It all started with a few Tweets by Mia Farrow and son Ronan Farrow during the Golden Globes — just as Woody Allen was being honored with a lifetime achievement award. In less than 140 characters, the Farrows sharply alluded to allegations that the celebrated director had sexually abused Mia’s adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow twenty-two years earlier, denouncing the man who had once been part of their family.
The tweets prompted a flurry of commentary across the internet, pushing the decades old case is back in the news. On Sunday, the story got even bigger when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published testimonial from Dylan Farrow herself in his column. Her wrenching account described the assault in detail, calling on Allen’s fans to rethink their allegiance. Now, The Times says, Allen may respond with his own version of events in a follow-up essay.
What’s true or untrue in this particular case is difficult to determine all these years later. What we do know for certain is that for all the attention sensational assault cases like the ones in Stuebenville or Delhi get in the headlines, many more cases of sexual abuse — the kind that take place quietly, behind the closed doors of private homes — go unreported and un-prosecuted. Ninety-three percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker, and in more than 1 in 3 cases, the attacker is a family member.
Sasha Weiss, an editor at NewYorker.com recently blogged about what the Farrow-Allen case has to teach us about the boundaries between private life and politics. It's a question Dr. Margaret Moon, Assistant Professor in Pediatrics and Clinical Medical Ethics at Johns Hopkins University has spent some time considering as well.