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Is it right to be calling this a ‘private family issue’?

Dylan Farrow

Dylan Farrow, adopted daughter of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, published an open letter at the weekend in which she details the sexual abuse she claims to have suffered at the hands of Allen.

You can read the details of the story here.

Dylan’s mother Mia and brother Ronan have publicly targeted Allen in the past over the abuse allegations, but this is the first time an adult Dylan has given her own detailed account of the abuse.

Woody Allen’s publicist released a statement calling Dylan’s open letter ‘disgraceful’, and said that a response from Allen himself was on its way.

The internet seems pretty evenly split in their response to the letter: there are those who believe Woody Allen, those who believe Dylan Farrow, and those just don’t know what to believe.

Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin, who were both personally mentioned in the open letter, have both tried to sit on the fence. But is that the right way to respond? Is there a right way to respond? This story raises so many important questions about sexual abuse, children and the nature of celebrity – but it doesn’t seem to answer any of them.

These are the six questions that I’m struggling to work through:

1. Is there more reason to believe Dylan now that she is a grown woman?

At the time of the abuse, much emphasis was put on the fact that she was an emotional child in the throes of a custody battle. Many thought her mother Mia was coaching her and thus, her evidence wasn’t considered credible. But she’s an adult now, and she has stuck to her story since 1992. The detail in her letter was chilling.

Why would she now – unprompted – write a letter about the abuse? If she had just made it up or been coached by her mother, why bring it up now? Is it really plausible, like many are claiming, that she has been brainwashed by her mother into believing abuse took place?

Cate Blanchett.

2. How should the celebrities who have worked with Woody Allen be responding to these allegations?

Seriously, how? So far, only Cate Balnchett and Alec Baldwin (both stars of Blue Jasmine) have responded.

Blanchett said: “It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family and I hope they find some resolution and peace.”

Baldwin, when asked on Twitter if he felt he owed Dylan Farrow an apology, got angry: “What the f&@% is wrong w u that u think we all need to b commenting on this family’s personal struggle?” and “You are mistaken if you think there is a place for me, or any outsider, in this family’s issue.”

Which brings us to…

3. Is it right to be calling this a ‘private family issue’?

Blanchett and Baldwin seem to have followed the growing trend among those who are trying to be diplomatic about the whole thing: referring to it as a ‘personal’ and ‘private’ thing to be dealt with by the family.

But is that right? There is a woman here who insists she was the victim of abuse, and she has now tried to deal with her pain by being open about it. Is it right to ignore her and insist she should be dealing with it privately?

4. Should we stop watching Woody Allen’s films in light of these allegations? Should people stop working with him?

What kind of responsibility, if any, do we have to separate the artist from his art, when he’s been accused of such horrific crimes?

Woody Allen

5. Has Allen been forgiven more readily because of who he is?

Think about it. Would this attitude of ‘just moving past it’, ‘forgetting it’ and ‘keeping it private’ be applied to another , non-famous father accused of sexual abuse? Is it more convenient for people to move past this because he is such a brilliant filmmaker?

6. Given that sexual abuse is notoriously difficult to prove in court, how do we deal with the people who insist they are survivors of sexual abuse, even if their alleged abusers were never convicted?

Seriously – what is the answer to this one?

There may be debate raging on the internet right now, but there will be no winners here. Every question just seems to morph into another question. In the mean time, a woman who insists she was abused is still living in pain and the man she insists abused her is celebrated in the world over.

How do we deal with that?

Do you have any answers to the questions above?

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