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Being Roman Doesn’t Excuse Rape

September 28, 2009

Roman Polanski is a genius. No doubt about it. He’s even pretty charming, really. It does not change the fact that he entered a plea of GUILTY to “unlawful sex with a child”, and can, at least in my mind,  legitimately be called a child-rapist.

That is not charming.

To be very clear here, this was not statutory rape, this was not an 17 year-old having sex with their teacher.  This was a grown man who groomed a 13 year-old, got her drunk on champagne, gave her quaaludes, fondled her, had vaginal sex with her and then anal sex with her. And entered a guilty plea to charge, though did say she was “not unresponsive.” Oh, well that excuses it.

If you have the stomach for it, you can read the filing papers on The Smoking Gun. It’s not a fun read, but it is worth it so that we can all snap out of our “but he’s Roman Polanski” and “it was 32 years ago” haze.

As the Guardian explains it:

Polanski was 44 and already a twice-Oscar-nominated director in March 1977 when he had sex with Samantha Gailey, a 13-year-old model he had hired for a photoshoot, at Jack Nicholson’s house in Los Angeles. He has argued that the sex was consensual, saying the girl was “not unresponsive”, though Gailey said he drugged her with painkillers and champagne before carrying out a “very scary” assault.

The director pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse in a deal with prosecutors that saw them drop charges of rape, drugging and sodomy, which could have carried a life sentence, but fled the country in February 1978 when it became apparent that he was likely to serve time in prison.

Samantha Gailey, who was 13 when the events took place, has since said that she’s happy with the “settlement” that they came to and she does not think that any further action is necessary against him.

She does not have the right to say that because child rape is a criminal matter, not a civil matter. I hope that she is happy and has healed, but the fact remains that he entered a guilty plea to a criminal charge and then fled the country in 1978 when it became clear that he was going to have to serve prison time.

Here’s the thing. 13 year-olds really cannot consent to sex. They can barely handle peer pressure, much less the pressure of a famous and much older man who they believe has control over their potential career.

As a society, we have to protect our children. You don’t get to run away from punishment.

Granted, as a rape-survivor, this one hits close to home. (I was 16, not 13, but still…..) We need to take a zero tolerance stand here.

It’s never too late for him to pay for his crime, because it is never okay for him to get away with it.

But this is also a great opportunity for us all to talk to our own kids about rape. It’s not easy, but I wrote a quick guide about Talking To Kids About Rape when someone I know was accused of raping a teen at a local youth theater, and it’s worth checking out now.

In the grand scheme of conversations we have with our kids, this is probably one of the hardest, but we have to do it, and here’s why:

  • things we don’t talk about are assumed to be shameful and there should be NO SHAME in being raped
  • kids need to know how to define rape
  • people of all ages need to know the difference between sex and rape, and have to be comfortable talking about it
  • we have to come together to say that we know it is wrong and we’re willing to do something about it

I agree with others who have said that who Roman Polanski is as a person shouldn’t taint the lens through which we look at his art. However, his art cannot taint how we look at him as a person either. He raped a child, he admitted it, and he fled the country – after paying her off – rather than serving his punishment.

Justice here may be delayed, but it should not be denied.

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