Her Reasons Are Not Yours

From Shakesville:

Things you might have heard about the woman Roman Polanski raped when she was a 13-year-old girl:

• She’s forgiven him.

• She doesn’t want the case pursued.

• Her mother was a fame-seeker who put her in the situation.

These are all things that aren’t relevant to any discussion of why or why not Polanski should be extradited to the US to face the charges he skipped out on thirty years ago—but the real stickler of the bunch seems to be that “she doesn’t want the case pursued” one, with the argument going something like: If even the girl he raped wants to let it go, why shouldn’t we?

The simple answer for that is because justice doesn’t operate on the principle of what’s best for the victim; it operates on the principle of what’s best for the community. (That’s why prosecutors represent “the people.”) Particularly in a case of sexual assault of a minor, there is additional pressure to prosecute, even if the victim(s) don’t support the prosecution, because interviews of convicted/admitted child rapists in prisons suggest that the rapist who only rapes once and never again has about as much supporting evidence for his existence as does the unicorn. (To wit: Roman Polanski’s ensuing relationship with then-15-year-old Nastassja Kinski.) Some of those who understand this principle nonetheless argue that Polanski is now an “old man,” as if old men don’t rape. Unfortunately, they can and they do.

Comments

28 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Angry Sam,

    Excellent article. I’m really not much of a believer in the “victims’ rights” movement, whether the push is for harsher or more lenient treatment of offenders. Crimes are offenses against society, and it’s perhaps even more important than usual that wealthy and powerful individuals be held to account for their transgressions.

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  2. Vasya,

    I don’t like sexual assault being painted with the same brush as statutory rape. His relationship with a 15 year-old, while wrong, is not the same as forcing himself on someone.

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  3. Old Geezer,

    What I don’t see adequately addressed in the media coverage is that Polanski is not only a child molester/rapist, he confessed to the crime, negotiated a “settlement” of the case and then, presumably because he did not like the adjudication of his criminal case, became a fugitive. He has not been able to travel quite as extensively as he might have wanted to, but he has had a damned good life these thirty years since. If he had been somebody’s drooling cousin, he would have been sent into the general population and justice would have been dished out by his new roomies. Sorry, no tears for Roman.

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  4. Luke,

    Thank you for posting a response to the insane argument that, he not be held accountable for his crimes.

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  5. Nanet,

    so it’s more logical to trust a community than it is to trust a person’s personal thought?

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  6. Angry Sam,

    Nanet, that comment is kind of like the crazy earrings Chris linked to the other day: I don’t know where you got that, and I haven’t the faintest where you’re going with it.

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  7. outeast,

    Hmm. Feels a bit like Melissa wants to have her cake and eat it there – the point that the victim’s desires should not drive the prosecution decision is strong, but going on to confidently declare exactly why Polanski’s victim has said the things she’s said seems to rather contradict her own point (as well as being as invalid – or rather as speculative – as any other argument based on ‘what the victim wants/needs’).

    I’m deeply ambivalent about the whole thing. Not about the crime itself or Polanski’s culpability! But the whole self-righteous tempest now reeks of hipocrisy, and the arrest itself stinks of political expedience. It’s a damned circus. And not made any better by the nauseating excuses and tortured arguments of those who have somehow persuaded themselves to defend Polanski.

    The whole thing’s leaving a very bitter taste in my mouth.

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  8. Amanda,

    Outeast, I’m happy it’s a media circus. A very public shaming/extradition/sentencing of a rapist sheds some light on a subject people tend to avoid assiduously. It NEEDS to be talked about.

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  9. outeast,

    The rape took place (as we are constantly reminded) over 3 decades ago. During which time Polanski has been awarded the Palme d’Or, two Cesars, a Crystal Globe, and an Oscar, among other gongs: where was the media outrage then? He’s made dozens of public appearances: where were the crowds of furious protestors? He’s put on stage plays, made and appeared in many movies: where were the boycotts? He’s worked with dozens of prominent actors: where was the public denunciation of their collaboration with a convicted child rapist?

    This whole frenzy is cheap hysteria, flavour-of-the-month outrage. If it ‘sheds some light on [the] subject’ (of rape, presumably) at all then it’s by accident – mainly it provides people with easy tittilation and a sense of affordable self-righteousness. (I’m sure there have been people who have persistently maintained a consistent condemnation of Polanski, but their numbers are far outstripped by those who are merely delighting in this week’s scandal.)

