The alert came across my phone, “Dylan Farrow on Allen v. Farrow response: “The truth is something that cannot be changed.” I posted it to my Facebook account with this: “Been to Family Court lately?” Which sparked a discussion about the allegations. My position is that I have do not have information either way to know what is, or is not true in regards to them. I don’t think anyone outside of Mr. Allen, Ms. Farrow and Dylan have enough actual information to truly know what happened. The rest of us are merely picking sides based on who we want to support and then we justify our beliefs with pieces of the story that fit our stated support.
I say this based on more than 20 years in Family Court where Truth is, shall we say, flexible? For example, a couple that has been together 20+ years, raised a family and both like to yell at each other. In fact, it’s their primary communication style. Absent any physical violence is it abusive? Maybe. Can we tell who is the ‘primary aggressor’ in any single interaction? hard to suss out. But if one party goes to court and claims it’s now abusive, it’s now abuse. But is it really? The truth is flexible in family court. It’s based on perceptions. The perception of the Petitioner is colored by their desires and emotions. The perception of the Respondent is colored by their need to justify their actions and life choices. The judge and the lawyers all have their perceptions, which are based on their experiences and biases.
What are the drivers of our biases? Our family of origin is one, the geographic area that we grew up in, or have experienced, also color our lenses. Plus basic biology impacts how we see the world, the traumatic events of our childhood or not, will dictate what we respond to and how. And then there’s the media, social media, and our lived experiences.
The “media” is blamed a lot these days as untrustworthy, corrupt, owned by the corporate “overlords” who are supposedly out to control us. I don’t buy that, well not too much. It depends on the outlet. When I want to know objective facts, I have to check with multiple sources and then I learn that some outlets are far more consistently reliable than others. Yes all news can be slanted, all ‘facts’ can be subtly shaded to lean in a direction, but that is why the consumer must do their due diligence. This is why reading skills are so important, why English needs to be taught with greater diligence in our schools, so that people can learn that an adverb or an adjective will impact what is written, and that they are not facts, but shades.
For example in my elderly couple above, I wrote that they ‘yelled’ at each other, but if I put “angrily” in front of that, it has a different meaning than “jokingly”. The shades of language are what will paint a different picture.
Humans are complex in our language and in our interactions
I believe in the vast bulk of our news agencies. Journalists try to tell the truth as best they can. It’s just not always clear what the truth is. History has a way of clearing the fog from our collective lenses, but that unfortunately takes time, reflection and often, the disclosure of important facts that was being held back for a variety of reasons, usually to protect someone’s hidden interests, a secret affair, an off the books business, or even a second family. Frequently it is the diligent work of the journalists, working tirelessly over years, searching in dark basements, musty libraries, and lately, through mountains of computer data to find the trail that leads to a ‘truth’ that someone wanted to hide.
Sometimes that trail will go cold and the ‘truth’ will never be truly told. That happens a lot in family court, one person’s truth is another’s lie. The best example of how two people can see the same thing and be totally sure they are right, and the other side is wrong is with the sketch of two people looking at a number on the ground, one sees a “6” and one a “9”. Who is telling the truth about what is really there? Both? Neither?
Will we ever truly know what happened with Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen? I doubt it, the best we can do is look to what the alleged facts are, and from our perspective, try to suss out who we want to support.
Is the truth unchangeable? Not so much…
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra