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: 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 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

17 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Dylan Farrow

  1. no child would say this about a par­ent, & not for noth­ing, this is not the first time we heard this man was doing this… more than one per­son singing the same story has some merit to the claim… ALL you Woody Allen fans wanna leave your cute young child grand­child in his care alone?? yeah didn’t think so… Nancy Can’t said it but I sure the heck can.. this man is a flip­pin kid toucher period.

  2. I’ve watched 1 woody allen movie in my life and I didn’t like it. That said, this issue ceased to be a PUBLIC mat­ter when charges weren’t brought against woody allen. He did not have his day in court, and I sus­pect even with a not guilty ver­dict peo­ple would still label him a child moles­ter. I tend to believe that 2 sep­a­rate states would not have allowed Woody Allen and his wife to adopt their 2 daugh­ters had experts involved in those adop­tions believed, in any way, that Woody Allen abused a lit­tle girl. It’s a sad sit­u­a­tion no mat­ter the truth, but the fact is none of us knows what hap­pened, only Woody Allen and Dylan Far­row. Label­ing and tak­ing sides and throw­ing out sta­tis­tics doesn’t bring us any closer to the truth. There will never be a pub­lic res­o­lu­tion of this mat­ter. It’s a pri­vate issue between the only two peo­ple who know what really hap­pened. If ever the sit­u­a­tion was set up for a case where there are false alle­ga­tions, this was one. Con­tentious cus­tody bat­tle, very angry mother, impres­sion­able young girl. It’s rare but it does hap­pen. Blindly speak­ing out for Dylan is not stand­ing up for child sex­ual abuse victims.

    • Well I have to agree with Nancy and every­one else that has posted I find so sad and scary that he was not charged! I think it is the publics busi­ness due to the fact that she said it when she was young and now again but no one lis­tened to her and that just tells me that if you have enough fame and money you can get away with well pretty much any­thing! The other thing that makes me believe her is look at his ‘cur­rent’ wife!!! She’s his adopted daugh­ter (Mia’s any­way) and how old was she when this affair began? THAT is what’s so scary and every­one should be watch­ing him for, one day he may dump her in order to take up with their adopted daugh­ter or one of her lit­tle friends! That’s why the pub­lic should be aware of his past present and future behav­iour towards young women and girls!

  3. Well said Nancy! There is noth­ing more sad­der in today’s soci­ety than the fact that the chil­dren are the ones that are left behind in the court sys­tems and over­looked, handed back to the person(s) who per­pet­u­ated the acts that hurt or gave them rea­son not to be able to trust in the first place. The sys­tem has failed them com­pletely and it will con­tinue to fail until some­one like Dylan and/or like you have spo­ken and stood up to be heard and then oth­ers are will­ing to take a stance to stop this trav­esty again the inno­cence of children’s voices that can­not be heard loudly enough in the “sys­tem” because the sys­tem is fail­ing them hor­ri­bly. They are lit­tle peo­ple, they need help to stand up and be heard and counted. God bless the children.…

  4. As a sur­vivor of child sex­ual abuse, I agree with Nancy. When I heard Dylan’s words I had no doubt about her alle­ga­tions, for what many don’t real­ize is besides resent­ment, betrayal is a cruel bitch. I can’t imag­ine being slapped in the face hich is what Woody Allen’s suc­cesses are so pub­li­cally putout there while the vic­tim sits in the darkness,silent with there secrets,anger, and more then any­thing dis­trust at the
    world, some­times men, some­times fathers and grand­fa­thers. Her anger, Dylan’s I can feel it, it matches my own, and so us sur­vivors know Woody Allen is a child moles­ter, for we know one of own

  5. Thank you. I have always loved your char­ac­ter on GH. Now more then ever. Being a child of abuse start­ing with my grand­fa­ther n oth­ers I appre­ci­ate u more then ever. It took me years to real­ize I am good, spe­cial and wor­thy. I also believe that Woody Allen has abused his child. I have always got chills and uneasy when I saw him or his cou­ple films I watched. My heart goes out to the vic­tim. I so wish I had a plat­form to help oth­ers. It took me a long time to real­ize I am good, pure and wor­thy. Thank you lord for my hus­band and daugh­ters and thank you for your love.