    Like I said: the whole thing reeks, top to bottom. With the defenses of Polanski ranking among the most odiferous aspects of the whole thing.

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  10. outeast,

    Also, frankly we’re really only learning about one specific incident. It’s one which is worth remembering, since many people – myself included – were unaware of the real vileness of Polanski’s offence. But I don’t see how this really facilitates awareness or understanding of the issues as a whole. Not to mention that child abuse is very much a media preoccupation and not really something ‘people tend to avoid assidiously’ at all… That’s a digression, though.

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  11. *Circe*,

    I really don’t get all this backlash against Polanski. It’s not as if he’s the only one who banged underage chicks in the seventies, yet people are pretending this is some sort of novelty. Besides, normally everyone is up in arms about victim’s rights – except, apparently, when what they want is not what the victim wants. This reeks of politicisation and hypocrisy.

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  12. Angry Sam,

    It’s not as if he’s the only one who banged underage chicks in the seventies, yet people are pretending this is some sort of novelty.
    He gave her champagne laced with quaaludes, and then proceeded to have his way with her, ignoring her demands that he stop. Are you suggesting that everyone raped girls in the seventies? Was this some sort of cultural phenomenon?

    Besides, normally everyone is up in arms about victim’s rights – except, apparently, when what they want is not what the victim wants. This reeks of politicisation and hypocrisy.

    The whole “victims’ rights” thing is bunk anyhow, but you’re right that there’s probably a lot of hypocrisy flying around.

    Anyhow, this is getting coverage because he finally was arrested and his friends are ignorantly crying out in his defense. That, and the MSM is a complete circus in every sense of the word. It doesn’t take anything away from the fact that we shouldn’t be letting rapists go unpunished just because they committed their crime a long time ago, or because they’re brilliant directors.

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  13. “normally everyone is up in arms about victim’s rights – except, apparently, when what they want is not what the victim wants.”

    No, people favor victim’s rights when they don’t allow someone to create more victims.

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  14. Rob-Ert,

    Hey, they could not get him for thirty years due to where he was living (it’s not like they were not trying) so they patiently waited for the jerk to make a mistake and pounced. I think it’s great that they never gave up.

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  15. Will,

    No offense, Circe, but I’m sort of horrified by your casual dismissal of what he did. He drugged and then raped a child. It does not get any worse than that.

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  16. It’s true that things were looser in the 70s and that many people banged underage chicks. But he was sentenced in the 70s, which speaks to the heinousness of the crime.

    I can understand why the victim does not want to pursue this any longer. It’s not her decision. My daughters are 11, 11, 12, 14, 17, and 19 and I don’t want anyone to think they can get away with drugging and banging them.

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  17. bk,

    He raped her. Go read the transcripts at thesmokinggun.com

    Q: Did you resist at that time?

    A: A little bit, but not really because . . .

    Q: Because what?

    A: Because I was afraid of him.

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  18. Max,

    She was raped. No doubt about it. But what I have a hard time with is what she wants now (not to pursue it anymore, “I want nothing more to do with it…” etc.). It’s hard to ignore. If we are, in fact, to give respect to the judicial system and prosecute for the purposes of maintaining the law, so be it. But the reason why this case is in the forefront is that it isn’t an open-and-shut case.

    Point #1: The original judge lied. He had agreed to allow a plea bargain and then backed out, without any prior warning nor any explanation to the defense. An act, I might point out, is not legal. Not a whole lot of proper justice there.

    Point #2: She already took him to court for this incident in a civil lawsuit and settled for an undisclosed amount of money. The prosecution was privy to his whereabouts at that time which makes one wonder why they couldn’t have extradited him then. The law allowing such an act was passed around the early 90′s so they had plenty of time.

    Point #3: He made several films that won numerous awards. While this means nothing, the act of making a film requires him to request permits that allow him to film in the various locations. This means anyone would have had access to his location at the time of shooting. If it was so damn important to nab him, I fail to see why they didn’t pounce on him then.

    Point #4: District attorneys are not immune to selfish inclinations. Shakeville states in the post that “That’s why prosecutors represent ‘the people.’ ” Um, yeah. You keep believing that. There have been more judges, lawyers, and hell, even presidents who have kept a crusade alive in the name of a vendetta then I care to count. The last 50 years is a good place to look for evidence of that.

