You Should Probably Not Write About Sexual Abuse If...

[Content note: childhood sexual abuse, rape apologia, ritual abuse, custody disputes.]

Are you considering writing a piece for Time wherein you use Dylan Farrow’s revelations about being sexually abused by her father as a platform to accuse feminists of “throwing reason to the wind,” aka believing survivors?

If you are, be cautious! There is a distinct danger that you may simply produce a poorly-reasoned antifeminist screed suggesting that you have no business criticizing anyone else’s critical thinking. Here are some tips to help you evaluate whether or not you are able to write this piece.

You should probably not write about Dylan Farrow and sexual abuse if you…

(a) don't understand timelines. Woody Allen was counseled about his inappropriate behavior towards Dylan as early as 1990. Mia Farrow discovered his relationship with Soon-Yi Previne in 1992. If you write things like “What about the fact that the charges were originally made during a bitter breakup and custody dispute between Allen and Dylan’s mother, Mia Farrow?” then you will likely look like an asshat.

(b) don't understand causation. When you write that “…while [his affair with Soon-Yi] does not make Allen a pedophile, Farrow may well have seen the relationship as quasi-incestuous child abuse, coloring her perception of his conduct toward Dylan,” you ignore the fact that causes have to come before effects. Farrow’s concerns predated the relationship, meaning that your pseudo-sympathetic claims about the roots of the accusations make you very likely look like an asshat.

(c) don't understand words. “Unfounded” and “false” are not synonyms. Treating them as such during a discussion of child abuse allegations will make you pretty almost certainly definitely look like an asshat.

(d) don't understand surveys and statistics. Trying to use a survey of child welfare workers to prove that coached “false” allegations are common (and there is a “50-50” chance that allegations are untrue) is a bad idea when the first line of the survey abstract reads as follows: “Findings indicate that it is uncommon for children’s allegations of abuse to derive from coaching. “ This makes you look like you have been randomly pulling numbers out of your asshat.

(e) don't understand "presumption of innocence." This is a legal term, with a specific meaning relating to the judicial process. It has never been a standard in the court of public opinion (see for ex: Obama the Kenyan-born Muslim). I do not personally owe Woody Allen the presumption of innocence any more than I personally owe him access to legal representation.

Furthermore, "presumption of innocence" is also not the same as “beyond a reasonable doubt,” despite the insistence of Allen’s defenders, who seem to think that any "reasonable"-sounding objection to Dylan Farrow's narrative should render Mr. Allen innocent in public opinion. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" applies to criminal cases. Not only does it not apply in public opinion, it doesn't even apply to all legal proceedings--including the Allen-Farrow custody case. A court has already found “clear and convincing evidence” that Allen's relationship with his daughter Dylan was harmful to her. If you are going to wring your hands about the “presumption of innocence” for Allen's public reputation, when the man has already failed the “clear and convincing” legal test, then you look like an asshat from the fine milliners of Law and Order: SVU.

(f) don't understand comparisons. Dylan Farrow’s descriptions of her abuse were not made in the context of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Cases wherein abusers were accused of having magic power or worshiping Satan are not relevant to Ms. Farrow’s narrative. No-one has alleged that Woody Allen was part of a Satanic cult. An entire cottage industry, rooted in Christian evangelical belief, peddled theories of “Satanic Panic” to law enforcement and mental health professionals in the 1980s. Conflating that group with “feminists” makes you look like an asshat to the 666th degree.

(g) don't understand internet connections. The entire Allen v. Farrow custody decision is available online, wherein anyone can read the judge’s reasons for declaring Allen’s suit “frivolous” and ordering him to pay Ms. Farrow’s court fees. The 33 pages are a quick read, and make it pretty easy to clear up the Allen camp’s obfuscation about timelines, facts, and the judge’s findings. Assuming that your readers do not have access to this makes you look like an asshat woven by machinery-wrecking Luddites in a BBC costume drama.

Still, even though you might not be ready to write this piece, there is hope. It’s entirely possible that you can get Time to publish your terrible anti-survivor manifesto under the heading “Feminism.” Because at Time, it seems, your asshat is in excellent haberdashing company.

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