So much has been flying through the interwebs about Dylan Farrow, and her allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of her then father-figure, Woody Allen, we decided it was time for a quick round up because of the relevance to rape culture. It's distressing, to say the least, to begin to realize the impact of rape culture on children in this country. The rationalizations in favor of the accused perpetrator, the victim-blaming (also blaming the mother/parent, as happened with Mia Farrow), the fear of coming forward, the failure of the law enforcement and legal systems - all themes in rape culture - become even more problematic when we are considering the sexual abuse of children. And when we also add in the strange phenomena of celebrity in this country, well, it's a mess (Roman Polanski, anyone? R. Kelly?). Celebrity Stephen King decided to weigh in on Twitter, reflecting what appeared to be a clear element of sexist victim-blaming, and was quickly lambasted, inciting this *pretty good* apology (of course you should draw your own conclusions as to the sincerity and meaningfulness of it). Somehow celebrity voices seem to outweigh the rest of us, whether or not they have any relevant education, experience or expertise on the topic.
The crucial dilemma of child sexual abuse, I think, is that it is the most easily condemnable, yet most difficult to prove, and the legal process/system is often equally (perhaps more?) damaging to the child-victim (in some cases) than the actual abuse. This piece from RH Reality Check on believing victims is very powerful, and reminds us that there is evidence that most of these accusations are found to be true. And this one from Rage Against the Minivan helps us to remember that, "...publicly speculating that it’s a lie is perpetuating the rape culture that tells women that they should stay silent. Or worse, that it’s up for debate if they come forward." While this one from Feministing reminds us that boycotting celebrities is great, but we also need to be so vigilant in our real lives, with acquaintances and social circles.
Dylan herself explains how in her situation, "Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, 'who can say what happened,' to pretend that nothing was wrong." They continued to worship her abuser, and she grew up in a culture of victim-blaming. This is a terrible reality for many victims in our rape culture, and is particularly devastating when the victims are children. Dylan's brave act of coming forward publicly forces us to face up to the fact that there is a real, live victim in this "situation" - we can no longer ignore this because of the discomfort it brings. This article in the NY Magazine puts it well, "...our willful ignorance is explained by the fact that, if we really grappled with how common sexual harassment and assault really are, we’d never want to get out of bed in the morning." I agree, but it's time to shed some light on this issue so that we can actually change it, and let the healing begin.