The Dylan Farrow letter got Ann Friedman thinking about men’s anxiety over false sexual assault accusations:
My friend Adam Serwer once made the astute observation that most white people “can only relate to racial discrimination in the abstract. What white people can relate to is the fear of being unjustly accused of racism.” The lesson translates to cases of sexual assault and harassment. Those of us who have been forced to personally cope with powerful men behaving badly are certain that the accusers in these situations are worth listening to. “These are not stories we tell for fun, attention or revenge,” tweeted Lena Dunham. There are many women like us working in media, but we’re outnumbered — or definitely outranked — by men who are inclined to relate to the experience of being accused.
Natalie Shure explains why young victims of sex crimes have the deck stacked against them:
[T]here is something inherently imbalanced about a child abuse case. The very secrecy that makes the truth “unknowable” is an instrument of the crime.
With no witnesses or credible legal evidence, the “he said/she said” conundrum prevails. The assailant knows this, and he can use it to his advantage. As soon as children make allegations, they enter a world filled with adult concepts—ideas they themselves don’t entirely understand. In order to even tell their stories, they have to learn a new language, putting vague, undefined feelings into unfamiliar words. The whole drama plays out in a grown-up context, which means the grown-up always has the upper hand. Neutrality never even has a chance.
Dahlia Lithwick urges the jurors of the court of public opinion to stop pretending we can arrive at any meaningful conclusions:
Recognize that dressing your personal opinions up in fancy talk of “burdens of proof” and “presumptions of innocence” helps clarify almost nothing and confuses a great deal. Mob justice often has all the trappings of an unbiased search for truth, but it’s actually just an (understandable) outpouring of rage and blame. We have statutes of limitation, not to punish complaining witnesses but because the legal system recognizes that memories and evidence are degraded over time, even as umbrage on both side burns brighter than ever.
Investigative journalism is one thing. But the Court of Public Opinion is what we used to call villagers with flaming torches. It has no rules, no arbiter, no mechanism at all for separating truth from lies. It allows everything into evidence and has no mechanism to separate facts about the case from the experiences and political leanings of the millions of us who are all acting as witnesses, judges, and jurors. So go ahead and tweet your truth or publicly shame someone who is tweeting hers, but don’t believe for an instant that this is how complicated factual disputes get resolved or that this will change hearts and minds about our woefully anti-woman, anti-victim culture.
Dahlia is, of course, right. The fact that Woody Allen was exonerated by the serious clinical investigation into the claims of child abuse at the time is the best factual evidence we are likely to get – apart from the obvious anguish of Dylan Farrow. There is no reconciling of these two things. There is just the weighing of them both in our own minds. For my part, because the experience of being abused is more traumatizing than being accused (though both are traumatic), I tend to insist on taking any victim’s account seriously. Especially when it seems they have nothing to gain by it but the venting of extreme pain.