    • You are so wor­thy!!! Noth­ing that hap­pened to you was ever your fault and I am so glad that you found a won­der­ful hus­band and have great daugh­ters. Bless you.

  6. Chil­dren are our future teach them well and let them lead the way; a great song of truth. Adults male or female who sex­u­ally abuse chil­dren destroys some­thing inside their soul that can never been undone. While a per­son may not live as a vic­tim and they go on to live pro­duc­tive won­der­ful lives that will remain all of their life. I feel it goes beyond vio­la­tion as trust is gone, you never trust in a way we should all be able to trust human beings. There are un-written rules and lines that peo­ple should not cross just because it is the moral and right thing and yet so many cross those lines and break those rules and break a child spirit. Not to men­tion those who can­not han­dle it and their lives are destroyed and they never recover. There are casu­al­ties of this hor­ri­ble act which for so long peo­ple turned a blind eye and I am glad today we do not ignore this very real dis­gust­ing problem.

  7. Thank you for tak­ing the time to write this, Nancy. One thing that sways me to believe Dylan, besides the research that shows it is more likely than not that she is telling the truth, is Woody Allen’s other actions in regard to Soon-Yi. Plus his own movies indi­cate an unusual obses­sion with young girls. The fact that he was allowed to adopt addi­tional chil­dren is sad, but not sur­pris­ing with the resources avail­able to him.

    I have been fol­low­ing this story because it trou­bles me. I can­not imag­ine how hor­ri­ble it is to be Dylan Far­row right now. While I have lit­tle respect for Mia Far­row because of her incom­pre­hen­si­ble sup­port for Polan­ski and her over­all nut­ti­ness, it is good that Dylan has the love of her mother. So many abuse vic­tims seem to become pari­ahs in their families.

    Here are three good arti­cles from Slate, Salon and Gawker (yes, Gawker) that all offer excel­lent perspectives.

    Woody Allen and Dylan Far­row: Just the Facts
    Dig­ging deeper into Robert B. Weide’s mis­lead­ing Daily Beast story.
    Jes­sica Win­ter
    Posted: Fri, Feb 07, 2014, at 12:01 PM CST

    How do we watch Woody’s movies now?
    Allen’s films tell us noth­ing about the abuse charges — but they do offer tan­ta­liz­ing clues about his psychology

    And from an abuse sur­vivor. …prob­a­bly the best I’ve read

  8. Nancy I can tell you from my own expe­ri­ence that first of all it is very dif­fi­cult for a child to tell any­one that this is hap­pen­ing to them from fear from their abuser and other fears such as other peo­ple find­ing out and them being ashamed, or caus­ing changes in their fam­i­lies, sadly these chil­dren some­times think those things are their fault, they are made to believe that any­thing bad that hap­pens is their fault. My daugh­ter bravely came for­ward at 14, her abuser is serv­ing 20 years in prison. I BELIEVED my daugh­ter imme­di­ately and we went in to action. It wasn’t easy at first, I was quite numb. These abusers are quite charis­matic, every­one loved my daughter’s abuser, they thought he was great, when it came out what he had done peo­ple didn’t want to believe it. It was very dif­fi­cult for quite some time. Funny thing that changed me was an episode of 7th Heaven where a young girl had been abused by her mother’s boyfriend and the min­is­ter on the show told her that when she could talk about it she would take all the power away from him and she would have ALL the power. That stuck with me and gave me strength to be able to speak of what hap­pened. My daugh­ter had quite a few years of ther­apy and has done amaz­ingly well. But I was flab­ber­gasted when I was told by vic­tim advo­cates the num­ber of mother’s who side with the abuser and tell the chil­dren to keep quiet so as not to upset or break up their fam­ily. My daugh­ter and I have been able to dis­cuss this openly with other peo­ple. My daugh­ter strug­gled in school, it caused her to have a learn­ing dis­abil­ity in math because they feel when she was learn­ing her math her mind just shut down because of her abuse, but she was per­sis­tent and con­tin­ued on, after grad­u­at­ing high school she now has a degree in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and she works in a juve­nile deten­tion facil­ity. She also worked with adults in the jail sys­tem and found that many of the women drug abusers had been molested as chil­dren and since those woman had no sup­port sys­tem what­so­ever they turned to drugs. There are so many flaws in our sys­tem. This is my main rea­son for sup­port­ing legal abor­tion as had my daugh­ter been told she was preg­nant at 14, she was so men­tally frag­ile at that time, she ended up in the hos­pi­tal and day treat­ment, had she told me she couldn’t go through a preg­nancy I would have sup­ported her. I don’t take abor­tion lightly, but I think it should be legal and espe­cially for peo­ple of vio­lent crimes such as rape. Though I lived in a rural area in south­ern Ohio I lucked out with the county that we tried this indi­vid­ual in, as they gave him a def­i­nite sen­tence and had wished they could have sent him away for 100 years. Though we did not go to trial, as my daugh­ter was so frag­ile at that time we were sat­is­fied with the 20 year sen­tence in his plea bar­gain. Now we are approach­ing his release in 2019, my daugh­ter doesn’t fear his release but we do have con­cerns for other chil­dren once he is released. His fam­ily has had no con­tact with him since he went to jail. My hope is that he has become insti­tu­tion­al­ized and will end up back in prison as that will be the safest place for him to be for the sake of any child!!! Thank you for speak­ing out on this, I appre­ci­ate that you use your plat­form to stand up for these kids, and some now adults who have fought to have a voice to tell any­one who would lis­ten what has hap­pened to them. This has hap­pened in all kinds of fam­i­lies for­ever, and it is impor­tant that peo­ple speak out and give them a voice and let these chil­dren know that are suf­fer­ing now that there are peo­ple out here who will lis­ten and most of all who will BELIEVE them!!! Thank you again for speak­ing out on this!

