Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow: beyond a reasonable doubt

Some years back I got in trouble (from some readers) because I called Michael Jackson a child molester. I was convinced that he was guilty of abusing two boys based on the news stories and public testimony. Obviously the jury was not, as Jackson got to go back to Neverland. There he somewhat mysteriously died from a narcotic that his physician incorrectly prescribed some years later.

With Jackson, the evidence seemed clear to me but apparently did not reach the criteria of being beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury. What to think then about these latest resurfaced charges that film director Woody Allen repeated molested his stepdaughter Dylan Farrow when she was a young child? Dylan’s memory is clear enough, even though she was young when the incidents occurred. Early memories can be incorrect, but by age seven a significant emotional event, particularly if it is repeated, will usually cement itself in memory. Recently, Allen issued yet another denial of the allegations.

If it were simply Dylan vs. Allen, maybe there would be some reasonable doubt here. But then there is the small matter of Allen’s other stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted Korean daughter of actress Mia Farrow, Allen’s wife at the time. Previn entered Allen’s life when she was about ten. When Previn was twenty, and above the age of consent, Farrow discovered naked pictures of her. It quickly became clear that Soon-Yi and Allen had more than a stepparent relationship. Today, Allen and Soon-Yi are something of an old married couple, married fifteen years.

No one can say if Soon-Yi was a minor when her relation with Allen turned intimate. The relationship, even if it started at or after the age of consent, would give most parents the willies. Unsurprisingly, this would be because there is an implicit trust relationship between a man and his stepdaughter. Allen says they fell in love and “that is that”. But both parents and stepparents know, or should know to respect boundaries. Any minor needs to trust older adults living in the household so they can develop into an adult free of power issues. A man of character would of course say, “Of course not,” if their legal age stepdaughter became flirtatious. Allen said, “That is that.”

Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi certainly smells. Given that no one can prove molestation of a minor or that it began before she was of legal age, there is reasonable doubt. The alleged molestation of Dylan Farrow, however, goes beyond a reasonable doubt in my mind. This is because there were two potential episodes of sexual abuse of a minor by the same man.

It is possible that Dylan is a vindictive type and is supporting her mother in what ended up as a messy divorce between Allen and Farrow. However, there is no evidence that I have found that Farrow coached anyone. There is plenty of evidence that Allen’s behaviors were wrong. This Vanity Fair article outlines some of the damning facts in the case, now more than twenty years old. Perhaps the most damning was the state attorney’s contention that there was sufficient evidence to charge Allen for molesting Dylan, but he declined to do so due to the Dylan’s fragility at the time. There are also inconsistencies in Allen’s statements to police and the judge in the case calling Allen’s behavior with Dylan grossly inappropriate. No surprise there, of course.

So in the sad case of Dylan Farrow vs. Woody Allen, it’s not leaping to a conclusion at all to say that Allen is probably guilty of repeatedly molesting her. The case against Allen is really beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s amazing that Allen managed to dodge these charges, but it’s clear that it was not due to a lack of convincing evidence and certainly aided by his fat bank account and ability to hire top-notch lawyers.

It’s quite possible that Allen learned from his botched relationship with Dylan and adapted different strategies to win Soon-Yi’s trust, perhaps wooing her but not actually inappropriately touching her until she was at legal age. Regardless, the evidence is clear that Allen transgressed boundary issues with both of these women.

For myself, I don’t seek out Woody Allen movies and I don’t plan to watch anymore of his movies. I am more than a bit miffed that in Dylan’s case he seems to have escaped justice. He should have been convicted and sent to prison long ago. If he had served his sentence and is now on parole, he should not be allowed to be around any minors unsupervised again.

I believe that Allen is a child predator.

JonBenet Ramsey and the tip of the iceberg

If I have one axe to grind against our modern news media, it is how it can blow one individual story way out of proportion. Last week while traveling on business, I was watching CNN from my hotel room in Augusta, Maine. The story broke that John Mark Karr had been arrested in Thailand as a suspect in the now ten-year-old murder of child model JonBenet Ramsey. I immediately groaned and looked for things to throw at the screen. I knew what was coming. For about a week, CNN along with the other major American media outlets were going to turn into the “Nearly All JonBenet Ramsey News Channel.”

It was not that I am unhappy that maybe this case would finally move toward resolution. Justice delayed is better than no justice at all. The other hard, arguably far more important news was out there, like the fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, the continued carnage in Iraq and increasing violence in Afghanistan. These stories all got short shrift, if they were mentioned at all. All our news media outlets were focused on the murder of one child ten years ago.

