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The Story Continues: How the #MeToo Movement Is Already Changing Us

The tidal wave of allegations of sexual abuse has stirred the waters in so many ways that we are having difficulty keeping up. Not only are new reports appearing almost daily, but women are voicing their allegations in choruses, such as the victims of Dr. Larry Nassar, whom I wrote about last week. It appears that these events are having a synergistic effect; as more and more women are speaking out and being heard, more feel empowered to join in.

Silence has long been the abuser’s strongest ally—the silence of the victims and the conspiratorial silence of the people in a position to help catch the abusers but who have turned a blind eye—or even helped with a cover-up.

Not only are new cases coming to light, but also old allegations are being re-examined. And it is clear that there has been a shift. Woody Allen, having been accused by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, of molestation decades ago when she was a 7-year-old, is one such “suspect.” At the time, he and Dylan’s mother, Mia Farrow, were going through a messy separation, and some thought the accusations were “trumped up,” as Allen claimed. He was never charged for Dylan’s allegations. But, as Ms. Farrow wrote in The Los Angeles Times, “A prosecutor took the unusual step of announcing that he had “probable cause” to charge Allen but declined in order to spare me, a ‘child victim,’ from an exhausting trial.”

In 2013, the issue came up again. I wrote at that time:

“One problem with Allen’s denial is that he has demonstrated, rather spectacularly, a willingness to cross the parent-child boundary. His affair with (and subsequent marriage to) Soon-Yi Previn, another of Mia Farrow’s adopted daughters, who lived in Mia’s household, was at the very least a violation of conventional sexual taboos. His letter demonstrates an astonishing lack of insight on his part. He even writes as part of his defense that he was “blissfully” in love with Dylan’s older sister, Soon-Yi, at the time, so why would he choose that moment to “embark on a career as a child molester?

“What is rarely talked about in all this is the child we know with certainty was a victim: Soon-Yi. Though at 20 she was over the legal age of consent, girls of that age can still be very immature. Furthermore, a parental figure has such authority that no child can be expected to have ‘free will’ when dealing with his or her seductive behavior.”

When I wrote about Woody Allen four years ago, I titled my post “Doubt and the Difficulty of Confirming Childhood Sex Abuse.” The title refers not only to Mr. Allen’s case but also Doubt, the Meryl Streep/Philip Seymour Hoffman film about a priest who is a suspected serial abuser. I was trying to make the point that it is difficult to prove these cases, but I was also underscoring that there is room for doubt.

Recently, Ms. Farrow has spoken up again. In her Los Angeles Times opinion piece, she questioned why the Hollywood community continues to give Allen a “pass” when others, most prominently Harvey Weinstein, have been ex-communicated. She is now being heard in a way that she was not in 1992 or 2014. The New York Times  writes, “. . . at a moment when women’s voices and stories have been amplified as never before, Ms. Farrow’s account carries more force — as even defenders of Mr. Allen are starting to acknowledge.”

In her opinion piece, Ms. Farrow questions female actresses such as Kate Winslett, who had just finished starring in Allen’s latest film, or Greta Gerwig, who referred to him as her “idol,” who have continued to work with him in spite of his alleged history as a child abuser.

Things have changed in our culture. The pendulum has swung toward “hearing all voices” and taking these charges more seriously. And this time, the response to Ms. Farrow’s words has been different. Many, though not all, of the actors Allen has worked with in the past have come forward to denounce him.

Greta Gerwig said, in response to reading Farrow’s opinion piece, that it “made me realize that I increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization.” Two stars of an upcoming film, Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Hall, have donated the salaries they received from working with Mr. Allen to charities and Time’s Up, the Hollywood campaign against harassment and assault. And there is talk that Amazon, Allen’s distributor, may back away from him, leaving that film without a distributor.

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