Not So Fast, The Daily Beast: The Radical Act of Trusting Children

Content Note: Discussion of sexual assault, victim blaming

This is my second piece in response to an article published on The Daily Beast by Robert B. Weide. My first piece on this topic can be found here

In my first response to Robert B. Weide’s defense of Woody Allen, I pointed out that Weide spent much of his piece painting Mia Farrow as an “unacceptable” woman. I pointed out how his framing of Mia’s consensual, adult sex life as “deviant” was used to discredit Dylan Farrow’s account of her own sexual assault at the hands of Woody Allen. I pointed out that, Weide knows he cannot get away with discrediting Dylan as “slutty and gossipy,” so he goes after Mia instead.

He does, however, try to discredit Dylan in other ways. I will talk about those in this post.

Though Weide makes statements throughout his piece indicating that he feels for Dylan Farrow, he obviously sees her as a helpless victim with no autonomy. He doesn’t think she is lying; in fact, he states, “I know Dylan/Malone believes these events took place.”

He knows she believes these events took place, in the same way he knows a child believes in Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy. Even though Dylan Farrow is now an adult woman, Weide refuses to grant her enough autonomy in his piece to know her own life. She can only believe it–the author only uses the verb “know” to describe his own opinions on the situation.

In addition to the subtle linguistic tactics Weide uses to put down Dylan Farrow, he also uses more obvious gaslighting tactics to paint her seven year old self as “crazy.” Multiple times he brings up the fact that investigators found Dylan to be “emotionally disturbed” when they began looking into whether or not she was assaulted.

Why?

Society, movies, news media, everywhere we look we get this message: you can’t trust “crazy” people, especially “crazy” women and girls. Once again, Weide hones in on the prejudices his readers likely hold because of our misogynist, ableist society and uses them to defend Allen.

At no point in the article does Weide stop to consider that maybe being sexually assaulted by your father causes emotional disturbance. 

Reading this piece showed me that nothing that could convince Allen’s defenders of his guilt. Only paragraphs before, the author was using evidence of Dylan’s lack of emotional investment in the situation to discredit her, quoting the family’s former nanny saying that during Mia’s taping of Dylan’s account of what happened, “Dylan appeared not to be interested.”

Too emotional? Obviously you’re just a crazy person who can’t be trusted.

Not emotional enough? Obviously you weren’t really victimized, or you’d be more invested in this.

This is how rape culture works. No matter what response we have to the abuse that we suffer, it will be used against us. 

He also cites inconsistencies in Dylan Farrow’s accounts of the events–”She told us initially that she hadn’t been touched in the vaginal area, and she then told us that she had, then she told us that she hadn’t”–and reminds readers that doctors found no evidence of  injury to the vaginal or anal area.

Weide seems to have a limited understanding of what can constitute sexual assault. This perpetuates the myth that if sexual assault wasn’t obviously violent, leaving visible physical damage, it didn’t happen. It leaves no room for seven year old Dylan to be confused about a traumatic event that happened to her. For someone who doesn’t seem to think seven year olds can really remember anything, he expects 100% accuracy and consistency out of seven year old Dylan, affording her none of the “nuance” that he claims to be representing.

This part feels personal to me. I survived being sexually assaulted as a child. Though my abuser wasn’t caught abusing me, he was caught in the act abusing someone else. I know he is an abuser. Everyone knows he’s an abuser and there is no denying it.

Yet, articles like this cause me to doubt myself. My assault left no physical damage that I know of. I don’t remember it clearly–in some parts of the memory the details are painfully clear, while other parts of the memory are nothing but dark, blank spaces. I know it happened, but I could not tell you every detail then, and I still cannot tell you every detail now. When my mother asked me about it as a child, asked me “Did he touch you here?” I could not answer because I did not know. I felt embarrassed, confused, awkward. I just wanted to go back outside and play tag with my friends, not sit there and have that conversation.

Yet it happened. I trust myself, I trust my memories–even though they are foggy in places–and I trust Dylan Farrow.

Toward the end of the piece, Weide believes he should “remind readers that the woman is recalling memories from the age of seven, when a six-month investigation characterized her as being ‘emotionally disturbed,’ and making statements that were likely ‘coached or influenced by her mother.’”

I’ve already discussed the latter two “reminders,” in this blog post and my previous one. I want to close by asking you all to look closely at the first thing Weide wants to “remind readers” about.

“…the woman is recalling memories from the age of seven…”

I think it really all comes down to power. All of this.

Trusting women when it’s their word against a white man’s is hard enough for people in our patriarchal society to do. But children, in most cases, have almost no power in society. Trusting children? Trusting a seven year old girl?

That’s a radical act

It’s so rare that people trust children, especially in regards to sexual assault and rape, that Weide thought that Dylan’s age when the assault took place could be used as a mark against her credibility. 