Yes, our media decided that the case of one six-year-old girl who had been brutally murdered more than ten years ago was worth at least 75% of its news time. Just in case we had forgotten the gory details (if that were possible, since they have been burned into our national conscience by this point), it was: let’s regurgitate the disgusting details of her murder again and again, every hour, on the hour. Let us recall the secret chamber beneath the Ramsey house. Let us relearn that the poor child had been sexually assaulted and bludgeoned. With this new development, new questions were raised. Was it possible that her parents had been falsely convicted by the media for the crime? Isn’t it a shame that her mother Patsy Ramsey passed away in June of cancer under a cloud of shame and scorn? Prominent psychologists racked up big consulting fees on the airwaves. The hype was incredible; the news content was marginal at best.

Why is JonBenet Ramsey’s life still worthy of such media hype? Because she was a weird little child-model who had something terrible and bizarre happen to her. We were also fascinated because her parents had turned her into a moneymaking machine, seemingly so they could live a more opulent lifestyle. Yet there was a more obvious reason than that: because JonBenet Ramsey’s murder was one mother load for the media. Her strange case reached the demographics that our news media wanted to reach. The more they publicized the case, the more their ratings soared. The more their rating soared, the more they could charge for advertising time. Their pandering was mostly about corporate profits, not the public interest. As long as the news media could sustain interest, other more important news items got short shrift.

Focus, people. Of course, I have sympathy for JonBenet Ramsey and her family. Nevertheless, her death is simply a blip on the radar screens of child deaths, murders, molestations and abuses going on it there all the time. It is just that those other statistics do not seem to bother us. We are mostly inured to the daily child carnage swirling around us.

Approximately 30,000 children die every day from preventable causes like dysentery, malaria, fouled water and hunger. I would die of shock if CNN spent just fifteen minutes a day drawing our attention to these statistics. The closest we came to it recently was the media’s exposure the situation in Darfur. The genocide going on there among the non-Braggara tribes in western Sudan included not just many miserably dying children, but adults too. Then there was the famine, war, racism, terrorism and the half hearted international response to the crisis. Thousands of women were raped, sometimes repeatedly. Over 50,000 people have died in Darfur.

Sad as Darfur is, it is a minor problem compared to what has happened in the Congo. 3.8 million Congolese died in their latest civil war. Who among us Americans actually cares? Most Americans could not even pick Congo out on a world map. More people died in the Congo’s latest civil war than the 3.3 million Cambodians that were massacred by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Yet we find Terri Schiavo or JonBenet Ramsey to be far more interesting, even dead, than millions of remote and desperately poor people in the heart of Africa or Asia. It is almost like 1,000,000 deaths of people we do not care about from ordinary preventable disease and civil war in foreign countries equals one death of some prominent White Caucasian American under unusual circumstances.

Okay, so we tend to have a hard time seeing beyond our own borders. So let us focus on some child abuse statistics here in our own country then. 1500 children die from child abuse in the United States every year. That is over four JonBenet Ramseys a day. Children in this country suffer 140,000 injuries as a direct result of child abuse every year. There are 1.7 million reports of child abuse every year. Add in neglect and the total rises to 2 million reports a year. Among those reports are between 150,000 and 200,000 cases of child sexual abuse a year. One in four women report being sexually abused as children, and one in seven men make a similar claim.

The living adult survivors of child abuse carry forward staggering amounts of psychological damage. Many will end up abusing their own children. With my adult perspective, I now count myself as a survivor of child abuse too. I love my mother, who passed away last year, dearly. I remember and cherish the many wonderful and truly extraordinary things she did for us. However, she also had times when she flipped out. Her emotional teakettle was frequently close to boiling. I suffered from the toxic environment of having an easily angered mother ready to lash out at her own children both emotionally and physically. My Mom was also a firm believer in “spare the rod and spoil the child”. In the 1960s, her behavior though was completely ordinary. If getting abuse at home was insufficient, there was much more to be witnessed in our parochial school. Most of my friends received the same, or worse, from their parents, so my case is hardly noteworthy. It took a couple more decades before society acknowledged that this kind of behavior was unacceptable. It was not tantamount to child abuse; it was child abuse.

