Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Stuck in The Middle With You? Not so much.

Victoria Coren appeals to us today to stand with her in her piece for the Observer. She is just like anyone who reads the Observer apparently. She suggests that we, like her, are probably stuck in a moral quandary over Woody Allen's latest letter and Dylan Farrow's recent letter accusing him of abuse.

Here goes.

A woman says she was abused as a child. I believe her.

See? I'm not stuck at all. I'm not spinning around perhaps making sure I please an audience. I'm not worried about biting the patriarchal hand that feeds me. I READ the Guardian. I don't write for it.

She says that if we read the Observer we are "probably a Woody Allen fan. You love his wordy, nerdy, artistry" and are "facing a horrible conundrum".

First bit not quite right. I WAS a Woody Allen fan. Right up until it became clear that his abused daughter was appealing directly to me to believe her account and not watch his films. I will never watch one again. I watched Blue Jasmine on the plane weeks ago. It makes me sad that the best part of that film is Cate Blanchett and it is her work of art as much as Allen's. She is a female actress and parts like that rarely come along. I wouldn't expect her to work with him again. It is right that Dylan Farrow should appeal for her solidarity.

I don't face a "conundrum". Allen is not a bloody rubiks Cube. You can't twist him in just the right way and find just the right combination of Allen parts that fit a pattern where he can be believed. Why? Because a child of 7 says she was abused by him. I believe her.

I have a child who can remember exactly what she ate on a specific bench aged 4 and what I said to her and what kind of dog walked past and where it had a shit. I don't question that anymore. It is pointless. Her memory is needle sharp. Even about a sandwich and a dog crap. If she had been abused I can assume she would remember much more. I would believe that too.

For Coren to impose a new narrative on Dylan Farrow where she isn't exactly lying but isn't exactly telling the truth, a narrative that allows Coren to grab her popcorn and settle down to an Allen film in the future, is disgusting. The victim blaming in her piece is sickening. The patronising, triggering, gaslighting of totally rewriting her very moving, soul baring piece to justify a cosy, middle class indulgence in art makes me furious.

Coren rewrites the account of someone she has never met thus...

"Seven-year-old Dylan is adjusting to a world where her parents have split up and her father's having sex with her sister. In all meaningful ways, when it comes to what it feels like for the family, he is committing incest. Technically, no. Emotionally, yes.

To her mother, it must also feel like child abuse. All the definitions of all the relationships have been disrespected and are crumbling apart. Now that Mia Farrow knows it's possible for Woody Allen to feel a sexual interest in her children, at any age, she is fighting for sole custody. So, Dylan is dealing with a father who's having sex with her sister and a mother who is trying to protect her from him.

In this context, Dylan does not want to be touched by him. That means being touched by someone who's become frightening, who is not the innocent father she believed. She has been stroked, kissed and told she is beautiful by a monster who's been casting his sexual eye around the family. It's sinister. She doesn't want it. She may not understand the detail, but everything has turned horrible and weird."

I wonder why Coren finally comes down so very certainly when she says "you cannot label Woody Allen a child molester"? She has found herself a convenient way of not actually calling Dylan Farrow a liar. An afternoon's work to balance yourself firmly on the audience fence I imagine. Because let's not forget this is work for Coren. Is there a little tiny bit of a pound sign flashing behind the words and a little bit of curiosity if you might one day get to interview Allen or attend a party where he is?

Well love. You sell out the integrity of a child if you like in order to inhale the whiff of dubious celebrity. I will find something else to watch and proudly stand by a sister who asked me to.

Dylan Farrow. I believe you.

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6 thoughts on “Stuck in The Middle With You? Not so much.

  • Catherine Costello says:

    Thanks for writing this so quickly. I think there are many survivors who are deeply upset by Victoria Coren’s article this morning.
    I think this is a really good post but can I ask you to acknowledge that having a good memory doesn’t necessarily mean that you will remember & disclose abuse at the time it happened. I was abused at age 7/8 but didn’t remember it until I was in my 20’s. The brain has a way of protecting us against painful trauma until we are ready to deal with it.
    This isn’t a criticism, just a reminder I suppose, that memory isn’t always straight forward for children.

    • Jean Hatchet says:

      Quite right Catherine Costello. I was rushing a bit but yes of course that should have been said.

      Thanks all for kind comments too.

  • Redskies says:

    Beautifully said.


  • Admin says:

    Hi Jean.
    This post is much appreciated – thank you. Dylan and all women and children need to know that they are believed.
    I would echo Catherine’s comment that sometimes our memory protects us from trauma and abusive experience – memory or a lack of it does not mean that we are not survivors.

    Coren has erased Dylan’s experience because she can’t deal with it. Her piece is silencing and damaging. That article is all about Coren and her feelings. Thank you for making this piece about Dylan.

  • Aileen Smart says:

    Excellent piece. It seems to me Coran is just doing a days work. No thought, no understanding and no empathy for survivors of sexual abuse.

  • notbuyinit says:

    Thanks for this. The premise of the Guardian article is false. Allen was in therapy his inappropriate relationship with Dylan before the pornographic pictures of her sister were discovered. Takes pretzel contortions to find a way to discount this grown woman’s memories.