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Allen v Farrow: Finding new bombshells in a decades-old child sexual abuse case

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, and now you know why–I’ve spent the past three years investigating the child sexual abuse allegations against Woody Allen that were made by his daughter, Dylan Farrow.

I’m very proud to be part of the resulting documentary project, outlined below:

From award-winning investigative filmmakers Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering and Amy Herdy, Allen v. Farrow is a series that goes behind decades of sensational headlines to reveal the private story of one of Hollywood’s most notorious and public scandals: the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving Dylan, his then seven-year-old daughter with Mia Farrow;  their subsequent custody trial, the revelation of Allen’s relationship with Farrow’s daughter, Soon-Yi; and the controversial aftermath in the years that followed. Once celebrated for their on and off-screen partnership, Farrow and Allen’s lives were irrevocably fractured and their sprawling family torn apart with the public disclosure of the abuse allegations and the vitriolic disputes that followed. 

This gripping series interweaves new investigative work – meticulously pieced together via intimate home movie footage, court documents, police evidence, revelatory videotape and  never-before-heard audio tapes –  with exclusive, in-depth interviews on the subject with Mia Farrow, Dylan Farrow, Ronan Farrow, family friend Carly Simon, prosecutor Frank Maco, relatives, investigators, experts and other first-hand eyewitnesses – many of them speaking publicly about the events for the first time.  The series also includes prominent cultural voices exploring Allen’s body of work in a broader context and reflecting on how public revelations about the personal lives of artists can lead to re-evaluations of their work.

Allen v. Farrow debuts on HBO at SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), with new episodes airing subsequent Sundays at the same time.

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Not feeing that crazy sick feeling in my tummy i get when i get angry

These fricken kids act like children. And i get annoyed real easy w/ certain things. We have 1 guy who gets really stupid w/ his mouth. Telling the cops shit like he’ll tie them up and make them watch while he beats thier kids w/ a ballpien hammer.

What kinda of shit is that. I dont want 2 hear that shit. He’s lucky i’m not like i was ten yrs ago. I aint best buddies w/ the C/Os, but that kinda of talk about hurting kids is purely sick and fucked up. So yes today has been agrivating at best. But i have been giving up on my need to control my surroundings. That includes the people in it.

Man emotionaly i feel every bit of 100 today. This abilify is a God send. W/out it, i’d be hell on wheels today. The stuff has really helped my awareness as far as recognising my different moods. The depacote didnt help me. I was always tired and burned out.

I’m alive w/ this stuff. Not manic crazy, but alive, even though today is a bad day. I still feel ok about me. I’m not plotting 2 hurt any 1. Not feeing that crazy sick feeling in my tummy i get when i get angry. Yes i was pissed off at the dude. But what good would it do 2 hold on 2 it. Not a damn thing but get me into trouble. So all is good on a bad day.

-Brent Brents 4-27-18

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Have You Ever Met a Monster? Part II

Note from Amy: Here is the next excerpt of the transcript of  my TEDx talk:

Police caught him a few days after Valentine’s Day. At the start of that weekend a detective had gotten him on the phone and said Turn yourself in, you little punk. Brent Brents essentially replied, Come find me. That weekend he raped five victims, including two children, and nearly beat a young woman to death. The DNA from those cases was processed within hours and the manhunt that followed ended in a dramatic car chase into the mountains, where police captured him at gunpoint.

This kind of story causes a media feeding frenzy. Reporters swarmed the jail, but I didn’t —I didn’t think it would do any good.

Instead, I sent him a letter on plain stationary—handwritten, two sentences: Dear Brent, I went to Arkansas where I talked to your mom and sister. If you were to ask them, they would say I treated them with dignity and respect, and I will do the same for you.

I then gave him the number to the newsroom and told him to call collect anytime. And because I figured he’d be getting a lot of hate mail, I added a note to the back that said: Please don’t be afraid to open this.

At the end of that week police released a statement about another confirmed victim of Brents. Since they protect the identity of a victim of sexual assault they will only release the cross streets close to where it happened.

Get thee to those cross streets, you and a photographer, editors said. Find this anonymous victim, and get her to talk to you.