So perhaps the JonBenet Ramsey case, because it happened to someone who looked more like a porcelain doll than a human being, gives us a safe way to indirectly confront the abuse we received growing up. Acknowledging our own abusive childhoods may be too painful. However, we can project our feelings and anger into a singular case and talk about it endlessly. JonBenet Ramsey’s tragic death then perhaps has the noble side effect of letting us express those feelings, yet without actually acknowledging our individual traumas.

The real conversation though should not be about JonBenet Ramsey, but about the abuse the vast majority of us suffered as children from people with power over us. Much of it was from parents. Sometimes it came from siblings. Maybe it came from the bully who beat us up at school, or a friend who through wounding words sliced our fragile psyches into cutlets. Child abuse, spousal abuse and plain old abuse goes on all around us. The best neighborhoods are no less immune to it than the roughest neighborhoods. Many of us seem to be unable not to hurt the ones we claim to love the most.

When popular news stories like the JonBenet Ramsey case are invariably raised in the media, outlets like CNN and Fox News would be doing a public service to also expose the scope of the child abuse problem. Perhaps it will bring this shame out of the closets where we can talk about it. Instead of letting these wounds fester, perhaps it is time for us to collectively take steps so they can heal.

Michael Jackson: Pedophile

It’s a good thing I am not on the Michael Jackson jury. I’m convinced. The man is a pedophile. From news reports it is hard for me to imagine how a jury could disagree.

Granted I am not in the courtroom so I can’t get a sense of the veracity of these two brothers, one of whom Michael Jackson allegedly molested. But come on. This is not hard to figure out. If it looks like pedophilia, smells like pedophilia and tastes like pedophilia, then it’s pedophilia. If convicted Jackson could get twenty years in prison. In addition to doing well deserved prison time I hope he is put permanently on a list of registered child sex offenders. After he returns from prison to Neverland I hope big signs are placed every couple feet on his fence that say “Warning: Pedophile!” I hope they make him wear an ankle bracelet so that if he gets within 50 feet of a minor it emits a loud squawking sound.

Jackson’s life seems to be based on the premise that with enough fame and money the rules of the real world don’t really apply. Neverland is after all second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning. In Neverland boys get to be boys and don’t have to grow up. Neither does Michael Jackson. And he gets to both play Captain Hook and Peter Pan. His tactics are now well understood. Pick vulnerable kids dealing with major adult stuff like cancer by dropping in like Santa Claus. Make sure their parents are emotionally immature. Wow them with your star power and convince them and their parents that you are their best friend. Then tempt them into your creepy world where normal rules don’t apply. Work on them so they become emotionally dependent on you. So you can guage how they will feel when you move in for the grope, gently expose them Internet porn and Barely Legal magazine. Offer the kids “Jesus Juice” (wine). Screw up their biorhythms so they don’t go to bed until 3 a.m. and sleep until the afternoon. Let them lose track of things like their schooling and what day of the week it is. And when they are half asleep and intoxicated molest them.

If the inflicted sexual trauma were not enough, then forget the fact that you are emotionally raping them too. Take one traumatized and dysfunctional kid, tempt them with a wonderful fantasy, molest them and leave them even more screwed up than before they met you.

Sick, sick, sick.

Jackson must be living in Neverland because like Peter Pan he doesn’t have much in the way of common sense. I can’t imagine being a pedophile. But anyone with the inclination could figure out cleverer ways to do the dirty business than Michael Jackson. To begin with don’t be a celebrity. But if you are then get a conventional and boring estate. Don’t call your ranch “Neverland”. Jeez, it’s like putting neon lights on your house saying, “Pedophile lives here.” If you are stupid enough to call your estate “Neverland” then don’t populate it with such a bizarre and unworldly staff. Don’t create fantasy bedchambers, romper rooms and a special hidden private bedchamber. Don’t leave Barely Legal magazines lying around. Don’t watch Internet porn when minors are in the house.

Michael, if you wanted to do good for kids, here’s some things you could have done. You could have put on benefit concerts with the proceeds going to help children scarred by physical, emotional or sexual abuse. You could have stayed in a loving, healthy and monogamous marriage. You could have taken parenting and child development classes. And if you had to marry someone in your own class, you should have wooed Madonna. Madonna may be weird and talented like you but there’s no way she’d let her daughter or son stay overnight alone with strange celebrity men.

I doubt these two boys were Jackson’s only victims. Neverland has been around for more than a decade. We must ensure he never has the opportunity to do anything like this again.