I just read Dylan Farrow’s open letter that’s gone viral on the internet. First off, much, much admiration to her for speaking out about such an awful and traumatizing recurring experience from her childhood. I don’t know if I could find the strength in me to do that.
Second off, this situation is the kind of thing that people in the DV world see all. the. time. It’s awful. A “custody battle” as the media loves to call it in which a woman and/or child accuse an ex of abusing either or both of them. There are countless numbers of experts (people who claim to help children) who will defend the person who is accused of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse of children. There are also community members and the so-called men’s rights movements who will jump on the defensive for this person who likely did abuse his partner and his child.
A favorite defense of these defenders is Parental Alienation Syndrome. This junk science promotes the idea that children who disclose abuse by a parent have been brainwashed by the other parent and that this brainwashing is a form of vengeance. This sounds exactly like what Woody Allen did when Mia Farrow separated from him when he said Mia planted this idea in Dylan’s head. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even pulled out the ol’ Parental Alienation Syndrome defense during the custody hearings.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was coined by Richard Gardener a disturbed man who at best is reported to have described pedophilia as a potential for all people and just another paraphilia and at worst is reported to have said children want sex with adults and the reason children suffer from pedophilia is because society “overreacts” to it. Holy Hell. So disturbing, right?! He also blames mothers for the sexual abuse of their own children because they’ve failed to sexually fulfill their male partners. Oh my barfy nausea! There are no words… I’m speechless. In 2003, he committed suicide. I heard once in a training, but have been unable to locate a reference to this online, that his suicide followed an accusation against him of sexual abuse.
That sexual abuse accusation against him is sadly not surprising. His rationale sounds, to me, exactly like that of an abuser. Taking something so absurdly wrong and arguing it successfully so that others come to believe it or opponents run out of ways to further argue their counterpoint because of how twisted the facts have been. Part of PAS theory even says that the most compelling evidence that PAS is happening is an accusation of sexual abuse by a child against a parent during a divorce or separation. That’s a very effective way to silence survivors. And it is incredibly alarming that if you Google PAS, you find countless sites that discuss and support it. Though it has never been admitted to the mental health practitioner’s guide book, The DSM, PAS continues to be brought up and successfully argued in court. And contrary to the denial of Woody Allen to have visits with Dylan (Thank God!!), it far too often is the case that abusers are granted visits or even custody. So how it is that this junk, baseless science continues to invade and wreak havoc in our courts? How does it continue to exculpate people who have done the most vile of things? I think the answer lies in the fact that rape culture continues to exist in this society and in this world. It also speaks to the fact that abusers are incredibly savvy when it comes to debate and persuasion.
I’m glad the NY Times published Dylan’s letter. And again, I applaud her courage.