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Berlin: "Reporterpreis" to Ronan Farrow

Alice Schwarzer and Ronan Farrow at the reward ceremony of the "Reporterpreis" in Berlin. Foto: Daniel Wolcke
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It is a great honor to be able to present you with the reporter prize for investigative and courageous journalism. And I am pleased with the jury's clear-sighted decision. I know of nobody else in the world to whom I would rather present this award today.


When you finally, despite numerous hurdles, published the results of your reporting into the powerful film mogul Harvey Weinstein in the New Yorker last October, you knew that a major scandal would result. After all, Weinstein's penchant for sexual assault had been an open secret in the industry for years – just as it was in the case of politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Nor was it the first attempt to make it public.

But you were the first person, after a year of reporting, to embolden fully 13 women to come forward, and to present the results in a "journalistically and legally unimpeachable form," as the jury emphasized. Since then, according to research by the New York Times, 960 victims have come forward and 200 perpetrators have lost their jobs in the last twelve months. And that's just in America. Moreover, the MeToo movement has now spread around the world. And it was you who triggered it.

You have a score to settle: with a society that looks away.

It was anything but simple. Just like the victims, you were, and continue to be, exposed to formidable threats and efforts to intimidate you. You even had to go underground for a while. But you took all that in stride – which is no fluke. You are, after all, the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. You know what you are talking about. You have a score to settle: with a society that looks away; with a justice system that goes easy on perpetrators; and with a media that has long failed to suitably fulfil its watchdog function.

You were 30 years old when you exposed this scandal to the public. But you have known since you were five years old what sexual abuse between powerful men and their dependents is all about. You recently said: "The family background made me someone who understood the abuse of power from an early age."

With your attack on sexual abuse in the professional world, including that between dependents, you have shaken the foundations of power. Because the core of all power structures is always the exercise or threat of violence. That is the case between peoples, between classes, between ethnicities and religions – and also between genders. The relationship between men and women is the most fundamental power relationship there is between people. It forms the basis of all other hierarchies.

You became a lawyer at age 22, and since then you have also worked as a journalist and as a political adviser to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, among others. More recently, you published a book called "The End of Diplomacy," in which you knowledgeably criticize the United States' strategy of preferring armed intervention over negotiation in conflict situations. War as a solution. But this war does not begin on the battlefield. It begins in children's rooms and in bedrooms; in film studios, offices and factories.

As you know, we feminists began exposing sexual abuse against women and children in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, women in America began tackling sexual harassment in the workplace for the first time. But it would take almost another 40 years for the bomb to go off.

It's a small world. Weinstein also happened to be Woody Allen's producer. In that context, you have been sharply critical of the media: "The old-school media's slow evolution has helped to create a culture of impunity and silence." You have set out to change that. And here, you are in the presence of colleagues who also want to see that change.

You have set out to change the culture of impunity and silence.

Doing so is especially difficult in cases of sexual abuse. Often, it's one person's word against the other's. And the suspected perpetrator must attack the alleged victim's credibility if he wants to save his own.

Because when it comes to sex crimes, the perpetrator's credibility can only survive at the expense of the victim's. This has created an entire industry surrounding wealthy defendants: litigation PR. It is a field where some lawyers, advertising professionals and journalists work together.

Your sister Dylan is a victim of litigation PR. She has stated repeatedly that her father abused her numerous times since she was six years old. Even before the scandal, a court order required that he seek treatment for his "inappropriate behavior" toward his daughter, and his contact with her was also limited: He was not allowed to be alone with the child. But it happened anyway.

It was not, as is often claimed, her mother who reported Woody Allen. It was her pediatrician. He was alarmed by "obvious signs of abuse". There is a law in the U.S. that requires doctors to report such cases. There were also witnesses, including the babysitter. The prosecutor investigating declared that there was "probable cause" to charge Allen but he wanted to spare the fragile "child victim" the stress of a trial.

Despite all this, the media pretended that it was impossible to know the truth – and some continue to do so to this day.

You have emboldened thousands of women to finally come forward.

You are the only biological son of the couple's 10 children and you disassociated yourself from your father early and publicly. At the same time, though, you continued to advise your sister Dylan, who was almost torn apart by the consequences, not to go public. You were afraid that no one would believe her – and that even more harm might be done to her. With good reason. Dylan first returned to the public eye one year ago, during the time of your reporting.

You once said: "Initially, I begged my sister not to go public again and to avoid speaking to reporters about it. I'm ashamed of that, too."

Ronan, you no longer have to be ashamed. You have emboldened thousands of women around the world to finally come forward. You have broken the silence.

For that, my dear Ronan, we thank you.

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