    This case is sketchy at best. Certainly nothing that will be solved with a inept argument on the internet.

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  19. Chip,

    I’m curious whether the people defending Polanski feel the same about Ira Einhorn. He murdered his girlfriend in the 70s and fled to France before he could be sent to prison. But he’s done a lot of good stuff since (he co-founded Earth Day, for instance), he hasn’t re-offended so he clearly isn’t a threat to anyone else, and the murder happened over 30 years ago. So I assume the same logic applies here and Einhorn should go free?

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  20. omnivore,

    “He drugged and then raped a child. It does not get any worse than that.”

    Sure it gets worse than that. Crimes against humanity are far worse than that. What makes people say this is worse than anything, then? Is it because howling after a movie director/rapist is so much more gratifying than examining the deeply troubling questions raised in the case of Kissinger, who certainly ought to be in the dock? Kissinger has had a life a lot like Polanski, in that has had to be very very careful where he travels since the 1970′s. This exclusive club also has or had people like Pinochet, Rumsfeld, Gaddafi, Amin, Bin Laden and so on as members.

    If the resources existed to recapture Polanski, or advance the process of arresting Bin Laden, where would they best be used? If someone said revealed that the agent assigned to track Polanski wa taken off a detail tracking Bin Laden, what would the reaction be? Most Americans (and in fact, just about everyone) would be outraged: its very easy to see that there is a priority system here, and that justice is in that sense finite and provisional. If the question is between Polanski and Kissinger, the answer should not be any more difficult. Both committed monstrous crimes that killed thousands of civilians; both are protected by and move in circles of powerful people who flaunt their power in the face of the demand for justice. For both men, there is more than ample evidence of what they did, and many living witnesses ready to testify. In the case of Kissinger, of course, there are still tens of thousands whose lives are still being shortened or degraded by his actions.

    The point isn’t that pursuing Polanski in some way is wrong, or diminishes the likelihood to catching Bin Laden. The point is that Bin Laden and Kissinger both did what is much worse than what Polanski did, and while it is very difficult to bring Bin Laden to justice, and easier to bring Polanski, it’s even easier to do so with Kissinger. And failing to do so is a greater offense against the dignity and reputation of any natural sense of justice. If the argument to pursue Polanski stems from some notion of justice that never rests, etc, then where is that principle when it comes to other far more heinous crimes, with much easier to hand perpetrators? And where is our outrage best focussed, if we want to live in a world where the powerful are subject to the law?

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  21. omnivore,

    “oth committed monstrous crimes” — Kissinger, and Bin Laden, not Kissinger and Polanski.

    I know he’s bad, but he ain’t that bad.

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  22. -l,

    “It’s not as if he’s the only one who banged underage chicks in the seventies, yet people are pretending this is some sort of novelty. ”

    I am sure glad us kids born in the eighties were taught that its not ok if someone drugs you, rapes and sodomizes you while you resist and beg the person to stop – that is true if you are 13 or 40, btw. Who knew it was ok as long as the person had enough money to live abroad for 30 years?

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  23. Mike K,

    I’m not poking at ANYONE here on either side of the debate, but think about this…

    Manson Family member Susan Atkins just died in prison.

    Despite being a model prisoner, earning several degrees, and mentoring younger prisoners, she was denied parole twelve times.

    So the question is:
    Seeing that it’s been 40 years, and she had clearly turned her life around, do you feel she should, or should not have eventually been released before her death?

    And let’s get the obvious differences out of the way:

    > We’re talking very brutal murder, not a semi-conscious rape.

    > At her trial she showed no remorse for her crime. She even made light of it.

    > The victims’ families have consistently urged the parole board to keep her behind bars.

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  24. Old Geezer,

    I’m sorry it took so long to reply to Max. I’ve simply been astonished for this long.
    “Point #1: The original judge lied. He had agreed to allow a plea bargain and then backed out, without any prior warning nor any explanation to the defense. An act, I might point out, is not legal. Not a whole lot of proper justice there” Max, your understanding of legal process is rudimentary at best. A plea bargain is not binding upon the judge. It is agreed to between the prosecution and the defendant and then presented to the judge for acceptance, rejection or modification. That the judge exercised his prerogative to modify the agreement is not illegal. It is done quite often when the judge, in his sole discretion, believes it does not serve the interests of justice. Reread that: In his sole discretion. Polanski’s recourse was to accept the judge’s decision or take his chances on going to trial. He didn’t like his chances before a jury.