  9. Pingback: Thoughts on Dylan | Stop Abuse Campaign

  10. Thanks for being our voice. Kids do not know how to make such things up or

    be taught what to say” on these mat­ters!! Just because you are famous or have the best attorney’s money cans buy doesn’t mean it still didn’t happeni

  11. Pingback: Here are somethings to do to make a change in Family (Divorce) Court | mariamsilver

  12. Thank you for this Nancy. You have been one of my favorite actresses for a long time because a) you are very good at your job as Alexis, and b) you seem like such a nice, nor­mal, and intel­li­gent human being. Thank you for gath­er­ing all the sta­tis­tics you did, answer­ing many unasked ques­tions about the issues involved. I absolutely believed Dylan from the first time I read the NYT piece, and this post is excel­lent evi­dence of why it is so very highly unlikely Dylan or Mia invented Woody Allen’s sex­ual abuse. Thank you again.

  13. Recently, I wrote and pub­lished a fic­tion novel involv­ing domes­tic abuse. I never thought so deeply on the sub­ject until writ­ing and fin­ish­ing my man­u­script. The words I wrote has dri­ven me to get involved with fam­ily shel­ters and their needs. Espe­cially chil­dren who are abused or wit­ness abuse need advo­cates on their behalf. So eas­ily, they can get lost in a judi­cial sys­tem that is still not edu­cated on domes­tic abuse and its ram­i­fi­ca­tions. On Face­book, Fam­ily Shel­ter Ser­vice shared a link to an excel­lent, eye open­ing arti­cle called Two Par­ent House­holds Can Be Lethal pub­lished by the New York Times. An exam­ple was give of how a court ordered an abused child back into the home with the father, the abuser say­ing this.… ” I saw women lose cus­tody rights because they had moved with their chil­dren to friends’ houses or even into domes­tic vio­lence shel­ters to escape abuse, and judges con­sid­ered these “unsuit­able liv­ing arrange­ments.” The chil­dren were sent back to their abu­sive fathers, who could pro­vide “more sta­bil­ity.””.……
    It takes a vil­lage to raise and pro­tect a child, and any vic­tims of domes­tic abuse. Right now, I am col­lect­ing unused elec­tron­ics, espe­cially cell phones, to send to our local shel­ter. There is a nation­wide known recy­cling pro­gram for such items which in turn gives back money to sup­port fam­ily shel­ters across the coun­try. It’s not much, but I am also donat­ing a por­tion of my roy­al­ties to my local fam­ily shel­ter. Check with your local shel­ters and see about drop­ping off your old cell phones that are unused, and stuck in the bot­tom of your junk drawer. They can be of some use, even the bro­ken phones. Every lit­tle bit helps.

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