There was a girl I knew peripherally when I was in high school. Let’s say she was a very close friend of someone who was very close to me. The girl was cute. The girl was fun. The girl smiled all the time. That smile, however, masked an insidious truth. That truth? Every summer when her parents delivered her to her grandparents’ Midwestern farm to for a weeks-long visit, the girl’s grandfather molested her. Those visits began when the girl was a toddler and continued through her early teenage years. The girl didn’t disclose the truth about the abuse until she was in high school.
So, what happened to the girl’s grandfather? Let just say that there really is something called “country justice.”
As a father of two beautiful daughters and an incredible little boy, when I hear about the sexual abuse of a child, I literally become sick to my stomach. Frankly, I don’t believe there is a punishment gruesome enough for a monster who takes advantage of a child’s trust and destroys a child’s innocence. If one of my children would ever have been or will ever be the target or victim of a predator, well, I can only say that the authorities had better find him before this country boy does.
For those who’ve read Dylan Farrow’s post of David Kristof’s New York Times “On The Ground” Blog, you already know that it’s extremely well written and equally disturbing. For those who haven’t, here it is:
Pretty hard to read, huh?
Image Credit: Munawar Hosain/Fotos International/Getty Images
Just like in the case of the girl I knew peripherally when I was in high school, the sexual abuse described by Ms. Farrow at the hands of Mr. Allen is sickening. No parent, no one who has a shred of decency would knowingly permit such a horrific thing to happen to a child. No parent, no one who has a shred of integrity wouldn’t want the perpetrator punished, at the very least, to the utmost extent of the law.
So, what’s the problem? Mr. Allen should die a long, slow death, right?
Well, not so fast. While our legal system provides for a presumption of innocence, which “requires the government to prove the guilt of a criminal defendant and relieves the defendant of any burden to prove his or her innocence[i],”just the accusation of sexual abuse is tantamount to trying and convicting the alleged offender in the court of public opinion. Such an accusation can and often does destroy a person’s reputation, family, and career, and that’s not fair. In addition, and I want to be very careful and be sensitive to Ms. Farrow’s perception, Mr. Allen is not a criminal defendant. The allegations of abuse were investigated by competent authorities twenty-one years ago. According to author and former prosecutor Linda Fairstein during an interview on February 4, 2014 on Imus in the Morning Show, Ms. Farrow received extensive observation and treatment for about six months and no evidence of physical abuse was discovered. No charges were filed.
In the case of Ms. Farrow and Mr. Allen, the allegations of sexual abuse are sickening. Still, it comes down to this: there are at most two people who really know what happened and what didn’t happen. Perhaps, there is only one. Considering the fact that Mr. Allen is not a criminal defendant and considering the gravity that society assigns to simply a claim of sexual abuse, I believe people and, in particular, the media must be responsible in their accusations and reporting.
In the end, for both the sake of Ms. Farrow and of Mr. Allen, I sincerely hope justice is served.