I was reading this article about child sexual abuse and belief, in which Andrea Grimes starts by telling us a little about herself –

I am an only child and I have awesome, twangy Texas-raised parents who Texas-raised me. My best friends are brilliant academics who sort of hate academia. I am overly friendly in awkward situations. I am funny and I love Star Trek. I throw big parties. I do yoga at home so I can skip savasana. I talk too much.

And when I was a kid, a relative sexually abused me.

I was reading this article, I say, and when I read that sentence I suddenly remembered that I can say the same thing, and that it was odd that I hadn’t thought of that while thinking about memory and Dylan Farrow.

It is odd. Why didn’t I think of it? Then again, of course, being in the habit of second-guessing my memory, now I’m not sure I didn’t. But at the time I first read that sentence – an hour or so ago – I did think I hadn’t, and I did feel surprise.

I was only a little older than Dylan Farrow was in August 1993, that’s the thing. I’m not sure how much older; I was at least 8 and a few months (because of where I was at the time) but possibly 9.

It was very minor, in comparison. I was much more grossed out and freaked out by a stranger assault a year or two or three later. But it wasn’t nothing. (I don’t want to be coy. It was a cousin 20 years my senior, one I liked a lot because he was funny and irreverent. He came into my bedroom one evening after I’d gone to bed, and put my hand on his fly. Oh hai: that’s a penis there. That’s all.)

Frankly I find Dylan Farrow’s story very plausible. I just have reservations about the insistence on vows of belief, because of the epistemology of it. Do I think it happened? Hell yes. Do I “believe” it? That’s the wrong question.



  1. says

    It really wasn’t a big deal, and by now it’s purely an interesting example. I didn’t mention it to harrow anyone, I just think it’s interesting that I didn’t think of it in connection with Dylan Farrow until now. But then it’s different in quality, so maybe the connection is more apparent than real.

    (My mother on the other hand thought it was a very big deal. But I didn’t know that until much later.)

  2. Minow says

    Do I think it happened? Hell yes. Do I “believe” it? That’s the wrong question.

    Surely the question isn’t just ‘do I believe it happened’ but ‘am I warranted in believing it happened’ and I can’t see how any of us who only have the facts as filtered by thee media can be warranted in preferring any of the witnesses over the other, especially as we seem to be agreeing that it is possible that a false memory of these events has been implanted. The whole thing is disturbing and has an unpleasant reek, but I can’t see that anyone from this far away is justified in taking a view on who is guilty.

    En passant, I agree with Ophelia that some minor incidence of sexual abuse can be so inconsequential that it is probably more harmful to get excited over them than to ignore them. I know Richard Dawkins got into hot water recently for claiming the same, but I think it is true. I was mildly ‘sexually abused’ by a friend of my mother’s when I was 12 or 13 or so, she was a bit drunk I think and put my hand on her breast and her mouth on mine. I was a bit perturbed by it, but I can’t honestly say that it was a more negative than positive event in total. The various small assaults outside the house that most boys come across in public toilets and parks were worse, but even then only one really upset me and I don’t think it was very traumatic in the long or even medium term, in fact I am now almost glad to have had the experience (worse for the assaulter actually who I think was given a pretty nasty beating which made me feel properly upset, it really was’t what I wanted). These things are more complicated than we sometimes want them to be.

  3. says

    That’s my point: that it’s about whether belief is warranted or not.

    You don’t agree with me that “some minor incidence of sexual abuse can be so inconsequential that it is probably more harmful to get excited over them than to ignore them” because I didn’t say that. I didn’t generalize from my experience to other experiences, and I certainly didn’t say anything about what was more or less harmful. I didn’t generalize at all.

    Feel free to generalize from your own experience, or from yours and what I said about mine, if you want to, but don’t rewrite what I said.

  4. Minnow says

    I didn’t rewrite anything you said Ophelia, I inferred from what you said and its a fair inference from what you wrote unless you now claim that there are no incidences of sexual abuse that are so minor, but then you would have to change your position on the case you describe.

  5. says

    Minnow: yes you did. Saying “I agree with X that” and then going on to say something that is not at all what X said is indeed rewriting it. I had no intention of making a general point about incidents of sexual abuse; I had no intention of generalizing from the one that happened to me. I think it’s just a bit of luck, or accident, that it didn’t freak me out more. (Also, I could be misremembering how much it bothered me at the time.)

    And no, that’s a completely absurd claim, in fact it’s the opposite of correct. It’s a stupid sloppy way of thinking, to make large generalizations from one personal experience. I would not in the lest have to “change my position” on my own experience in order to say – not, as you put it, “that there are no incidences of sexual abuse that are so minor,” but that my one experience is not enough to generalize from.

    This is so basic. Yes, of course you did rewrite me, and no, of course the inference you made is not reasonable. It’s not reasonable as an inference on its own, let alone as a version of what I said. If you can’t even grasp that much I really think you should go elsewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *