I didn’t want to read the letter. Not only do I (did I) really like Woody Allen movies and can easily name my favorites but on deeper level, I dreaded reading one more story about a survivor who had been failed by the system. It would seem that even if people inclined to blame the survivor in a domestic violence relationship (“why doesn’t she just leave?) would have to possess SOME iota of compassion and understanding for a child. Right? I mean who doesn’t get that a child does not have the power or voice to escape? Sadly, however, after reading many troubling Tweets Saturday night as reaction to Dylan Farrow’s letter spread, I saw just that.
From comments about “the importance” of “a different point of view” to Cate Blanchett’s comment that the “situation” has been “obviously long and painful” and she hopes for “resolution” soon. I’m honestly not sure which comment made me more angry! These comments are indicative of the rape culture that we live in everyday, every minute. Where even if the survivor isn’t blamed, we find some way to excuse (ever heard of “boys will be boys”?) the perpetrator. Rape culture is so thick in our society that we see a survivor’s story of abuse at the hands of her father almost as an issue to be debated. We step gingerly around her story as if it were a pile of shit on the floor – not her heart in the world – and instead speak cautiously in lazy cliches that appease no one. After all, we can’t come right out and say “I believe her.” Can we?
Well, yes we can. And we must.
If it’s not Dylan Farrow’s horrible, raw story of her years of abuse, it’s a story of a woman with HIV brutally attacked and later blamed for the attack when her rapist tested positive for HIV. It’s in the protection of a man who everyone suspects has been abusing children, simply because he is affiliated with a major college football team. It’s your local brewery “innocently” advertising their beer. It’s in the music that you listen to and the commercials at the half time show that are so eagerly anticipated. Rape culture is everywhere. Until we own up to rape culture existing, it will continue to be here and continue to be denied. And survivors like Dylan Farrow will continue to be blamed for abuse that happened to them as children.
It’s funny in sports, sometimes we root for the underdog. And even in real life sometimes too. Aren’t most of us cheered, for example, when we read the story of the waitress getting a huge tip (and some tuition money) when she least expected it? So why is it that we can’t support the person, usually a woman, who has lost so much due to abuse? And not even in a financial way. Just with a simple show of faith using the simple words, “I believe you.” I’m not going to say “imagine if she were your sister or daughter…”. No. You should believe a survivor because s/he is a human being who is telling you that they have been badly hurt. That should be enough.
So, why is it so hard for people to say that they believe a survivor? Maybe because just making that declaration says something about themselves as a person. Something that maybe they aren’t comfortable with. And that’s horrible and sad in its own way too.
Will I ever watch another Woody Allen movie? No. I cannot after knowing Dylan Farrow’s experience at the hands of her father, her abuser. I believe her.