Film

'Predator' Woody Allen faces renewed abuse claim

Catherine Shoard

Woody Allen's former adopted daughter Dylan Farrow has spoken out for the first time over claims that Allen sexually assaulted her when she was seven.

Woody Allen's former adopted daughter Dylan Farrow has spoken out for the first time over claims Allen sexually assaulted her when she was seven. (AFP)

Woody Allen's former adopted daughter Dylan Farrow has spoken out for the first time over claims that Allen sexually assaulted her when she was seven.

In an open letter published on a New York Times blog, the 28-year-old, now known as Malone Farrow, renewed the claims and blamed Hollywood for exacerbating her torment by "turning a blind eye". All allegations were denied by Allen at the time, and following an investigation in 1993, no charges were brought.

Farrow's letter alleges sexual abuse by Allen at the family's holiday home in 1992, during which time he was fighting his former partner Mia Farrow for custody of their two adopted children, Dylan and Moses, as well as their biological, son Ronan. The couple, who were together for 12 years but maintained separate houses, split up after she discovered his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, then 19, whom Farrow had adopted with former husband Andre Previn.

Dylan Farrow alleges she was led to a "dim, closet-like attic" and instructed to lie on her stomach and play with her brother's train set while Allen sexually assaulted her. Other abusive behaviour, skilfully hidden from her mother, and continuing for years, was also alleged.

The prosecutor at the time of the incident said he lacked evidence to prosecute but suspected abuse occurred.

After the publication of Dylan Farrow's letter, former Litchfield county state attorney Frank Maco confirmed on Sunday that the statute of limitations on the accusations had expired many years before.

Dr John Leventhal, who led the investigative team and conducted repeated interviews with Dylan, said at the time that he and his colleagues discredited her testimony because they felt she "was coached or influenced by her mother".

Allen has not issued any statement following the renewed allegations, but at the time called them "an unconscionable and gruesomely damaging manipulation of innocent children for vindictive and self-serving motives".

Traumatic childhood
In her letter, Dylan Farrow describes suffering eating disorders and self-harm after her traumatic childhood, but is now married and living under a different name in Florida.

Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn married in 1997 and adopted two girls, who are now teenagers.

In the letter, Farrow explains her motivation in speaking up as guilt over her fears Allen could abuse others, and disgust at what she sees as the film industry's defence of a "predator". "That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up," she wrote.

"I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls.

"Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse."

She goes on to name actors with whom Allen has recently worked – such as Louis CK and Scarlett Johansson – and ask them to examine their consciences. "What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?"

Hollywood culpable for alleged abuses?
The notion that Hollywood's continued embrace of Allen may make the industry culpable for alleged abuses was the logic offered by Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, on whose blog the letter was published. In an introductory paragraph, he explains that he sees it as a continuation of the debate about the propriety or otherwise of giving Allen a Golden Globe award. In a separate article, he says he is a family friend of Mia and Ronan Farrow.

When Allen was awarded the Cecil B DeMille Golden Globe for lifetime achievement in January, the Farrows took to Twitter to voice their disgust.

When the director's tribute started, Mia Farrow wrote: "Time to grab some ice cream & switch over to #GIRLS." Ronan, an activist lawyer and now a TV news host, added: "Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?"

It was in an interview last October in Vanity Fair magazine that Mia, Ronan and Dylan – the latter then breaking a long silence – first returned to the claims of abuse. "I have never been asked to testify," said Dylan, whose initial allegations were only via video. "If I could talk to the seven-year-old Dylan, I would tell her to be brave, to testify."

Her letter has been met with silence from Allen and from official representatives of Mia and Ronan Farrow.

Some celebrities – among them Lena Dunham – have tweeted support for Dylan, while others have pointed to a blog from last week by the director Robert Weide, who made a documentary about Allen and who seeks to debunk some of the misapprehensions about the case.

In a long piece on the Daily Beast, he also revealed that Mia Farrow had granted permission for her image to be used in film clips honouring Allen during the Golden Globes, and expressed surprise at her Twitter reaction. – Guardian News & Media

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