The Dylan Farrow-Woody Allen Saga – Part 1

*****Because of the complexity of this story, this will be a two-part blog post. Part one will focus on the facts of the case. Part two will look at the legal decision from the 1990s, the recent renewal of the sexual abuse allegations, and my thoughts on the story.*****

I may be a criminal defense attorney, but I’m just as passionate about victim advocacy, especially victims of domestic and sexual violence. So, the story of Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen caught my attention. I know there are a ton of blog posts out there that discuss the case and I’m kind of late to the game, but I originally didn’t plan on writing about the topic. However, after reading what’s been published, I couldn’t stay silent any longer. The way this was reported, I assumed it was a new incident. The media made it seem as if Dylan is just now reporting alleged sexual molestation some 20 years after it happened. Woody Allen released a statement (which various outlets, including TMZ, carried) acting as if the allegations had been thoroughly investigated 20 years ago and he’d been cleared. It was reported as if Dylan had been coached by a woman scorned, Mia Farrow, who was upset because he left her for her own daughter (and Dylan’s sister). This isn’t exactly the case.

The Relationship

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen had somewhat of a complicated relationship. Mia entered the relationship with three biological children and three adopted children from her first marriage and another child she adopted after the marriage ended. Woody did not have any interest in the children and the two essentially lived separate lives so that Woody would not need to be involved in the children’s lives. Mia later adopted Moses and Dylan but Woody was not involved in the adoptions. A few months after Dylan’s adoption, Woody suddenly became very interested in Dylan and spending time with her. He still was not involved with the other children.

A few years later, Mia became pregnant with their son, Satchel. Although this was Woody’s child, he had no interest in the pregnancy. After the birth, Woody intensified his relationship with Dylan and Mia began expressing concern about his behavior towards her. She voiced concern that Woody looked at Dylan sexually, read to her in his bed while in his underwear, and allowed her to suck on his thumb. Several witnesses testified at the custody trial that Woody focused on Dylan and excluded the other children.

Initial Concern

In the fall of 1990, Mia had Dylan evaluated by a therapist, Dr. Coates. Mia expressed her concerns about Woody’s behavior. Dr. Coates understood the concern and indicated that the relationship was “inappropriately intense.” Dylan began therapy with another doctor, Dr. Schultz. Around that time, Woody adopted Dylan and her brother, Moses.

Although he never had interest in Mia’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, before, Woody began hanging out with her more in 1990. In 1991, he began speaking with her daily as she was lonely and unhappy at college. In January 1992, Mia discovered six nude pictures of Soon-Yi at Woody’s home. Mia then learned of their sexual relationship. Of course, Mia was extremely angry and hurt and began proceedings to vacate the adoptions. Over the next few months, Mia gave Woody a family picture with skewers through the heart of the children and a knife through her heart, defaced and destroyed pictures of Woody and Soon-Yi, and called Woody a child molester (referring to Soon-Yi). In the summer of 1992, Soon-Yi was fired from her job as a camp counselor for spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone with Woody.

The Allegations

On August 4, 1992, Woody went to Mia’s Connecticut home to visit the children. Mia had previously told her babysitter, Ms. Groteke, that Woody was not to be left alone with the children. For a period of 15-20 minutes Ms. Groteke was unable to find Dylan or Woody. During a different portion of that day, another babysitter observed Woody kneeling in front of Dylan with his head on her lap, facing her body. Dylan was sitting on the couch staring vacantly ahead. Dylan was observed later that day without underwear on under her dress.

The next day, the babysitter told Mia what she had seen. Mia asked Dylan about it, and Dylan confirmed the incident, adding that when she tried to get up Woody reached under her and grabbed her buttocks. Mia videotaped Dylan’s statements because she believed that her concerns about Woody weren’t being taken seriously by the therapists. Mia then called her attorney who told her to take Dylan to the pediatrician. It took a couple visits before Dylan repeated the story. It was also alleged that Woody sexually assaulted her in the attic.

Dr. Coates was notified of the accusation, which he in turn relayed to Woody and the New York City Child Welfare Administration. Woody filed for custody of Dylan and Satchel 7 days later. Dr. Schultz, who was on the payroll of Woody, first told child welfare that Dylan had started to tell her about the abuse but she needed more time to explore the subject with her. However, Dr. Schultz told others that Dylan never told her she was sexually assaulted.

Yale-New Haven Hospital was asked to evaluate Dylan to see if she appeared to be a victim of sexual assault. They concluded that Dylan had not been sexually assaulted. However, this conclusion is questionable, as the 3 people on the panel destroyed their notes prior to drafting their report, the doctor actually issuing the opinion never even spoke with Dylan, and all but one person on the panel refused to testify under oath about their findings.

After he learned of the allegations, Woody filed for full custody of Dylan, Moses, and Satchel. The judge in that case issued a 33-page decision which I will discuss in part 2 of this blog post. For now, you can see how Woody may have groomed Dylan to become his victim. Also, although Soon-Yi would say she was a willing participant, Woody’s relationship with her was inappropriate and his behavior predatory. It’s not surprising, though, that Woody would target two children who had been having behavioral and social problems. This is fairly common in sexual abuse and domestic violence situations. Check out part 2 where I’ll detail the judge’s findings and impressions of both parents as well as address Woody’s treatment by Hollywood and the recent media coverage of the case.


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