Articles like Weide’s tell survivors of childhood sexual assault, “You cannot trust yourself. You are crazy. You can’t possibly remember that.” They tell non-survivors, “Don’t listen to children. They just have overactive imaginations.”

These articles are dangerous and harmful. Weide can try all he wants to convince us that he is speaking from some magical plane of objectivity where he can play devil’s advocate all he wants. But his words are actively contributing to a world that hurts and oppresses children.

Don’t buy into this. Don’t just go along with this crowd.

Be radical.

Trust children.

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Amen. And the same is true when it comes to physical abuse. Children aren’t trusted and aren’t believed. Trauma itself can actually make it hard to remember. Thanks for writing.

  • Liadan

    Some children go ‘outside of themselves’ during an assault. It becomes deam-like (nightmarish). That’s one reason memory is a problem. here’s another conundrum..

    If you remember everything perfectly-you’ve been coached and practiced. If you can’t remember everything perfectly-it didn’t happen and you are making it up.

    Yeah, I’d trust a 7 y/o to remember a *traumatic* event, even in her 30s.

  • Lori Tintes Hartmann

    I appreciate this post so much. Last January of 2013 I walked in on my brother in law doing something sexually inappropriate to my little boy and my grandson but I didn’t exactly know what was going on. They were 5 and 7. In that moment, my brother in law tried to convince me that nothing was happening. But I knew. I could see it on their faces and in their eye’s. In the moment of them being startled over me suddenly opening the door of the toy room, my grandson screamed out what I had suspected in that instant. Immediately my son who is 7 admitted that their uncle was doing things to them. My brother in law began to yell at them calling them liars. The first thing that I said to him besides screaming at him “What the hell?” was kids do not make this stuff up and they are not lying. I then took each of their faces into my hands and told them that I believed them and that it was not going to happen again and that it was safe to tell us everything. Thus began our nightmare as it came out the extent that he had been molesting them. We spent all of last year going through court hearings and testifying and going to counseling once a week at the sexual assault center. We continue to go there even now. I’ve learned in going there that a lot of parents and family don’t believe the children and that many times they keep it hidden and a secret. They told me the best thing I could have done was telling them I believed them and then calling the police and then moving forward with it and not keeping it a secret. I have had people say to me, “Are you absolutely sure they are telling the truth?” You’ve got to be flipping kidding me???? So yes, trust the children. Believe the children. They have done nothing wrong. I refuse to stay silent about this because it’s the children who are being oppressed and hurt with the deep seeded shame they are given by being made silent and having people that they are suppose to trust believe them. Thank you for not keeping silent!

  • Y. A. Warren

    Woody Allen’s movies and life are about his infantile narcissism. His marriage to Soon-Yi proves to me that he had no proper sexual boundaries in relation to his adopted daughters. I am, however, interested in what justice for Dylan is being sought, and is available at this time.

  • Sandy McReynolds

    “Trust the children” was the ringing slogan of the folks convinced that ritual satanic abuse had occurred during the infamous McMartin preschool scandal. But “trusting” the children, who WERE children during the time they were being examined by supposed experts, only succeeded in inadvertently “coaching” the children into wilder and wilder fantasies until no one really COULD believe stories about sex-obsessed devils with supernatural powers. Subsequently the family who had been accused was cleared of all charges, but that came too late to restore their livelihood or reputation. Surely it’s clear that a child can be HUGELY influenced — deliberately or accidentally — by someone the child trusts.

    • rabsam

      There is a huge difference between preschoolers (who tend to ascribe many things they don’t understand to magic or something like it) and seven year olds (who tend to be very rule minded and quite clear about the difference between “it’s real” and “it’s a story”), and an even greater difference between preschoolers and a full grown woman. There is no evidence that Dylan ever brought in supernatural powers or wildly unbelievable events in her accounts. In fact she tells us that she was given several opportunities to recant. Or do you not think that having several grownups tell you that it’s okay if you say it was all just a story wouldn’t create “influence” on a young child to do just that, if only to make all the fuss stop?

  • Sandy McReynolds

    Oops, computer glitch. My point is not about Dylan, then or now; it’s about Woody Allen’s reasons for focusing his anger on Dylan’s adoptive mother, now.

  • http://loveisnotequaltolove.blogspot.com/ Mere Dreamer

    Ugh … of course such abuse is going to destabilize memory and emotion. Good grief! Isn’t that an actual SIGN of abuse that people look for in order to help children who would otherwise remain silent? If not, it should be.

  • f_galton

    Woody Allen abusing a step-child is plausible given his track record. Mia Farrow coaching Dylan to make sex abuse accusations is plausible given her track record. Innocent people have been imprisoned because children were trusted, but memory is unreliable.


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