The Rape Apologia Parade Marches On

[Content Note: Sexual assault; rape apologia.]

This morning, the Today show invited Woody Allen's attorney, Elkan Abramowitz, to be a guest, to respond to Dylan Farrow's allegations that Allen sexually abused her as a child. And then they tweeted the highlights:

screencap of a series of four tweets from the Today show reading: 1. 'His reaction is one of overwhelming sadness because of what has happened to Dylan.' -Woody Allen's attorney tells Savannah Guthrie

Abramowitz reiterated the accusation that Mia Farrow "implanted" the memory in Dylan. In this version of events, Dylan isn't malicious; she's just a victim of her mother's abuse. And so is Woody Allen.

In this version, these allegations are evidence of Mia Farrow's diabolical strategy to destroy Woody Allen, and thus their emergence during a custody dispute is held up as PROOF! that they were invented to hurt him. Which is a logical and believable story for many people, because the rape culture exhorts us to empathize with perpetrators, to center concerns for all the totally innocent men who are wrongly accused by vindictive women. If instead we were exhorted to empathize with victims, perhaps instead we would see a mother whose former partner was already having a sexual relationship with one adult child and was advocating for the safety of her young daughter who had reported abuse to her.

Allen's defenders are so thoroughly reluctant to admit even the possibility that he did this thing, they cannot conceive of a version of events in which it happened, and it was profoundly relevant to a custody hearing, and Mia Farrow was not trying to hurt Woody Allen, but trying to protect her daughter.

Of course that very common story of familial abuse couldn't possibly be true. Allen's a stand-up guy—such a magnanimous guy, in fact, that he isn't even interested in suing anyone for defamation. Sure. Maybe that's because he's a great guy, or maybe it's because you can't sue someone for defamation when what they're saying is the truth.

* * *

Last night, the author Stephen King also waded into the public conversation with this tweet regarding Dylan Farrow's allegations:

screen cap of tweet authored by Stephen King reading: '@marykarrlit Boy, I'm stumped on that one. I don't like to think it's true, and there's an element of palpable bitchery there, but...'

screen cap of two tweets authored by me reading: 1. @StephenKing Yes, being sexually assaulted can have the effect of making someone a little cross. 2. I've been known to be palpably bitchy about being raped myself. At least I was never a cavalier ass who tone-policed a survivor.

He has since deleted the tweet. Instead his timeline now reads:

screen cap of two tweets authored by Stephen King reading: 1. Have no opinion on the accusations; hope they're not true. Probably used the wrong word. 2. Still learning my way around this thing. Mercy, please.

After literally saying a survivor's story has "an element of palpable bitchery," a man who has made a living being one of the most prolific published authors ever, who has literally written millions of carefully crafted words, says he "probably used the wrong word." As if conveying that Dylan Farrow was "bitchy" would have been better, if only he'd used a better word.

Then he blames tech noobery. Sorry, Stephen King: There is no magic button on Twitter that stops you from broadcasting rank victim-blaming.

And finally, he begs for "mercy." Because he got rightfully criticized for engaging in rape apologia. See how that goes? Now he's the one being attacked. He's the victim. And he needs "mercy." My god.

* * *

I'm getting a lot of "so your position is that you just automatically believe everyone who alleges sexual abuse" type stuff on Twitter, and in my inbox, and in some (deleted) comments here. It is an accusation, made with incredulity and contempt.

And the answer is yes. Yes, my position is that I believe people who allege sexual abuse. Because, as Imani Gandy details here, a comprehensive study in the UK found that only 0.6% of all allegations of rape and domestic violence combined are thought to be false.


And that was the finding of a study using only reported rapes. The majority of sexual assaults go unreported, so if we include all the rapes that are never even reported to police in the first place, that number gets even smaller.

A fraction of a percentage.

My position is based on having listened to countless survivors' stories; on being a survivor who was disbelieved; on spending the time and energy to understand the rape culture; on knowing how there is usually precious little to gain and everything to lose even from making a truthful report; on the above facts about the rarity of false reporting.

Every other position is based on ignorance at best, and every other position upholds the rape culture and empowers rapists, who, after all, benefit quite neatly from a culture which insistently disbelieves their victims.

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