Lawyers representing divorced people in custody battles know well that the first charge of child abuse gives the accuser momentum. False charges have become common in this context, even acceptable. A Seattle judge recently acknowledged that charges of molestation against one spouse by the other were false, but explained that they were understandable because the accuser was fighting for custody of the child. The accuser won. Compared to the venomous intensity of custody battles, criminal trials are pastorals.
There have been so many wrongful convictions for child sex abuse over the past 30 years that researchers are able to identify patterns of how false charges are created. The chief method is coercive and suggestive interviews by determined adults who already know what they want to hear. A young child learns by following the direction of grownups. It’s hard to imagine a technique more leading than for the child’s mother to follow her around for days with a camera, selectively recording answers to some, but not all, probes and questions and comments about sex abuse. Only a remarkably insensitive child would be indifferent to her caregiver’s strongest desires; there is no evidence that Dylan Farrow is insensitive. The use of that technique by Mia Farrow doesn’t mean that Dylan was not abused. It just means that Mia Farrow got the answers she wanted, whether or not Dylan was abused. That makes her tape unreliable.
When four-and five-years-olds have testified to impossibilities—being flown to Mexico to be abused and returned back in time to be picked up from daycare, watching their teachers eviscerate animals in the classroom—they cling to those events as if they were real. Ten-year-olds who testify falsely get caught up in the whirl of being a hero/victim, but they know when they go to sleep at night that it really wasn’t like that, and often they eventually recant. Seven-year-olds are somewhere in between. Dylan’s alleged abuse was a chief theme of the house in which she was raised; any counter-story would have been a betrayal of her mother. What should we make of the fact that Dylan still believes that it happened? Not much.
Woody Allen has a long history of keen interest in and involvements with post-pubescent women. Pedophiles don’t. The likelihood of him committing some unspecified form of sexual assault on a young child, especially while engaged in a custody battle, is minuscule. There is nothing that supports the truth of the charges against Woody Allen—not the timing and circumstances of how they came to light, not their investigation, and not the nature of the accused.
Michael R. Snedeker, Esq.
President, National Center for Reason and Justice