So off we went to those cross streets and we found…a sea of rental units, like giant Legos, for rows and rows in either direction.

We knocked on doors for hours—no luck. It was close to dark when we saw a woman walking her dog—dog walkers are always great for information—and she said the handyman had told her about a woman who’d been attacked and she gave us the handyman’s door number and he gave us the victim’s door number and I knocked and a man answered and I saw this tiny, dark-haired woman hiding behind the door and I identified myself and she came out and said, “You scared me.”

Her name was Margaret. And she told me her story. Her attack was nearly three weeks earlier and she still had yellow outlines of bruises on her neck. She was coming home after running errands when Brents had rushed her at her front door. She had seen him before-she figured he had stalked her for about three days. She fought him, and he beat and choked her before he raped her.

Margaret pointed to her couch, which had a big chunk cut out of the upholstery. The police had taken it for evidence because that was where the rape had happened. When you can’t afford a new couch, and you can’t afford to break your rental lease and move—and Margaret couldn’t—then you have to live with reminders of your worst nightmare.

She said the police had told her it would take about two months to process the DNA. They gave her no hope of solving her case. Then she saw a story about Brents being wanted on T.V. and recognized his mug shot as her attacker.

One of the last things she said to me that night really struck me. She said, “I hate him, yet I still feel sorry for him. An animal, poor creature.”

A week later Brents called me.

One of the first things he said to me was, “I’m not going to give you anything.”

I love it when people call me and say I’m not going to talk to you. “OK!”

Then he said he had one question for me, and anything further depended on my answer.

And he said, “Everybody says they hate me, that I’m a monster. Do you think so?”

And without thinking I said, No, I don’t. You’ve done monstrous things, but I don’t consider you a monster.

And that’s how we started a correspondence. I did so on one condition: that he tell me the truth. In one letter he wrote, “Don’t trip I’ve actually stood two feet away from you in an elevator” and rolling my eyes I pulled out a piece of paper to fire back that we had a deal, so don’t try to b.s. me—when I realized it had indeed been him on the elevator that day, the man who had stared at me and whose very presence had caused me to run to the newsroom like a frightened rabbit.

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mental health

Note from Amy: “Adseg” refers to “administrative segregation,” or keeping a prisoner isolated from other prisoners, as Brent Brents is.
AdSeg is typically done as punishment; in Brents’ case, it’s done to protect him from other prisoners.

Here is the official definition, from the National Institute of Justice website: Prisoners are placed in solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, for violent or disruptive behavior. AS typically involves single-cell confinement for 23 hours daily; inmates are allowed one hour out of the cell for exercise and showers.

I realy am sick of Adseg. It realy does a Number on ones physical and mental health. I just have to keep up the hope and hard work. Have faith right.

-Brent Brents 4-28-15

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A Lesson from Reporting on Rape

In case you missed it: Rolling Stone magazine published a story about campus sexual assault that featured a victim named Jackie whose account turned out to largely untrue, prompting the Columbia Journalism Review to issue their report that analyzed how and why seasoned journalists could be led astray.

Reporting on rape and sexual assault is extremely tough. There are few other crimes where the victim is left so deeply traumatized, and a journalist trying to interview a rape victim has to gingerly navigate the minefield of that raw, emotional injury while also getting the details of what they need for their story. In an effort to not cause them more harm, you may not press hard enough for the facts. Or you may inadvertently veer in the opposite direction;  not read them correctly and press too hard. It’s an enormous challenge to remain dispassionate in the face of someone’s palpable pain, and I’ve come to believe that empathy accomplishes much more because it motivates you to try to illuminate the injustice and tragedy of this crime. Finally, a  reporter’s own personal experiences can sometimes cloud their judgment if they become triggered themselves.

Any journalist who frequently tackles trauma reporting and tries to do so in a responsible way will at some time or another fail in their endeavor. It’s called being human. The failure might not be of the magnitude or in the public’s eye like the one in Rolling Stone–it may be known only to you and the subject–and might be of a different sort, but a failure nonetheless. The thing is to learn from it.

I had one such lesson burned into my memory (and rightly so) by a female military veteran whose case I was covering for the series Betrayal in the Ranks, an investigation into military sexual assault and domestic violence I co-authored with Miles Moffeit at the Denver Post.

Miles and I were in the midst of writing, and I needed a document from the victim in question. On deadline and in full efficiency mode, I left a brisk message on the answering machine of her home phone with the details of my request. The response I got hours later was blistering, and I will do my best to paraphrase it here:

“So I just got home, and it was a good day and I was in a great mood, and then I hit the button on my answering machine and out of the blue there’s your goddamn message asking for that fucking piece of paper for the story. And now standing here in my hallway you’ve yanked me back to that memory, and there’s nothing I can do to get rid of it now.”

I’ve never left a specific message for a victim since. If I need information, I will call or email and simply ask in a general way for them to call me when they can. If it’s urgent, I will indicate that it is, but I won’t dive into details of what I need on the message. I save that for an actual conversation, where I then do what I used to describe to my students as “wading in and out”: You wade into the murky water of their pain, slowly, holding their hand as you go. You then extract the detail you need, and together you carefully wade back out.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was tagged on a thoughtful post by Bruce Shapiro, the executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, about the challeges of reporting on rape. I’ve copied his full message below:

What is most important about the Rolling Stone controversy: It’s an outlier. Investigative reporting on institutional complicity in the coverup of sexual assault is one of the major innovations in American journalism in the last 15 years.

Think about reporting on clerical sex abuse by Walter Robinson, Sacha Pfiefer, Kevin Cullen and others on the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team; the pioneering investigations of sexual assault on college campuses by Kristen Lombardi and colleagues at the Center for Public Integrity; the Denver Post’s revelations of rape in the U.S. military by Miles Moffeit, Amy Herdy and others; Rachel Dissell’s recent work in the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s recent exposes on untested rape kits.

Each of these far-reaching investigations involved very sensitive reporting on victims; careful corroboration and confirmation of highly emotional stories; and meticulous documentation of various institutions’ role in coverup. In all of these investigations, reporters had to negotiate very carefully with deeply traumatized rape survivors, and develop a thorough method and ethic for reporting on their claims.

These reporters all understood both the unique challenges in interviewing survivors of private, deeply stigmatized rapes; and the very high stakes, for all involved, in getting the story right.

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Right Now: Tell Congress to Do the Right Thing by Military Sexual Assault Survivors and Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act

Do you want to help survivors of military sexual assault? Then take a moment to read this, and then click on the link to contact your local representative in Congress and tell them to vote for the Military Justice Improvement Act.

Few people want to get involved regarding the issue of rape. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such an ongoing crisis in our country–it’s got crippling stigma attached to it, and shame, and victim-blaming. Nowhere is that more pronounced than in our military.

invisible warI’m on the email list for director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering, the creators of the outstanding documentary, “The Invisible War,” a film about the crisis of sexual assaults within the U.S. military. I’m interviewed in the film because of my work covering the issue, primarily the series I coauthored at the Denver Post called “Betrayal in the Ranks.”

Right now, the Invisible War team is sending out this call for action. Please read it, and please respond. If you visit this website, it means on some level you care about this issue. So please take the time to do something about it.


From Kirby and Amy:

It’s been a busy few weeks here in our Los Angeles office, in Washington, and across the country when it comes to sexual assault. As we watch the conversation unfold and expand in the news, we know there is so much more to do to make sure survivors everywhere get the justice they deserve.

Let’s start with Washington, DC. This week the Pentagon released their annual survey on sexual assault. The report was damning.

It found:

  • Less than 3 of 10 service members have enough trust in the system to report a crime.
  • Two-thirds of those who did report an assault say they faced some form of retaliation, and
  • The number of service members willing to put their name on a report decreased when compared to last year.

This is unacceptable and exactly why Congress must pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) and fix this broken system.

Our men and women in uniform deserve better. They deserve justice. And this week Congress has a chance to see that they get it. Before the end of the week the Senate will vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This gives them another opportunity to do the right thing and pass the MJIA. Take a minute now and send Congress a message that it’s past time to deliver justice for military sexual assault survivors.

CLICK HERE and tell Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act today.


But it’s not just the military, or Congress, that has work to do.