    “Point #2: She already took him to court for this incident in a civil lawsuit and settled for an undisclosed amount of money. The prosecution was privy to his whereabouts at that time which makes one wonder why they couldn’t have extradited him then. The law allowing such an act was passed around the early 90’s so they had plenty of time.” There is a difference between civil and criminal litigation. Civil litigation (you know, she sues him….) attempts to determine whether one party owes another for a harm committed that can be reduced to a monetary or performance manner of compensation. No one is questioning, enforcing, attacking the civil case. They are pursuing the criminal case that was brought to address the community’s interest in the enforcement of laws against raping and drugging little girls. The division exists so criminals cannot simply buy their way out of punishment for a crime while still being held directly accountable to the victim. I believe you will find that Polanski never came to court (or to the US) to defend against the civil charges, opting instead to “settle out of court.” So, no “they” couldn’t extradite him from a safe-haven country simply because he was being sued in civil court.

    “Point #3: He made several films that won numerous awards. While this means nothing, the act of making a film requires him to request permits that allow him to film in the various locations. This means anyone would have had access to his location at the time of shooting. If it was so damn important to nab him, I fail to see why they didn’t pounce on him then.” Uh, just because he was on location doesn’t mean he was on location in a country that has an extradition treaty with the US. He has consistently dodged from safe-haven country to safe-haven country, avoiding coming to the US even for awards for his films. That’s why he was called a fugitive.

    “There have been more judges, lawyers, and hell, even presidents who have kept a crusade alive in the name of a vendetta then I care to count. The last 50 years is a good place to look for evidence of that.” OK, I’ll bite. How high can you count? Based upon your other statements, I’m gonna guess not too high.

    “Certainly nothing that will be solved with a inept argument on the internet.” On that you make your own best argument.

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  25. outeast,

    Old Geezer: IANAL (esp in US law) so this is a genuine question, but surely the judge’s only discretion lies in the sentence imposed? Which charges are brought (or dropped) is surely not a matter for the judge…? So the 5 charges that were dropped in the plea deal were simply dropped, and the judge’s onlty discretion was only to accept or reject the proposed sentence for the remaining charge. Or not? I’m not familiar with the US law, but contemporaneous reports spoke only of Polanski skipping out before the sentencing hearing…

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  26. Armand Asante,

    Funny, I entered this thread fully thinking I was going to come out on the Roman Polanski side of this issue.

    I do still believe this is a crime born of a past age. An age when the mores regarding underage sex were changing – were still in flux. I guess Polanski thought he could still be like the Jerry Lee Lewis’s of 20 years past – who had sex and married his 13-year old cousin.

    I also sympathize with his impulses. They don’t seem that horrid to me, in and of themselves. There is a reason many career models start at the age of 15 and are plastered on huge billboards for all of us to leer over. Youth is attractive to us of the male gender simply by virtue of being youth.

    However society has evolved. And today’s society demands of us to keep those impulses in check, and rightfully so. We try to come out on the side of the weak – to try to impose an equality where nature has put a clear physical and mental advantage onto one side (by virtue of sex and age – respectively).

    And Polanski did commit a crime (as the article says it was a called rape even back in the 70′s).
    So if he’s caught – cinematic genius or not – he has to abide by the same laws as the rest of us.

    I’m sad to see him go, but I don’t see any other option morally.

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  27. outeast,

    Armand, the urge I can understand (without condoning even a consensual act with someone that age). I don’t think the crime of which Polanski was actually accused can be put down to ‘changing mores’ though: the involvement of drugs and the absence of consent go beyond that.

    As repeatedly noted, though, legally the grounds for action are the guilty plea, not the original (dropped) charges.

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  28. You cannot compare the marriage of Jerry Lee Lewis (which was over 40 years ago and they were THIRD cousins) to the Polanski crime. Myra Brown always said that they married before sex, and the marriage was consensual. Technically a crime, that would be prosecuted today. But only as statutory rape, not assault. Not violent. What Polanski did would be prosecuted in either era.

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