Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This week on facebook I've been having little discussions about the movement to "Free Roman Polanski". I feel like I want to scream each time I read someone's opinion that he should be freed. I'm sure all of you know the scenario, but in the interest of this opinion piece making a lick of sense, here's the dilly:

In 1977, Polanski, then aged 44, became embroiled in a scandal involving 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. It ultimately led to Polanski's guilty plea to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. According to Gailey, Polanski asked her mother if he could photograph her for the French edition of Vogue, which Polanski had been invited to guest-edit. Her mother allowed a private photo shoot. According to Gaily in a 2003 interview, "Everything was going fine; then he asked me to change, well, in front of him." She added, "It didn't feel right, and I didn't want to go back to the second shoot. Gaily later agreed to a second session, which took place on March 10, 1977 at the Mulholland area home of actor Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles. "We did photos with me drinking champagne," Gaily says. "Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn't quite know how to get myself out of there." She recalled in a 2003 interview that she began to feel uncomfortable after he asked her to lie down on a bed, and how she attempted to resist. "I said, 'No, no. I don't want to go in there. No, I don't want to do this. No!', and then I didn't know what else to do," she stated, adding: "We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured well, I guess I’ll get to come home after this". The victim testified that Polanski gave her a combination of champagne and quaalude sedatives, and "despite her protests, he performed oral sex, intercourse and sodomy on her".

Polanski was initially charged with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance (methaqualone) to a minor. These charges were dismissed under the terms of his plea bargain, and he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the court ordered Polanski to report to a state prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation, but granted a stay of ninety days to allow him to complete his current project. Under the terms set by the court, he was permitted to travel abroad. Polanski returned to California and reported to Chino State Prison for the evaluation period, and was released after 42 days. All parties expected Polanski to get only probation at the subsequent sentencing hearing, but after an alleged conversation with LA Deputy District Attorney David Wells, the judge "suggested to Polanski's attorneys that he would send the director to prison and order him deported". In response to the threat of imprisonment — "court sources said the film director, imprisoned in Auschwitz by the Nazis during World War II, was repelled by the thought of possibly serving more time behind bars" — Polanski fled the United States.

So that's the basics of this story. Some say the details are "murky", but I think those details are pretty clear. I'm not sure what could be considered murky. Some suggest the plea bargain was faulty. If so, he should return to the country and appeal. Simple as that.

Why I am so angered by the "Free Polanski" movement is that I simply can't understand why he deserves freedom. Any way that you look at this case, Polanski is still a rapist. I've heard insane things in the media, "...it wasn't rape-rape," from Whoopi on the View comes to mind. I'm not sure exactly what "rape rape" is, but I'm pretty sure that drugging and boozing up a 13 year old - regardless of how mature she is, and then forcing yourself up in her is plain old rape. Even if she wanted it, and begged for it, because she was 13 and could not give consent, it is still rape. Polanski knew she was a child - after all, he had to convince her mother to allow her to model, so it is clear he knew she was a minor. Furthermore, he was photographing this known minor in the nude. But people seem to conveniently forget that part.

There seems to be an argument that because this was a "small" thing that he did, that he has already paid his dues for it. How is serving 45 days in psychiatric evaluation, then fleeing the country to go home to where you are comfortably allowed to travel and work for 30 years punishment? That is not punishment. That is running from punishment.

Polanski entered a plea of guilty. When you enter a plea of guilty you should accept the consequences of your actions, your punishment. If Polanski was innocent of the act, would he not have fought for his freedom in court? Rape is incredibly difficult to prove, so the victim in this case obviously had provided ample proof to the courts. This was even more true in the seventies than it is now. Polanski knew he was screwed, that is why he bargained.

The victim actually sued privately and won. She's gotten her financial settlement. She says she would like the case dropped, because she has moved on. That is all fine and good and I can understand that this is difficult for her. I have experience with why women don't want to go through the courts.

But she doesn't have to - she is not required to testify again because the plea has been entered. It is only sentencing that is outstanding. Furthermore, it is not the victim who is laying this charge, it is the state. There is a reason for this. Think of your average domestic abuse scenario. Does the wife have the ability after abuse and the clarity to know her abuser will likely attack again? Or will she likely make excuses for her abuser, to whom she is emotionally attached? If she is a victim of escalating violence, she can't be expected to think of this person with the neutrality the courts can. That is why they step in.

Now think of a very young woman who is brutally raped by a powerful celebrity. Imagine the scrutiny she would endure if leading this case. She might be tempted to drop it due to public pressure or hatred. The public notoriously not only supports but forgives violent celebrities (see Dre, Dr., Spector, Phil, Brown, James, Knievil, Evil, etc) and blames the victims. The courts must be left in charge so that justice for the victim - willing to participate or not - can be served. The purpose of this is that the justice system protects victims when no one else will. Regardless of if they can afford it. Regardless of how powerful the attacker is.

Some believe that Polanski is being treated unfairly - that because he is an artist we should allow him to do his life's work and not be forced to be responsible for his actions. I can't disagree more. There is no reason that any celebrity, no matter their stature, should be treated in a special or unique way. Some say he was 'framed' because he was arrested in Switzerland. Um, no, that's the law. Perhaps he should have studied that country's agreements with the US a little more closely before he travelled there if he is so hell bent on avoiding sentencing.

Some would say 45 days is enough. No, 45 days is NOT enough punishment for anally raping a 13 year old. Sorry to be graphic, but that's what happened. Some say the judge was an idiot. So he might have been. Well, he's dead. So that's a non issue, isn't it? A new judge can review the case and decide the sentence. It could be community service. It could be a slap on the wrist. The judge being an idiot is not the victim's fault, nor the proscecution's.

Let us not say that he should be forgiven because it has been thirty years.

If he had murdered a man 30 years ago, would we say he should be forgiven for that?
What about vehicular manslaughter, he ran over three small children? Or what if he beat a woman to within an inch of her life? Should those things be considered forgivable after thirty years?

If one feels that this crime should be forgiven after thirty years, I am left asking, why is raping a woman something that is so forgivable? Is it because there is the presumtion that somehow the victim is "asking for it", willing or wanted it? Is it because there is a dominant thought that somehow rape is actually sex? I have continually compared this crime to violence - domestic abuse for one, because rape is not sex. Rape is a violent and brutal act. The fact that the media is reporting this as a 'sex crime' suggests that the media would rather portray this as a man having consensual sex with a child (which is impossible) than portray it for what it is: a violent crime.

I could really rant on for days. I'm sorry if this is long winded and boring and you are all "too long, didn't read" but I can't believe celebrities are coming out in droves to say the man should be freed. I can't believe I see people - lots and lots of people supporting him.

I'm ashamed of them.

Read some grand jury testimony at The Smoking Gun.
Read a comprehensive list of reasons people are saying he should be freed and the correct rebuttals here.
Read Feministing's round up of articles on the topic.


anna said...

just echoing what i said over on the fb lainey group, but thanks for this, jacquie. it's horrifying -- enraging -- to see the list of artists who are defending his unconscionable actions.

Anonymous said...

I am so with you on this. The fact that people want to let him get away with this is absolutely atrocious - rape is rape, regardless of circumstance and the lack of rape convictions makes me absolutely sick. It's giving out the message that this is okay, and that you'll get away with it. Not cool.

MizzJ said...

Thank you for this post! I am going to retweet this as soon as I finish this comment. It is absolutely DISGUSTING and a slap in the face to all women that anyone wants to support this sorry excuse of a man's bid for freedom. I cannot even express fully in words my outrage at society for excusing his crime. Why would Whoopi, a victim herself, even dare to support Polanski? It boggles the mind.