When we toured the country to screen THE INVISIBLE WAR we visited dozens of college campuses and met with thousands of students and began hearing stories from survivors of campus sexual assault. Like the stories that inspired us to make THE INVISIBLE WAR, their stories were powerful, poignant and we realized, all too common. We knew we had to take action.

So we began work on another film, this time to shine a light on the epidemic of campus assault. We’re honored so many courageous survivors and advocates have trusted us to bring their stories into the light, and we are thrilled to share that our new film, THE HUNTING GROUND, is premiering next month at the Sundance Film Festival.

The #NotInvisible community has been an incredible source of support for survivors of sexual assault — in the military and beyond. We hope that THE HUNTING GROUND will create a space for a new community to come together. And we hope you’ll be a part of that conversation too.

Together, we can help ensure that no survivor –- whether a service member or a student, has to stand alone. Together, we are #NotInvisible.

Thank you for all you do,
Amy and Kirby


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Reader reaction from a rape prevention educator

My name is Marc Rich and I am a professor at California State University, Long Beach. I am also a rape prevention educator.  While visiting the Boulder Book Store I picked up a copy of Diary of a Predator: A Memoir. I just wanted to sincerely thank you for writing this poignant, powerful book (hard to read, hard to put down) and for your ongoing work to fight predatory behavior with civilians and in the military.  Your book remains one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever read–and one of the most important.  I actually use a quote from Diary during our rape prevention program to help students understand the distinction between power arousal (predatory) and sexual arousal:

“Sex has little to do with it.  It’s the control, the domination, the fear, the hurt, the power”  (Brent Brents, cited in Diary of a Predator.  Brents was sentenced to over 1,000 years for rape and torture).

So, despite his criminal record, Brent’s honesty and your willingness to speak with him is helping us prevent sexual assault.

Marc D. Rich, Ph.D.

Professor; Executive Director, interACT


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Reader: I once was a victim of rape. I’m no longer a victim

Note from Amy: The following message is testament that the book Diary of a Predator: A Memoir has a profound effect on survivors:

Hi Amy,

I am moved by your work. No, not by your work as a writer – but the amount of inner work you’ve done to expand your compassion to include the suffering human beings within all the victims of rape, perpetrator included.

I once was a victim of rape. I’m no longer a victim because I was able to find compassion for my perpetrator. I believe it literally dissolved the toxic cells within my body to allow a new space, or perhaps, a renewed space to exist.

It’s interesting to me that so much is put upon the entity “forgiveness”. It always felt somehow abstract, like a word created by man, but allusive to behold in my body. Compassion though has true relevance, true power.

I could go on and on. I’ll just stop here by saying, thank you for your work that you put into this world: this truly panoramic embracing of humanity. I feel bigger and brighter and wider by the experience. You are giving all of us this opportunity.


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More Viewer Feedback: Putting bandages on sores isnt the solution

Note from Amy: As I continue to plow through my sadly-neglected “other” folder on Facebook, I continue to find terrific messages, like this one:

Hi Amy
I was watching a documentary of an interview you gave with Paula Zahn on “the predator”.
I found it extremely interesting and admire the way you handled the case.
Putting bandages on sores isnt the solution. Finding out what causes the sores is the solution.
Anyway I just thought Id let you know I feel youre doing a great job and dont let anyone tell you otherwise.


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Feedback from a Viewer: dangerous people are the ones we need to understand

Note from Amy: This message was sent to me via Facebook where it languished in my “other” folder for quite some time. Still, it was gratifying to find, so I thought I’d share. Better late than never:

hi amy – i just saw your interview with paula zahn regarding brent brents. it really upset me that everyone was attacking you for doing what a journalist does. i thought of truman capote writing ‘in cold blood’ and wondered – what’s the difference? there really isn’t any. or the profilers, or the psychiatrists who study the same people for the same reasons. dangerous people are the ones we need to understand the most. i guess most people prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend these types of things don’t happen – and you were vilified for shining the flashlight on it. not that it matters what i think – but fuck them. i think you’re cool as hell – and your book will be discussed long after we’re gone – just like ‘in cold blood.’ – kyle

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