Credit: Colin Swan on Flickr, under Creative Commons
If you weren’t the umpteenth famous or wealthy guy accused of sexually abusing a child I’d write that I’m outraged and I’d condemn you for being a monster.
But you’re not unusual, sadly. And after decades in this business, I’m tired of being outraged.
Which is why I’m writing a different kind of letter to you, Woody. Most men accused of child sex abuse do exactly what you did. They deny the allegations and accuse the child of lying out of spite, or being mentally ill, or they say the child is an innocent victim of a vindictive mother who made the child lie.
In one of the statements from your representative, it’s said that the allegations of your adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, published again recently in an open letter, are false because a 7-year-old child cannot be trusted to distinguish between fantasy and reality. This claim makes you look particularly guilty, Woody. See, little girls fantasize about becoming princesses and doctors. They don’t "fantasize" about being told to lie face down and watch a toy train go by while being sexually abused from behind. They have no context to conjure up such a fantasy.
Claims that children fantasize about sexual abuse are usually the projected fantasies of guilty perpetrators. Truly innocent guys don’t come up with the fantasies excuse because it never crosses their minds to consider the possibility of any child fantasizing about sexual abuse.
The fantasy defense can be effective because it resonates with the public. Most people who never molest children have imagined themselves engaged in some kind of unusual sexual fantasy. They’re open to the possibility that an allegation of odd sexual behavior is a fantasy because it makes them feel "normal" about their own weird urges.
By accusing Dylan of fantasizing, Woody, you might succeed in persuading a few people that you did nothing wrong, but most will see such a defense as an admission of guilt. More importantly, you’ll never overcome your self-loathing and feelings about your own "weird" urges until you accept responsibility for your actions.
I know this is a long shot, but I’m hoping you might have the guts to stand out from the crowd and not only condemn the fantasy defense but also use your platform to help others. Think about it. You’ve made a huge mark as a filmmaker. Now’s your chance to really make history.
You don’t have to explain why you did what you did, and you don’t have to offer up any details. It’s enough to acknowledge the pain of one little girl.
I’m sure you once loved Dylan, Woody, and I know you understand love because so many of your films deal with its power.
In "Midnight in Paris," you wrote dialogue for Ernest Hemingway that no doubt reveals something inside of you:
"All cowardice comes from loving, or not loving well, which is the same thing."
Don’t be a coward, Woody. You’ve written extraordinary dialogue for some of film’s most interesting characters. Be brave enough now to write the most profound words of your storied career:
Wendy Murphy is a professor of sexual violence law at New England Law|Boston. A former sex crimes prosecutor, Murphy has written numerous law review and pop culture articles on violence against women and children. Her first book, "And Justice for Some," was released in hardcover in 2007 and came out in paperback earlier this year.
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