Victim Blaming 101

woody allen

Step 1: Gaslight a seven year old.

Step 2: Even when they’re grown up and recount the story of their abuse, tell them they’ve been brainwashed and could never have actually been abused.

Step 3: When in doubt, blame the abuse accusation from a child on an adult woman (in this case, the mother), or flat out diminish the accusation by claiming it was a byproduct of a custody hearing.

Step 4: Always remember that as long as you make movies that are iconic, you will always prevail over a little girl, or any survivor of any age, so long as her directorial catalogue is smaller and less endearing.

These are the things I’ve learned from the Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow debacle this week. I’ve also learned we have a lot of rape apologists in the world.

You can’t help but feel disappointed when your social media feeds are filled with comments questioning the veracity of Dylan’s story. This week, I read a lot of excuses from people I admire and respect, and quite frankly, it really hurt. Point to patriarchy on the scorecard, I guess.

This is a rape culture problem, but more than that, the response to these accusations show we really do have a celebrity culture problem. As long as the art you create is stellar, we apparently, are willing to excuse your abhorrent behavior, or downright ignore it.

Fine, forget Dylan Farrow for a moment. Woody Allen married his former girl friend’s adopted daughter, and while no laws were broken, it proves that he is a man who has severe issues with boundaries. We cannot ignore that. No amount of fanboying can make that go away.

I’m taking Basic Advocate Training, which is a requirement for working in domestic violence shelters as well as other social service sectors. I didn’t sign up for this because I am considering a career change—I did this because more and more of my job has become less about teaching, and more about dealing with the realities of what my students face at home. In these training sessions you hear the other participants who’ve utilized these services, or worked in them, talk about the reality of what others think of domestic and sexual violence survivors, whether the crime against them was ultimately proven or not. You hear stories of cops and lawyers asking, “What did you do to provoke him?” or saying, “men are inherently violent and lustful creatures.”

You look at your phone and see that the date is indeed 2014.

Being convicted in a court of law doesn’t mean much when you realize that domestic and sexual violence cases are underrepresented in the legal system at the outset. They are very rarely reported and barely ever prosecuted.

You look at your timeline and see men and women decrying that sometimes custody battles get ugly. You see them talk about mother’s turning their kids against men and hear about Allen’s four academy awards. You look at your timeline. Yep, still 2014.

7 thoughts on “Victim Blaming 101

  1. I once had a conversation with a defense attorney working a rape case. He was confident he would win since he had a detailed strategy for destroying the poor kid’s testimony. It sounded like the kid had been abused by so many people that the she did end up making some things up. I imagine most of it was true, with a few lies sprinkled in as a coping mechanism and cry for help. This was a teen who had a horrible life, and having finally gotten the legal system to listen, was going to lose her case because she was so messed up by her experiences, it would be impossible to prove the latest offense happened. Ugh. And this is how abusers get off scot free. You screw up your victim to the point where their state of mind is so fragile that reasonable doubt is inevitable. Inevitable, that is, in a society that scrutinizes victims of sexual and domestic abuse more than any other crime victim. Can you imagine being asked, “What did you do to provoke being robbed? You left your door open? Well you asked for it.”

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  2. This smarts. Equally unsettling was this statement: “I didn’t sign up for [Basic Advocate Training] because I am considering a career change—I did this because more and more of my job has become less about teaching, and more about dealing with the realities of what my students face at home.” Keep doing what you’re doing!

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  3. The number and caliber of these defenses–respectable publications, admired writers–is astonishing and heartbreaking. Knowing firsthand how badly a victim can be punished for speaking out, this whole situation has made my blood curdle.

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