren’t enough, General Hospital has now made Kate’s dream come true, which is to be a singer-songwriter. On April 9th, General Hospital will debut a song written by Kate called Private School Girls. Kate and her real life band “Traction” will be backing up Haley Pullos (Molly) who will sing the lead vocal during the Nurses Ball. Continue reading

On “Girls”…

I’ve been having relationship issues with Lena Dunham’s “Girls” for weeks now.  I’m a huge fan of Lena Dunham’s, but feel disconnected from “Girls” and for some reason I’m angry about. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Lena’s head. Yes, I imagine what she thinks about is curious and interesting. But how it manifests on “Girls” somehow, sometimes, irritates me and I don’t exactly know why. My friend said this:

“She is allowed to do whatever she wants without any checks and balances from a network. That’s a beautiful thing. But it’s also inherently self-involved and self-referential and not edited enough. It’s raw…it’s like reading the beat poets. But reading a beautifully crafted work is also beautiful, and something I tend to appreciate more. I like my art curated, generally…I don’t like to look for it in a pile of stuff. But I’m glad it exists.”

I feel so much better now.

Love,
me

Lamenting Promising Lives

I’m not without compassion for anyone who becomes so disconnected from themselves and others that they make irreparable mistakes that they can’t take back.

However, for Candy Crowley to focus her story about the Steubenville rape case verdict on the perpetrators’ loss instead of the victim was inappropriate at best, and disturbing at worst. The boys are not the victims in this story and to treat them us such diminishes and devalues this young woman, what she went through, and what she will continue to go through.

This notion that these boys lives are now ruined is absurd. So they don’t get to play football. What a cross to bear!  And yet sadly for them and so many others, that’s the biggest loss this case represents. I believe these boys were lucky to be tried as juveniles. In fact, being given a 1 to 3 year time out could be life changing for the better. They now have a great opportunity to better their minds and hearts instead of their passes and tackles.

What to Expect

Thanks for checking out my newly revamped website and blog where I will attempt to regale with you with my thoughts, observations, and occasional uncontrollable rants (always a fan favorite!).

Before you enter please be advised, I do not like Sarah Palin or guns; Sarah Palin with a gun just sets me over the edge. Consider yourself warned.

I also have a tendency to ramble, get distracted easily, and my spelling and grammar are that of a 3rd grader. Luckily my bad typing makes up for what I lack in spelling and grammar. Having said that, there is nothing I like more than to hear myself talk. Being inside my head is an experience that not only I should be burdened with.

In addition, I also promise to share my family recipes recipe (yes, I have one), and my best household hints like: ‘If you can’t remember what’s in the Tupperware in your freezer, just throw it out. No good can come from opening it. You can always buy new Tupperware.’

What I won’t be offering is life style advice, because let’s face it, I’m a hot mess. In fact, I will be soliciting helpful hints from all of you. Actually, I’ll be counting on all of you to be the therapist I’m too cheap to pay for. In any event my blog will not be boring.

So without further adieu, welcome to the party! Enjoy the all new nancyleegrahn.com!

Love,
me

 

Welcome!

Welcome to the all new nancyleegrahn.com — my official website and now, blog!  Take a look around and make yourself at home.  I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you and read your comments — it’ll be as crazy and interesting as twitter and Facebook, but with plenty of extra space  for me to say whatever I want to say (…and you know I will).