We are in the midst of a revolution. From allegations against studio heads and journalists, to hotel maids recounting abuses on the job, women are exposing the truth and men are losing their jobs. But the revolution has been selective.
I have long maintained that when I was 7 years old, Woody Allen led me into an attic, away from the babysitters who had been instructed never to leave me alone with him. He then sexually assaulted me. I told the truth to the authorities then, and I have been telling it, unaltered, for more than 20 years. Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen recently secured a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Amazon, greenlit by former Amazon Studios executive Roy Price before he was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations? Allen’s latest feature, “Wonder Wheel,” was released theatrically on Dec. 1.
Allen denies my allegations. But this is not a “he said, child said” situation. Allen’s pattern of inappropriate behavior — putting his thumb in my mouth, climbing into bed with me in his underwear, constant grooming and touching — was witnessed by friends and family members. At the time of the alleged assault, he was in therapy for his conduct towards me. Three eyewitnesses substantiated my account, including a babysitter who saw Allen with his head buried in my lap after he had taken off my underwear. Allen refused to take a polygraph administered by the Connecticut state police.
In the final legal disposition of the matter, a judge denied him custody of me, writing that “measures must be taken to protect” me and that there was “no credible evidence” that my mother, Mia Farrow, coached me in any way. A prosecutor took the unusual step of announcing that he had probable cause to charge Allen but declined in order to spare me, a “child victim,” from an exhausting trial.
It is a testament to Allen’s public relations team and his lawyers that few know these simple facts. It also speaks to the forces that have historically protected men like Allen: the money and power deployed to make the simple complicated, to massage the story.
In this deliberately created fog, A-list actors agree to appear in Allen’s films and journalists tend to avoid the subject.
Discussing Weinstein, “Wonder Wheel” star Kate Winslet said, “The fact that these women are starting to speak out about the gross misconduct of one of our most important and well-regarded film producers, is incredibly brave and has been deeply shocking to hear.” Of Allen, she said “I didn’t know Woody and I don’t know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person. Woody Allen is an incredible director.”
Likewise, Blake Lively said of Weinstein: “It’s important that women are furious right now. It’s important that there is an uprising. It’s important that we don’t stand for this and that we don’t focus on one or two or three or four stories, it’s important that we focus on humanity in general and say, ‘This is unacceptable.’ ” But on the subject of Allen, she said, “It’s very dangerous to factor in things you don’t know anything about. I could (only) know my experience.”
Greta Gerwig, who starred in Allen’s “To Rome With Love” and has called him her “idol,” said of the revelations about Weinstein and other powerful men, “It’s heartbreaking and I think it’s overdue.” But when pressed by Terry Gross of NPR on whether she felt conflicted about working with Allen, Gerwig grew uncomfortable. “You know, it’s all very difficult to talk about … .” she said. “I think I’m living in that space of fear of being worried about how I talk about it and what I say.”
For decades, Allen has used the same defense-through-intimidation techniques that Weinstein allegedly did. In 1997, Connecticut Magazine reported that Allen’s legal team had hired private investigators, including ones assigned to find damaging information on law enforcement officials working the sex-abuse case. As my brother Ronan Farrow documented in the Hollywood Reporter last year, Allen’s public relations team, led by Leslee Dart of the firm 42 West, jumps into action whenever allegations resurface. In retaliation for Ronan’s story, Dart barred the publication from a lunch event related to Allen’s feature at the Cannes Film Festival.
Even now, I hesitate to speak out. Allen’s savvy affiliates know that it’s unseemly to direct attacks at me, an alleged victim, and so the invective is directed at my mother again and again. It’s awful and enraging.
Especially painful is that Allen even managed to enlist my brother Moses against me. Moses now claims that my mother “brainwashed” him and “coached” me to accuse Allen, contradicting many years of testimony. Moses’ comments are devastating, but like so many of the attacks on my story, irrelevant: Moses was not there for the alleged assault.
Many publications refuse to run broadsides against me and my family, while others happily repeat the distortions. They repeat that my allegations were made during a custody dispute, which is not true. In fact, Allen sued for custody of me and Ronan only after the investigation into child abuse began. Charming. Many point to a questionable 1993 report that concluded no abuse had taken place. The author of that report never interviewed me, and the team later destroyed all of its notes without explanation.
Although the culture seems to be shifting rapidly, my allegation is apparently still just too complicated, too difficult, too “dangerous,” to use Lively’s term, to confront.
The truth is hard to deny but easy to ignore. It breaks my heart when women and men I admire work with Allen, then refuse to answer questions about it. It meant the world to me when Ellen Page said she regretted working with Allen, and when actresses Jessica Chastain and Susan Sarandon told the world why they never would.
It isn’t just power that allows men accused of sexual abuse to keep their careers and their secrets. It is also our collective choice to see simple situations as complicated and obvious conclusions as a matter of “who can say”? The system worked for Harvey Weinstein for decades. It works for Woody Allen still.
Dylan Farrow is a writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse.