You may have heard that Dylan Farrow has come forward and said that she was sexually abused.
In response, a lot of famous people have come forward to defend one of their own. People are saying that what he did in the past doesn’t matter. People say that his artistic temperament made him more susceptible to temptation. People are saying that his great body of work should make us disregard what he did to a small child.
People are saying that Dylan is lying. She’s doing it to get attention. She spoke up too late and should just be quiet about it now.
This means we, as a whole, are doing exactly what every child molester hopes society will do. We are telling the victim to shut up because the person they are accusing is too great to be accused of such a thing. We are in shock and instead of saying a horrible crime has been committed, far too many people are saying that the victim’s voice does not matter.
It is the perpetrator’s hope that society will be outraged. Not, however, outraged at the perpetrator. Outraged at the victim for trying to destroy the perpetrators’ good name.
Perpetrators operate under the society guise of smoke and mirrors. He or she does not want anyone but his victim to see his or her true self. But he volunteers at the youth center. But he performed my daughter’s wedding and baptized her children. She was such a great teacher and donated so much of her time to tutoring children. But…
But, she touched a child inappropriately. But he raped a seven year old in an attic and told her not to tell. But he and a bunch of his buddies gang-raped a teenager when she tried to reach out and tell someone that she was being abused at home. But he showed porn to a high school student he was tutoring on a school computer. But she manipulated a child she was babysitting into playing dress up in a way the child never felt right about.
A victim of childhood sexual abuse spends a lot of time questioning him or herself about whether or not it really happened. Their sense of self is mutated by the gross violations to their personhood. They lose innocence, boundaries and their voice. They lose heart. They lose hope. Sometimes, they lose their lives.
But Dylan has found her voice. She has added her voice to the great din of survivors crying out. And lots of people are telling her to be quiet. This is one of the biggest reasons survivors don’t speak out. Why should I speak out about something so painful when people are just going to tell me to be quiet anyway?
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have walked some of the steps that Dylan is now walking. I told people. No one wanted to hear. I told more people. They didn’t want to hear either. After my father was convicted, people told me what a great and nice person he was. Let me be clear. NONE of that was helpful.
What was helpful? The people who believed me. The friends who listened. The people now who don’t say, “That was so long ago. Why don’t you quit talking about it?” The most helpful people to me were those who did not want to hear, but heard anyway. They sat with me and my pain and listened. I do not know where I would be without them.
I do not want to hear it. It breaks my heart when I hear a story of abuse. I do not want to know that anyone else has experienced this pain. But far more of my friends are survivors of abuse, or know survivors of abuse than not. You may think that’s true because I work with survivors. It’s really more true because there are so many survivors of abuse. We all know them. We just may never have been open to knowing them, or they may have felt we would be just like everybody else and tell them to be quiet.