Letters To My Daughters: You Never Have To Remain Silent About Abuse
For too long, women have been forced to remain quiet about the abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of men who were meant to protect them
Toward the end of Allen v. Farrow, the HBO docuseries detailing Dylan Farrow’s harrowing account of abuse, I felt a large lump in my throat.
It had been there from the beginning of the series, but something about Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, now an adult, sharing her story triggered me. She shares a startlingly account of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of Woody Allen, Hollywood’s poster-child for anxiety-ridden white men made more attractive on camera because of their neuroses.
Something about Woody’s apathy and blatant disregard for his child struck me to my core. While I watched with my partner, our littlest daughter slept in her crib. When I got up to pour myself a drink, I grabbed my phone to tweet a thought that had been lingering since we learned the details of a case that dominated the early part of the ‘90s.
“Shame on us for silencing Dylan. shame on us for silencing the countless girls and women who have been assaulted and raped, while consistently and continuously giving voice to men who continue to use their power to discredit those at the other end of their violence.
The “us” here invokes complicity. It says we all play a part in silencing the victims of sexual abuse and trauma.
When Drew Dixon, the main subject of the impactful HBO Max documentary On the Record, describes in vivid detail her sexual assault and rape at the hands of Russell Simmons, it is shame on all of us. Our collective voices had the power to protect those threatened or silenced completely by powerful men who have much to gain from the quieting of those who speak the truth of abuse.
But often, our silence when these allegations reach the public’s attention stifles the powerless and marginalized. Our inaction reinforces the notion that victims are better off keeping their stories to themselves. The unfortunate consequence of speaking up involves the onslaught of emotional abuse when scorned Hollywood darlings have a taste for vengeance and retribution. Generally, those who are anti- “cancel culture” and against the #MeToo movement fear that their problematic behavior will become next on the target list. This reckoning has forced me to be ultra-clear with my five-year-old daughter about speaking up when it comes to her body. It’s why I try to remind my daughter often to use her words and her voice.
Sometimes, her voice challenges my perceived authority. She challenges ideas that I long believed to be true because it was a truth passed on to me by those I’d been taught not to question. It was the very reason I remained silent for so many years about my molestation and rape as a child by an older neighborhood friend. The one thing Black boys are taught to do is not speak out. Many abuse survivors receive the same message, whether from church, home, or school systems: Protect powerful men at all costs, even to the detriment of your livelihood.
My daughters will never remain voiceless. Our job is to protect women and girls, and create safe spaces for them to speak when they feel less than brave and unprotected. We must empower them to use their voices so that the Dylan Farrows, Tarana Burkes, and Drew Dixons of the world do not speak in vain. Their advocacy will enable my daughters to know their voices deserve to be heard, not shuffled off and ignored in some dark corner.
My daughters’ voices are my priority; they deserve that. All of our daughters deserve that. And quite frankly, we all do.