Most of us have read or heard the allegations by Dylan Farrow, daughter of Mia Farrow and adopted daughter of Woody Allen.
Press coverage has been considerable as Mr. Allen continues to pick up awards and meanwhile, back in the news is the alleged sexual abuse that took place some 20 years ago, and was never legally proved.
Nicholas Kristof reprints the words of Ms. Farrow in an article entitled “Dylan Farrow’s Story” in the New York Times. She speaks up at last, as a 28-year-old woman, now married and living in Florida.
As she recounts her side of the story, her diagnosis of PTSD, the fear and trauma she has lived with, what I note are these words:
This time, I refuse to fall apart… if only so that others know that they don’t have to be silent either.”
That this ongoing “he said-she said” contains so many elements of tragedy and conflict is obvious. That Ms. Farrow has suffered is equally clear. Her resolve that she will no longer be a victim strikes me, for so many reasons.
Her “refusal to fall apart” is something that many of us have lived through, for reasons of our own. These are words I can sink my teeth into, words I recognize, words that more typically appear in our inner dialog as “I’m falling apart” – accompanied by the inability to imagine that we can ever stop hiding or feel whole again.
The Psychological Impact of a Violation of Trust
We each have a different threshold for pain – emotional or physical. The extent to which a violation of trust or any tragedy undermines our belief systems and our sense of self will vary. Naturally, the nature of the events is a primary factor, along with our upbringing, our age when the events occur, our support systems – and more.
But there’s no question that when our trust is violated – physically, sexually, emotionally, financially – we may be left feeling as though we will never put the pieces back together. This may occur after long periods of unemployment that decimate us not only financially but erode our sense of self-worth. We may feel as though we’re irrevocably broken when we fight the good fight to navigate through our convoluted institutions – the healthcare system, the judicial system – only to be lost in the labyrinth of bureaucracy or adversaries with deeper pockets.
When we see our children suffer or when we suffer inconceivable losses of loved ones, we feel as though we are falling apart and nothing, ever, will put us back together again.
I cannot help but consider those words from another angle as well. There are times when we do fall apart; an ex may be playing mind games for years and we aren’t sure if we’re coming or going, if we’re the crazy ones, if anyone will believe the maneuvers taking place and the intentions that we’re certain underlie them. We set aside the feelings of disorientation that result, the isolation the we inevitably bring on ourselves, the desperation; hypervigilance may be keeping us looking over our shoulder, missing opportunities, missing out on our own lives because we are, indeed, falling apart.
Putting the Pieces Back Together
As for Dylan Farrow, as reported in the Times,
… there was enough evidence for a criminal case against Allen… criminal proceedings [were dropped] to spare Dylan.
As much as we find it despicable, the reality is that some individuals are dealt terrible blows through no actions of their own. Surely, a molested child cannot be blamed for the abuser’s unfathomable behavior; that a court case does not go forward – whatever the reason – must certainly carry traumatic ripple effects of its own.
The victim of accident or illness should not be faulted; nonetheless, some will point fingers and say “he should have been more careful walking down those stairs” or “she should have known better than to drive in that weather.”
Some of us are too trusting for our own good or, though we perform our due diligence and take our time, despite these precautions, we are partnered in life or in business with those who take advantage – terribly, maliciously – and too often, without consequence to them. Again, many will lay blame at the feet of the one who trusted. Perhaps it is a matter of denial, of self-protection, of being able to tell oneself “it couldn’t happen to me.”
Don’t Blame the Victim of Abuse or Misfortune
These situations (and others) should not be about blame, but restoring lives to a less vulnerable position, and part of assisting is by not dismissing or diminishing what they have lived through or their suffering.
If we find ourselves falling apart and if we’re fortunate, we can stand back up even if unsteadily – whether the falling apart is the result of a terrible breakup, loss of job and home, a medical tragedy or other unbearable devastation. We can and do, eventually, bear it; we refuse to stay down. But we can’t do it alone. No one can do it alone.
This is not so much a refusal to fall apart as it is a refusal to remain irrevocably broken. We resolve to patch the pieces we can, to feed the strength we discover in other areas, to nurture our own courage from a desire for courage.
This is a refusal to stay shattered, to remain powerless, to accept a position in which we acquiesce to the forces of circumstances beyond our control – or individuals with a more potent hand and all who believe them – as in the case of Ms. Farrow.
May we all take heart in her story. May we all remember that even if we do fall apart – for years – if we’re lucky, if we have patience, if we have help, if we must cobble ourselves together in order for our children to be whole – ultimately, we may be capable of trusting again as we put the pieces back together into a form that we can live with, for ourselves and our families, and as an example to others.
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