We Owe Dylan Farrow An Apology

Crying woman in crisis. Close-up indoors portrait
Crying woman in crisis. Close-up indoors portrait

She has a name.

It's Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow. Born on July 11th, 1985 to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Sister to Ronan, a journalist. And a survivor, allegedly, of abuse at the hands of her father from an early age. Someone whose story of physical intimidation and assault was dismissed on the grounds that it was a tactic of a vengeful ex-wife to cheat Allen out of custody and money.

Today, when Ronan's piece for The Hollywood Reporter hit the Internet, people were buzzing. Allen's own son coming out against him, calling him an abuser, and holding the media accountable to boot. What courage. What bravery. What tenacity.

Where, then, does that leave Dylan?

How does she fit into a narrative which has moved from "Famous Director Accused of Sexual Impropriety" to "Son of Famous Director Accuses Father, Media of Abuse"? How does she move from the invisible third person, the object onto which abuse is perpetrated, to the subject? Where do we in our narratives grant her agency, the ability to point a finger at her father and say "I was taken advantage of"? Do we even want to try?

It is so much easier to paint Ronan as the brave one. And he is certainly brave for having the courage to look the media in the eye and hold them accountable for the ways in which they silenced his sister's claims. But what must Dylan do to find herself labeled the same? She, as a young girl, found the courage to tell authorities about what she suffered. She sat in front of police and recounted her story for them, likely in terribly vivid detail. She watched as they denied her agency, refused to believe her, and sent her away with a scarlet letter sewn to her chest. She survived, never retracting her allegations or demurring to the influence of her father. Is that not enough? Why were we, as a public, unable to look her in the eye and believe her when she told us? Why did it take decades and someone else's reiteration of her truth before we finally paid attention?

We have failed Dylan. We failed her, and countless other individuals every day who stand alone against powerful figures and ask us to hold them accountable before watching us pick at their already tormented souls, scratch deep lines of doubt into their psyches. We torment them with questions, accusations, and queries. "Why didn't you say no?" "Didn't you know what he was doing was wrong?" "Why didn't you fight him?" "What should you have done to stop it?"

It took close to sixty women to accuse Bill Cosby of rape and sexual assault before we paid attention. And even then, it was one man's remark that made us suddenly paid attention. These women, in bodies unbroken by the reality of their survivorship, were only given dimension and autonomy after a man stepped forward and told us to pay attention. What will it take for us to believe women from the outset?

To Dylan: I am sorry. I am outraged, embarrassed, and ashamed. I am sorry that it took me this long to find your story. I am sorry that it took us this long to take you seriously. I am sorry that your voice was apparently not enough to get us to pay attention. I don't know how you could forgive us for seeing you not as a person, but as a series of words that we didn't want to process and turn into facts. I am sorry that every article that has come out and will likely continue to come out will have your abuser's face all over it and never once mention your name. I am sorry that this piece, too, will likely have the same treatment. You deserve better than to be reduced to moments of violence.

I wish you love, and peace, and healing. And I wish you fullness -- fullness of body to stand strong, unbent, and proud in what you have survived. And I wish us the decency to look you in the eye and pay attention.


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.