Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen: The Culture of Disclosure

Seven days ago, the New York Times published an open letter penned by Dylan Farrow detailing the abuse she endured at the hands of her adoptive father, Woody Allen…and a media firestorm ensued.

It seems as though everyone in Hollywood has an opinion, from Barbara Walters defending Allen, her longtime friend, to Lena Dunham providing immediate and unwavering support of Farrow via Twitter, to a group of HLN personalities talking round and round, one saying they hope Farrow isn’t lying because it would set real victims back.

And beyond celebrities, our mothers, our brothers, our coworkers and friends are editorializing the Farrow/Allen relationship.

Was she abused?

Is she lying?

Did he do it?

Is he innocent?

When a victim comes forward, I ALWAYS believe them, validate their feelings and help them gain access to help because we know that only a select few – between .05 and 5 percent** – of child sex abuse allegations are false, and these cases usually involve custody battles. However, I have stayed silent on this one.


Because it does not matter what I think. It does not matter what you think. And it certainly does not matter what Barbara Walters thinks.

The fact of the matter is: in our society, survivors do not feel safe disclosing abuse. So many people want to keep this dark issue hidden in the shadows and refuse to entertain the idea that someone they know, someone they trust, or even someone whose films they enjoy, could be capable of such horrific acts. And so we, as a society, live in denial. And survivors live in shame. And fear. Fear that the words their abusers so often told them – “This is our little secret.” “No one will believe you.” “They will think you are lying.” – will prove true.

Because none of us were there, we do not know what happened, and we may never know. But I can’t help but ask myself, what if, when I disclosed the 6+ years of violent sexual abuse I endured at the hands of my live-in nanny, my dad did not believe me?

While there are still people who write nasty things on blogs calling me a liar or a willing participant, and others who describe my abuse as “alleged” even though my nanny pled no contest, was adjudicated guilty and is serving 25 years behind bars, I am lucky to have safe support in my life. I have friends, family members and fellow survivors who love, support and believe me.

Sadly, this is not the case for many. Seventy-three percent of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year, *** carrying overwhelming feelings of shame, blame and fear…simultaneously terrified that someone will learn their secret, desperately hoping someone will.

Forty-five percent of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years.*** The abuse manifests itself as depression, anxiety, PTSD, overly sexualized behavior, substance abuse…the list goes on.

And some never disclose. Some do not feel safe sharing this piece of themselves, this untold trauma, keeping it a secret for the rest of their lives because of the blame game culture of disclosure.

Was she abused?

Is she lying?

Did he do it?

Is he innocent?

It does not matter what we think. What matters is that victims feel safe enough to disclose abuse that was not their fault, which they suffered at the hands of someone they likely loved and trusted. What matters is that we provide safe support for these victims and help them heal into thriving survivors.

Each year, when I walk 1,500 miles across the state of Florida during “Walk in My Shoes,” I bring the message that “It’s OK To Tell”…always. Each year, people come up and tell me about the sexual abuse they endured as a child. Many reveal that I am the first person they have told.

This is #WhyIWalk. And I hope that you will join me.


Lauren Book, M.S. Ed., is the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, a non-profit organization committed to preventing child abuse and healing survivors. Her e-mail address is [email protected].

See Lauren discuss the culture of disclosure Monday, February 10, at 3 p.m. on Katie Couric’s show ‘Katie’ on ABC, and join Lauren on her 1,500-mile Walk in My Shoes this March and April by visiting laurens.wpengine.com/2014Walk.


**Sanford Children’s Hospital, National Children’s Alliance

***Smith et al., 2000; Broman-Fulks et al., 2007