Talking About Child Sexual Abuse, Why I Believe Dylan Farrow, and What Social Workers Need To Know and Do

A Web Exclusive Article for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Comments (9)

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AMAZON has cancelled Allen

I will remain indebted to the New Social Worker editor, Linda Grobman, who printed this commentary at a time when getting into print about the pain Woody Allen inflicted, or any discussion of the epidemic of child and female abuse was next to impossible. I am so gratified that Amazon has discontinued its distribution contract with him:

SaraKay Smullens more than 3 years ago

Sexual Abuse

Thank you for writing this article and specifically acknowledging your belief of Dylan's horror. Also, thanks for encouraging people who work in these fields to speak out and also empower the survivors of these crimes to speak out to and about the perpetrators.
I have worked in rape crisis, child abuse, domestic violence, and anti- pornography for years...and believe me, all are connected...and I think we as a society needs to start looking at that connection more seriously if we hope to understand how all this is able to occur in our culture. I don't know how many times I hear from rape survivors that pornography was used in the commission of the crime against them. As an incest survivor myself, I can attest to the use of pornography in the commission of those acts against me.
Sexism is the atmosphere which allows this to occur. As long as there is inequality, there will be oppressive acts against Wimmin...and powerless young boys. These acts against these people are acts of power over. Until people change to the mentality of powe from within...these acts will continue.
And the act of NAMING your oppressor is very important! Rape or incest or sexual abuse was simply not just an act perpetrated upon us. It was/is an act committed by someone. Incest didn't just fall out of the sky upon us. No! We were violated by John or Joe or our father, woody Allen.

Lynn Hull more than 8 years ago

thank you

Lynn, thank you so much for your comments. Very few understand the frequency of these horrors that so many children endure. Your words are appreciated by so many.

SaraKay Smullens more than 8 years ago


This is a great article and we need more people like SaraKay speaking truth to power in these instances where adults have more power and more rights than the children they abuse. Great job!

Lara Dale more than 8 years ago


Thank you very much for writing, Lara. The Farrow-Allen tragedy must be used to inform the public about the terror in the lives of so many helpless children that they have no words to describe -- one that, without professional help and ongoing support, destroys hope, destroys trust, destroys lives.

SaraKay Smullens more than 8 years ago

diagnosis in absentia

I am a great fan of The New social Worker and am proud to have articles published in this very important periodical. But I am troubled by this article. Child sexual abuse is a serious problem. However to discuss a particular case and make definitive statements without any direct examination of the evidence or examination of the people involved raises some very troublesome questions. The author claims “I believed her because I have worked for more than 25 years with men and women who have been sexually abused as children” Is that enough? Can a claim to one’s authority be all one needs to judge? I can claim close to 40 years and I would not be so presumptuous.
It is generally agreed in mental health that to diagnose someone without a first had examination or a minimum a thorough examination of the records as opposed to what appears in the press a serious ethical breech. This situation is not any different. No DSM diagnosis is used but nevertheless one identified person is clearly assessed as a definite victim of abuse and another a heinous criminal with little to no direct evidence. .

If Woody Allan were not a public figure thus raising the bar for defamation to very high levels, would The New Social Worker publish such an article? This is not a defense of Woody Allan. I have no knowledge of this case one way or the other. However this article may encourage new social workers to think it’s fine to diagnose people they have never met. That is a problem.

John A. Riolo, PhD more than 8 years ago

Raising awareness

Hi, John. Thank you for your input on this article. The article has been revised to clarify points and add additional research resources about the important issue of child sexual abuse. The writer has not diagnosed anyone in the article, but has expressed her opinion about whether someone is telling the truth. When a high profile story such as this one (or many others in recent years) appears in the news, it presents an opportunity to raise awareness about the issues involved. Our purpose in publishing this article was to bring attention to the issues of child sexual abuse and the fact that children often are not believed but most often are telling the truth. more than 8 years ago


Hi John, I appreciate and respect your response very much and hope that my only reasons for addressing the prevalence of sexual abuse of children and their suffering have been clarified.
SaraKay Smullens

SaraKay Smullens more than 8 years ago

Awareness raising need not include trial by media

I would have thought a social worker would not confuse raising awareness of an important issue such as child sexual abuse with trial by media. The professionals who were involved directly in the investigation of alleged abuse of Dylan could not find evidence of abuse. Does this count for anything or are we to take it on a matter of 'belief' that Ms Smullens knows better from a vantage point that has no direct involvement in the matter? Of course any allegation of child abuse must be taken seriously but a seasoned clinician will also know there can be instances of false allegations. In the investigation of allegations against Woody Allen there is considerable contextual evidence to suggest Mia Farrow had motive to fabricate the allegations. While it's understandable to desire not letting perpetrators of abuse get away with it by not taking a child's testimony seriously, let's also not dismiss the possibility of instances when a child may not be providing an accurate testimony.

Dr. Larry Hermann, psychiatrist more than 6 years ago

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