By Vincent Gullo III
Just last week, actor and famed SNL Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin caused controversy with his comments regarding the sexual abuse allegations made against movie director Woody Allen and his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. Farrow, who has accused Allen of sexually abusing her when she was 7, graphically stated in her op-ed in the LA times: “Allen’s pattern of inappropriate behavior — putting his thumb in my mouth, climbing into bed with me in his underwear, constant grooming and touching — was witnessed by friends and family members. At the time of the alleged assault, he was in therapy for his conduct towards me. Three eyewitnesses substantiated my account, including a babysitter who saw Allen with his head buried in my lap after he had taken off my underwear. Allen refused to take a polygraph administered by the Connecticut State Police.”
Although there was never any official charges filed, it’s understood by many (including the court) that, at the very least, there was some funny business going on between Allen and Farrow. Anyone who can’t believe this obviously doesn’t know Woody Allen. The guy literally married his adopted step-daughter and started dating her when she was a senior in high school. Gross. Not to mention he was not only denied custody of his children, including Farrow, but he was denied visitation rights to her as well. That being said, for one to say that Allen is a merely a choir boy would be a grossly inaccurate statement.
These comments have caused many actors and actresses to come out and support Farrow, with some giving their earnings from performing in previous Allen movies to charity. Actress Ellen Page came out publicly saying, “I did a Woody Allen movie, and it is the biggest regret of my career.” Even Amazon, Allen’s distributor, is considering dropping him in light of the controversy. Other celebrities, like Baldwin, have gone out of their way to not only support Allen, but criticize Farrow. Baldwin tweeted: “1 of the most effective things Dylan Farrow has in her arsenal is the ‘persistence of emotion.’ Like Mayella in To Kill A Mockingbird, her tears/exhortations r meant 2 shame u in2 belief in her story. But I need more than that before I destroy some1, regardless of their fame. I need a lot more.”
If you can get past the cryptic combination of Twitter speak and normal English, Baldwin is essentially saying that not only is Farrow’s allegation false, but she is intentionally manipulating the emotions of people in attempt to gain support of her story. He even goes as far as to compare Farrow to Mayella from the revered novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In the novel, Mayella uses an emotional appeal to convince people that she was raped by an African American that she had made a pass at herself, all while likely being abused by her own father. This comparison is not only inaccurate and offensive, but it exemplifies an ugly characteristic of society that tends to vilify the accusers of sexual assault.
As a straight, college-aged white male living in 2018 American society, I have been well-lectured in the importance of consent between partners and the potential ramifications that could come from acting inappropriately. In a modern collegiate environment, it takes little evidence from an accuser to have the accused quickly taken off of campus, disparaged and expelled. That being said, there have been multiple occurrences of people who have abused that power structure to ruin the lives of innocent people (e.g. Amherst College, NYU “Mattress Girl,” UVA and Rolling Stone rape case, etc.) But besides these sick anomalies, it would be safe to say that a majority of the accusations are justified. Sexual assault is an awful, life-destroying crime, so why is it that we so often slander accusers and defend the accused?
When someone accuses another person of rape, that person is often characterized as erratic, manipulative and pathological (ironically all characteristics of those who commit sexual assault), but when people talk about the accused, they are the ones being victimized. A popular phrase for those who criticize sexual assault accusations is say something along the lines of: “We don’t have all the facts yet.” Well, if you want to pull the pragmatic card, why is the alleged victim still in the wrong? It isn’t necessarily a bad move stepping away from the situation entirely and withholding judgement, but for someone like Baldwin to attack Farrow’s character and then basically say “We don’t have all the facts yet,” is about as misogynistic and crooked as one could get.
You don’t have to own a ‘Pussy Hat’ to be able to see the disparity in cultural attitudes between sexual assault accusers and those being accused, especially when the accused come from positions of power. I do give our society credit, however, as we make efficient work of essentially ruining those who are found guilty of such crimes (Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein are not finding work anytime soon). That being said, why is this desirable result preceded by skepticism toward the accuser and compassion for the accused? There is certainly value in “waiting for the facts,” but that doesn’t mean that in the meantime we shame the accuser. As a society, we can do better in never rushing to judgement and supporting those who go through such unthinkable trauma.