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Woody Allen's daughter: "What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett?"

Woody Allen and Dylan as a child.

Woody Allen has directed 46 films over the course of his career.

He has been nominated for 24 Academy Awards, and won four times.

He has been called a treasure of the cinema and was recently recognised with a lifetime achievement award.

And according to his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, he is also a child molester.

Allen’s adopted daughter with Mia Farrow, Dylan Farrow, has published an open letter in The New York Times this weekend, containing allegations that the director molested her in her youth.

Dylan writes:

[W]hen I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies.

In 1992, Dylan’s adoptive parents Mia Farrow and Woody Allen split. Their divorce happened in the wake of an affair between Allen and Soon-Yi Previn (Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter with composer Andre Previn).

At the same time, Farrow accused Allen of abusing Dylan. According to the Times, Acting Justice Elliott Wilk of State Supreme Court said then that, “it was unlikely that Mr. Allen could be prosecuted for sexual abuse based on the evidence,” and he was never charged with a crime. The newspaper continued, “While a team of experts concluded that Dylan was not abused, the judge said he found the evidence inconclusive.”

The controversy filled column inches upon column inches – but this open letter is the first time that Dylan herself has written about the accusations of abuse.

It’s the first time the story has been told in her own words. And it is shocking from beginning to end. Dylan continues:

Dylan Farrow

For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like. I didn’t like how often he would take me away from my mom, siblings and friends to be alone with him. I didn’t like it when he would stick his thumb in my mouth.

I didn’t like it when I had to get in bed with him under the sheets when he was in his underwear. I didn’t like it when he would place his head in my naked lap and breathe in and breathe out. I would hide under beds or lock myself in the bathroom to avoid these encounters, but he always found me.

These things happened so often, so routinely, so skillfully hidden from a mother that would have protected me had she known, that I thought it was normal. I thought this was how fathers doted on their daughters. But what he did to me in the attic felt different. I couldn’t keep the secret anymore.

Once she told her mother, Mia Farrow, Dylan explains that a “firestorm” followed. She recalls being made to tell her story again and again to doctors involved in the legal battle between her parents; remembers people accusing her mother of “planting the abuse” in her head.

Dylan also makes reference to Woody Allen using “his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me”.

Dylan’s open letter has been published on the same day as the Writers Gild Awards, where Allen was nominated for best screenplay for Blue Jasmine (starring Australia’s Cate Blanchett). Blue Jasmine has also been nominated for three Oscar awards – and it seems to be this, which motivated Dylan’s letter.

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Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away.

But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.

Mia Farrow

At this stage, the allegations remain just that – allegations. No wrongdoing by Allen has even been proven in a court of law and many dispute Dylan’s version of events.

But should Dylan’s claims, written in vidid detail in the world’s most well known newspaper, change how Hollywood and the public should treat Woody Allen? Or treat his films?

Can this great artist’s work truly be separated from the despicable and horrifying criminal allegations levelled against him? How do Diane Keaton, Cate Blanchett and hundreds of other widely respected actors feel about their work with Allen, following these harrowing allegations? Dylan herself makes exactly this point. In her open letter, she asks:

What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?

Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse… So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.

Arguably, Allen’s position within the industry has, from a public relations point of view, afforded him protection from Dylan’s allegations – both in the past, and now. Has Allen (and similarly, artists like Roman Polanski) escaped widespread censure because of his publicly esteemed position and the nature of his craft? Is this why Allen is still applauded and is able to keep making Hollywood films?

Dylan writes that the way the media has idolised her adoptive father and his films for 50 years, has actually increased her suffering. And when you consider that claim, it becomes even more difficult to separate Allen from his films.

The artist and the art are intrinsically linked. Can you entirely separate Allen’s creative genius from the crimes he has allegedly committed?

UPDATE:

In light of Dylan Farrow’s letter, Woody Allen has announced he will be publicly responding. In the meantime, his publicist has released the following statement:

Mr. Allen has read the article and found it untrue and disgraceful. He will be responding very soon… At the time, a thorough investigation was conducted by court appointed independent experts. The experts concluded there was no credible evidence of molestation; that Dylan Farrow had an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality; and that Dylan Farrow had likely been coached by her mother Mia Farrow. No charges were ever filed.

What do you think? Are you able to enjoy Allen’s phenomenal films after reading the truly horrific crimes he is accused of? Can you separate the art from the personality of the artist? Has Allen been shielded from previous public condemnation because of his creative ability?

You can follow Melissa Wellham on Twitter at @melissawellham

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