Trigger warning for talk of rape
Preface the victim’s open letter about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father with a statement saying that he deserves the presumption of innocence. Always approach situations like this with the thought that the victim might be lying; remind yourself and others that the burden of proof is on her.
Insist on referring to the victim as the rapist’s “adopted daughter,” as if that mitigates what he has done. Using subtle language cues like this, imply that though it might be rape, it’s not really incest because the the rapist is not the victim’s biological father. Pretend that adoptive parents somehow feel differently about their children than biological parents do.
Like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, insist on your ability to differentiate between an artist and their art. As a spokesperson for the organization said, “The Academy honors achievement in film, not the personal lives of filmmakers and artists.” Tell yourself that many great artists have been problematic – for example, Picasso was an abusive womanizer, but you can still enjoy his paintings – and that a person’s behaviour should not influence whether or not we view their art as great. Perhaps you could even take this a step further and insist to yourself that a perpetrator of such violence could never make such wonderful art. Let the rapist’s popularly beloved films stand as a sort of character witness, proving that there is no way he could ever have harmed his own child.
If you have worked closely with the rapist, take a page from Cate Blanchett’s book and distance yourself from the accusations, pretend that it has nothing to do with you. Tell yourself that it’s a private family matter; your willingness to be friends with the rapist is certainly not a public statement either condoning his actions or dismissing the victim’s accusations. Make a statement similar to Blanchett’s, something like: “It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family and I hope they find some resolution and peace.” This type of conflict is not at all convenient for your career or the image you’re trying to build for yourself.
Blame everything on the only parent the rape victim is able to love and trust. Accuse her of being the truly abusive parent; say that she was and is crazy with jealousy. Insist that she orchestrated the entire thing as an elaborate revenge plot. Paint the rapist as a victim who has had his relationship with his children destroyed by their monster of a mother. Pretend to be sympathetic to the victim, the poor girl whose mother has planted terrible ideas in her head. After all, this certainly worked for Woody Allen and his lawyer, who issued a statement saying: “It is tragic that after 20 years a story engineered by a vengeful lover resurfaces after it was fully vetted and rejected by independent authorities. The one to blame for Dylan’s distress is neither Dylan nor Woody Allen.”
Write a lengthy article about how we don’t know the other side, the rapist’s side, of the story. Construct an elaborate argument explaining why the victim is a liar, knowing or not. Use a multitude of circumstantial evidence not even a little bit directly related to the actual assault described by the victim to discredit her. For example, insinuate that the victim’s mother is a hypocrite because she testified on Roman Polanski’s behalf when he was accused of rape; pretend that that has any bearing on whether or not Woody Allen raped his daughter. Using every anecdote and half-truth that comes your way to cast doubt in your readers’ minds. This won’t be hard; they are looking for a reason, any reason, to doubt anyway.
Or, like Diane Keaton, you could refuse to issue a statement, hide your head in the sand, and hope that this will all blow over.
Do not treat the victim as if they are a person with agency and thoughts and feelings – instead, treat them as an intellectual exercise, their life a puzzle to be solved, their words an argument to be defeated. Do not imagine yourself in their place, what it must be like to write a letter about the abuse they’ve suffered at their rich and powerful father’s hands. Do not try to think about what it must be like to have the entirety of the Hollywood machine working against you, swaying the minds of the population against what you are saying. Do not picture the anguish you might feel at seeing scores upon scores of people trying to discredit you, trying to trip you up, trying to defend the man who raped you, the man they all love so very much.
Do not think about the message that this, your willingness to doubt, is sending to all of the people you know who have also been victims of rape. They almost certainly number far more than you know, but try not to think about how your reaction might further convince them that sharing their story will only be met with derision and disbelief.
Tell yourself that this is not rape culture. Tell yourself that a knee-jerk reaction of you must be lying or remembering it wrong when faced with a victim’s accusations of rape is not a sign that our society is so very, very fucked up. Tell yourself that it’s rational and logical to want to know all sides of the story, though you never want to know the other side, the perpetrator’s side, when your house is broken into or your wallet is stolen or your child is hit by a car. Tell yourself that we can never know for sure what happened and since a man’s life can be destroyed by accusations of rape, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Do not think about the girl whose life was destroyed when she was seven.
Above all, never, ever, ever think about the ways that you might be complicit in this.
I stand with Dylan Farrow.