Saturday, February 8, 2014

When you doubt Dylan Farrow, You doubt me

Last Saturday, the New York Times ran an open letter from Dylan Farrow about being sexually abused by her father Woody Allen. I read it on the couch while my husband was making pasta. I started to cry, stopped, read the first paragraph aloud to my husband, choked up, stopped. I didn't write about it. I didn't even post on Facebook or tweet about it, I just liked and retweeted the things other people said so much more eloquently than I could. At night in my office when I was supposed to be working on my book proposal, I read a lot of articles and blogs in support of Dylan and skimmed the ones in defense of Woody because they left me feeling sick. Friday night while my husband ran into the bank, I scrolled aimlessly through my Facebook feed and saw that someone had posted the word, "Finally," and a link to Woody's defense of himself.

"Finally?" I thought. What does that mean? Finally he gets a chance to defend himself? Finally he makes a statement. Why finally? Why do we have to let this powerful, old white man take the mic back? Why is that something we should be eager for?  Oh, right. Because it's the way of the world.

I didn't want to click on the link. I didn't want to know what he had to say.

I clicked on the link. I read a couple of paragraphs. Scott came out of the bank. I locked the screen and ranted briefly that finally Woody Allen had responded and of course he was saying Mia brainwashed Dylan and why is this the world we live in. Then I changed the subject to how I had to pee. I think I ranted about it again later and then changed the subject once again. This has pretty much been my week, ranting privately to a person that I know completely understands why I'm ranting and then changing the subject because that is all I can handle emotionally.

We went to bed at eleven. I woke up at 1:30 am feeling angry and sick. So fucking angry and sick that I couldn't go back to sleep, so here I am, in a dark room, wrapped in a blanket, writing this. Because it just isn't okay with me that the last word on this is Woody Allen's. I didn't and won't read the rest of it (at least I hope I won't, I keep not wanting to read any of this), but I'm sure a lot of people did and I'm sure it will lead to a lot of victim blaming or at least a lot of Mia Farrow blaming because somehow it's more honorable and okay to say this vengeful woman implanted memories in her child's head than to say this seven year-old girl lied. Even though that's what you're saying. You're saying, "Dylan Farrow, I don't believe you." And the reason I haven't been able to talk/tweet/status update about this is because every time I hear someone say that they don't believe Dylan Farrow, I think they wouldn't believe me either.

As anyone who is close to me knows--hell, as most people who've read my blog, Rookie essays, and even my fiction know, I had a boyfriend who did things to me when I was fifteen. Who emotionally and sexually abused me. Who messed me up bad. I'm not going to go into detail here because I'm not succinct enough. I actually just wrote a fifty-page essay about it for the non-fiction collection I'm working on because it's that complicated. Most sexual violence is. I don't actually know any women who were just grabbed when they were walking down the street and assaulted--not to say that doesn't happen because it most certainly does, but all the women I know were violated by people they knew. Boyfriends, friends, neighbors, babysitters, acquaintances, uncles, brothers, fathers. For a lot of them, for me definitely, it's a gray thing that they aren't sure what words to use for. I didn't say no. I didn't say no because I was told that since I'd said yes in the past, if I said no, it meant I was saying, "I don't love you and I want to break up." So I had sex, or rather let sex happen to me on the floor of my best-friend-at-time's bedroom with tears in my eyes, too afraid to say that the ring I wore around my neck was bruising my collarbone and I was getting rug burn, and when I walked out of that room already ashamed, my "friend" hissed, "Slut," before I could explain myself. Like I could explain myself. I also had sex repeatedly on my knees in a dirty park bathroom during lunch period. I used to conjugate verbs and practice geometry problems in my head to keep from crying.

Okay, I guess I went into detail after all even though that is only a small part of a very complicated story. I didn't mean to. It's 2:46 am and I don't usually have much of an internal censor, but it's totally off right now. I might delete that later.

But the point is, I didn't know what to call that. I still don't know what to call that. When I confronted my abuser, he completely denied any sort of wrongdoing because he didn't force me to do anything. A male friend also told me that I couldn't call it rape or even abuse because I had not said no. I know or at least felt like a lot of other people doubted me. They also doubted the girl who was hanging out with my abuser one night and woke up with his hand inside of her because she was a slut/just wanted attention.

Every woman I know who has been violated, has been violated even worse by people questioning her, doubting her, saying that it's her word versus his and it's innocent until proven guilty and her word is not enough to prove guilt.

This is why it has been so hard for me to read/talk about Dylan Farrow. I take that doubt personally. Even though, I feel happy and healthy and whole now, almost nineteen years after my experience, the doubt creeps in and it hurts me. It gives me nightmares about my abuser for the first time in years. It makes me think I see him on the bus and have to take a deep breath and remember that I am in a city that to my knowledge, he has never stepped foot in. It makes me wake up in the middle of the night angry. Compelled to spend an hour writing a blog post when I should be sleeping.

But Dylan did a very brave thing by telling her story and it makes me too angry to think that Woody will get the last word. So even though this is only a blog post, not the New York Times, I had to take the mic back from him, and by extension, from the boy who told me, "I didn't do anything wrong, it's all in your head," and from all the other men who have hurt the women I love.

ETA: Glad to see Dylan taking the mic back, too. Also if reading this or any of the coverage of Dylan's abuse has felt triggering please go to rainn.org. They can help.

3 comments:

Nyberg, Carl said...

This is a blog entry written by a friend who both experienced sexual abuse by her father and who likes Woody Allen movies.

Thanks for sharing, Stephanie.

K L Arena said...

Thank you for your brave, powerful words.

I still struggle to grasp the realities of my own past, and while I haven't yet found the bravery and the voice to face those things out loud, reading your post gives me courage and makes me feel less alone.

Thanks.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

KL, I am glad I was able to help you feel less alone. You are brave. Much love.