What You Need to Know About the Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow Allegations

*Trigger warning*: the article contains some sensitive information that some readers may find upsetting

Laura Hensley
Woody Allen posing in glasses
(Photo: Getty)

(Update: On May 23, Moses Farrow, the adopted son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, wrote an essay defending his father. In his piece, he calls the allegations against Allen lies and says Farrow created “fatal dysfunction” in their household growing up.)

The long-buried sexual assault allegations against filmmaker Woody Allen are finally resurfacing—and its largely thanks to his daughter, Dylan Farrow.

Dylan, the adopted daughter of Allen and former partner Mia Farrow, appeared on CBS on Jan. 18 to talk about the sexual abuse she says she experienced as a child at the hands of Allen. The on-camera interview was the first Dylan—now 32—had given about the allegations, which Allen, 82, still denies.

“I am credible, and I am telling the truth, and I think it’s important that people realize that one victim, one accuser, matters. And that they are enough to change things,” Farrow told reporter Gayle King.

 

There’s been lots of recent discussion around Allen in light of the #MeToo movement, with celebrities publicly denouncing the celebrated filmmaker while others continue to defend him. Following Dylan’s TV interview, here’s what you need to know about the sexual assault allegations made against Allen.

Dylan has long claimed that when she was seven years old, Allen took her to the attic of Mia’s home and sexually assaulted her. (Her parents’s relationship was on the rocks at the time but Allen would come visit her and her siblings.) In her 2014 essay for the New York TimesDylan wrote that Allen told her to “lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set” while he assaulted her. “He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies,” she wrote. In the essay, Dylan also says that Allen’s inappropriate behaviour started before the alleged assault, as he would often do things she “didn’t like” including sticking his thumb in her mouth, making her get in bed with him when he was in his underwear and place his head in her naked lap.

Allen’s questionable behaviour before the allegations

According to a Vanity Fair profile of Mia from 1992, there was an “unwritten rule” in Mia’s house that Allen should never be left alone with Dylan because Allen had shown “inappropriate” fatherly behaviour towards her—something he allegedly discussed with his therapist at the time. According to Vanity Fair, Allen was described by multiple people close to the family as being “completely obsessed” with Dylan and “could not seem to keep his hands off her.” Babysitters and family told Vanity Fair that “Dylan often complained of stomachaches and headaches when Woody visited” her, and when Allen left, “the symptoms would disappear.” The outlet also reported that there were times Dylan “became so withdrawn when her father was around that she would not speak normally, but would pretend to be an animal.”

How Dylan’s story came to light

According to a 1992 report by Vanity Fair, Allen came to visit Mia and their children at her farmhouse in Connecticut in August of that year, months after Mia discovered Allen was having an affair with her 21-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn (more on that later). Mia’s childhood friend, Casey Pascal, had also come to visit, and Mia left Dylan at the farmhouse with Mia and Pascal’s babysitters, as well as Allen, while she and Pascal went shopping. While the women were gone, Allen and Dylan apparently vanished from the babysitters’s sight and when they later returned, Dylan reportedly didn’t have any underpants on. A day later, Pascal called Mia to tell her that her babysitter told her that she walked in on Allen kneeling on the floor and holding Dylan with his face in her lap while she was looking for Pascal’s child. That prompted Mia to ask Dylan about the situation, which is when she reportedly told her mother that Allen had touched her “private part.” Mia then recorded Dylan explaining what happened on tape, and called her lawyer, who advised Mia to take Dylan to a paediatrician. It was at the doctor’s office that Dylan again told what Allen had done to her, and the doctor reported the incident to police.

What happened after the allegations were made

After the authorities were made aware of the abuse allegations, Mia’s lawyer notified Allen’s lawyer. In response, Allen filed a custody suit against Mia charging she was an unfit mother. As reported by Vanity Fair, when Allen was questioned about the abuse allegations, he refused to take a polygraph administered by the Connecticut state police and instead took one from someone hired by his team, which police refused as evidence. While Allen was being investigated by authorities, witnesses—including the babysitter who saw Allen’s behaviour toward Dylan—testified in court during the custody battle, recounting stories that aligned with Dylan’s. He wasn’t awarded custody and the presiding judge in the suit found that Allen’s behaviour was “grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect [Dylan].” While he was never charged with sexually assaulting Dylan, Connecticut prosecutors—who had launched a criminal investigation against Allen—said that they had “probable cause” to press charges against Allen, but dropped the case because Dylan was too “fragile” for trial.

What Allen has said about the allegations

Allen has publicly defended himself and continues to deny the abuse allegations. In an interview on 60 Minutes in 1992, Allen suggested that Dylan had been “coached methodically to tell the story” by Mia as revenge for his relationship with Previn. “There is no possibility that anything remotely ever happened to Dylan or that I ever did anything to Dylan,” Allen said. In 2014, he penned a piece for the New York Times again denying the abuse allegations and again reiterated that the charges were likely because of his relationship with Previn.

Dylan has maintained the same story for years

Aside from her Times essay, Dylan wrote about her alleged abuse in December 2017 for the Los Angeles Times where she asked why the #MeToo movement had largely spared Allen. In that essay, Dylan writes that she’s been telling the same story for more than 20 years, yet many in Hollywood have failed to listen and continue to work with the filmmaker. She also reiterated details of the abuse case, saying that “Allen’s pattern of inappropriate behaviour…was witnessed by friends and family members” and that at the time of the alleged assault, Allen was in therapy for his behaviour towards her.

Allen’s relationship with Mia’s adoptive daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, started before the abuse allegations

Mia discovered Allen was having an affair with her 21-year-old daughter Soon-Yi Previn (whom Mia adopted with ex-partner André Previn) in 1992 when she found pornographic Polaroids of Previn taken by Allen. Woody has said that the pictures were intended to be erotic, but maintained they were consensual. While the relationship between Allen and Previn is controversial given its father-daughter nature, its Allen’s comments about Previn that are also unsettling. In 2015 talking to NPR, Allen said that when he started his romantic relationship with Previn, he didn’t expect it to be more than a fling. “I never thought it would be anything more. Then we started going together…and we were enjoying it,” he said. “The age difference didn’t seem to matter. It seemed to work in our favour actually… I’m 35 years older, and somehow, through no fault of mine or hers, the dynamic worked. I was paternal.”

This story was originally published January 17, 2018

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