Allen v. Farrow is Really About How Children Don’t Have Legal Rights
Our legal system treats children like we’re living in a Monty Python sketch about the Middle Ages
At its core, Allen v. Farrow is about how children only have as many legal rights as the adults around them are willing to bestow. As Dylan Farrow says at the beginning of the HBO documentary’s third episode, “What I remember is that after the attic, things started changing really rapidly. I said this thing, and it started this nightmare of lawyers, and the phone ringing, and everything changed.” In 1992, Woody Allen was investigated for child sex abuse charges. That same year, I was a six-year-old child actor 3,000 miles away on the west coast, being sexually abused by my own father. In Dylan Farrow’s words, “It’s incomprehensible to normal people because it’s not normal.”
Watching the HBO documentary’s third episode reminded me of the day my pediatrician asked if she could call a police officer to file a report against my father. I sat on the loud, scratchy paper of the exam table after my first-ever pelvic exam, my feet dangling over the edge. The cop asked me questions, taking notes on a pad of paper as he stood far away, near the door, as though he didn’t want to be too close to what had happened to me. Or maybe it was that he didn’t want to frighten me. My pediatrician stood beside me. The officer asked if I wanted to press charges. And I asked if that meant I would need to see my dad again in court, or if I would be guaranteed any kind of protection. The officer said ‘no’. My dad had already been to prison, and each time when he was released, he returned more violent than before. What good could a court hearing and prison possibly do, I wondered? I also feared that my dad might retaliate, as he had threatened to kill me, my mom and my siblings before. I weighed my options and decided that I could not risk trusting the legal system to keep me physically safe or rehabilitate my dad in any positive way. I declined to press charges, and the officer left.