In 2014, Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen’s adopted daughter, wrote an open letter on a New York Times blog. It was a sickening account of alleged abuse. It was terrifying, eloquent and desperately sad. It culminated in a sordid assault: “When I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.”
Today, her brother Moses disputes key features of that narrative in a remarkable 5,000 word blog post, entitled “A Son speaks out.” It’s a startling piece of writing as it reverses all of the key assumptions that made Dylan’s testimony so powerful.
Moses begins by explaining why he has avoided intervening until now:
“I’m a very private person and not at all interested in public attention. But, given the incredibly inaccurate and misleading attacks on my father, Woody Allen, I feel that I can no longer stay silent as he continues to be condemned for a crime he did not commit. I was present for everything that transpired in our house before, during, and after the alleged event. Now that the public hysteria of earlier this year has died down a little and I have some hope that the truth can get a fair hearing, I want to share my story.”
So where does Moses fit in? The back story is complex, involving as it does a weird mesh of biological and familial relationships. Mia Farrow and Allen began a relationship in 1979 after Farrow’s divorce from Andre Previn with whom she had three biological children and adopted three more, of which the third was Soon-Yi Previn.
In 1980, Mia adopted Moses Farrow and in 1985, Dylan Farrow. In 1991, A New York City Court allowed Woody Allen to be co-opted as their Father. In 1991, after Woody Allen began a relationship with Soon-Yi Previn. Soon-Yi was 21 years old at the time.
Moses recalls his Mother’s fury at Allen’s actions.
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“For months now, she had been drilling it into our heads like a mantra: Woody was “evil,” “a monster,” “the devil,” and Soon-Yi was “dead to us.” This was the constant refrain, whether or not Woody was around … My mother was our only source of information about Woody – and she was extremely convincing.”
He links personal stories of Farrow’s psychological abuse with the way in which Dylan was ‘coached’ into repeating allegations that Allen had assaulted her:
“I was getting ready to go to sleep, when my mother came over to my bed and found a tape measure. She gave me a piercing look that stopped me in my tracks and asked if I had taken it, as she had been looking for it all day. I stood in front of her, frozen. She asked why it was on my bed. I told her I didn’t know, that perhaps a workman had left it there. She asked again and again and again. When I didn’t give the answer she wanted, she slapped my face, knocking off my glasses. She told me I was lying and directed me to tell my brothers and sisters that I had taken the tape measure. Through my tears I listened to her as she explained that we would rehearse what should have happened. She would walk into the room and I would tell her I was sorry for taking the tape measure, that I had taken it to play with and that I would never do it again. She made me rehearse it at least a half-dozen times.”
According to Moses, Mia used the same kind of obsessive rehearsal techniques to engineer Dylan’s account of the alleged assault:
“It was Monica who later testified that she saw Mia taping Dylan describe how Woody had supposedly touched her in the attic, saying it took Mia two or three days to make the recording. In her testimony she said, “I recall Ms. Farrow saying to Dylan at that time, ‘Dylan, what did daddy do… and what did he do next?’ Dylan appeared not to be interested, and Ms. Farrow would stop taping for a while and then continue.” I can vouch for this, having witnessed some of this process myself.
Moses alleges that Farrow was abusive towards several of her children:
“It pains me to recall instances in which I witnessed siblings, some blind or physically disabled, dragged down a flight of stairs to be thrown into a bedroom or a closet, then having the door locked from the outside. She even shut my brother Thaddeus, paraplegic from polio, in an outdoor shed overnight as punishment for a minor transgression.”
Moses’ account also challenges a key part of the factual basis of the Dylan testimony:
“There was no electric train set in that attic. There was, in fact, no way for kids to play up there, even if we had wanted to. It was an unfinished crawl space, under a steeply-angled gabled roof, with exposed nails and floorboards, billows of fiberglass insulation, filled with mousetraps and droppings and stinking of mothballs, and crammed with trunks full of hand-me-down clothes and my mother’s old wardrobes.”
He concludes by reversing the assumptions that have dominated public perception of the Farrow-Allen relationship. Mia Farrow was the real perpetrator of emotional and physical abuse, not Allen:
“Several years later, I became estranged from my mother, but it has taken years of self-reflection, professional help and support from those I love – and who love me in return – for me to appreciate the sad truth of my childhood and of what my mother did to my siblings and me.”
It is an extraordinary piece of writing that upends many of the assumptions made until today.