The Did he, Didn't He furore over Dylan Farrow's repeated claim that she was abused is no more than a We Love Woody Allen/We Hate Woody Allen, We Believe Women/We Think Women Lie To Attack Men tribal warfare. None of us will ever really know. But here's what I do know:
Writing about being sexually assaulted at a young age while playing with toy trains or any other toys, risks being shamed publicly. Of being forever seen as the girl who was 'interfered with', at best an object of pity, at worse, someone asking for it. There are so many ways of wreaking revenge - who would choose one that also shames you too?
I have sat and listened to those telling stories of sexual abuse. Only once did someone lie. A woman who claimed another woman touched her breast. It was a lie that would always be found out and yes, it was created from jealously and hatred, against a woman who had learning disabilities, but had passed an exam her accuser hadn't and needed to be put in her place.
I have sat and listened to the account of those accused of abuse. One man in particular stands out. He was accused of child abuse by his two children, something he claimed was a revenge plot engineered by his ex-wife. As a result he lost his career in social work, even though no prosecutions were brought. He protested his innocence and I knew my inner voice was shouting loudly and sceptically. His current wife sat next to him and patted his hand. He told me how he had caught his ex wife sleeping around and of course she would be the person to encourage his children to do this. The voice shouted louder. But we took the case to remove him from the register and half way through, I had a call from the lawyer presenting the case. The opposing side had presented evidence of a further allegation, this time from the daughter of his current wife, the quiet hand-patter. His response was to state she didn't like him and was out to get him. I didn't exclaim in horror at the revelation. I knew all along. I just knew. And the others I heard. All proved to be true, while those accused argued different versions of consent or provocation.
Young people who want to attack older people can find a whole plethora of ways. From apple pie beds, to stealing from their wallet, from reporting them to the benefits office to calling the police and claiming they are drug dealers, there are endless possibilities. Who would choose a route in which you would have to describe intimate sexual acts, which may have happened to you while still reading Topsy and Tim. Which will involve you being asked why you didn't tell? Are you sure you didn't enjoy it? Just a little? I have been closer than I want to admit here to situations like this, and I have witnessed the shame, the humiliation involved in reporting or describing acts of abuse. Perhaps there are those who, because they haven't experienced abuse, feel fine about making it up. But on balance, I think the vast and overwhelming majority are telling the truth. And when we call them liars, view them as vengeful, manipulative attention seekers, we might be their next worse nightmare. Because dismissing the accounts of those who have been abused, is just another torture. The trials of famous men, both concluded and ongoing, doubtlessly include assaults on the integrity of the complainants and accusations of malice and amorality. Is that a path you would choose? Is it a path you think anyone you know would choose? If not, then the only place to start is in believing those who have the strength to speak out.