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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