Roman Polanski, Arrested for Raping a Child. Because He Did.

We wanted to write a reaction post today to Roman Polanski’s arrest in Zurich over the weekend. However, after some reading/digging around the interwebs, we came to the conclusion that we would never in a million years be able to top the fantastic Kate Harding’s piece over at Broadsheet on the topic. Says Harding:

Roman Polanski raped a child. Let’s just start right there, because that’s the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in “exile” (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never – poor baby – being able to return to the U.S.).

Harding kicks it off on the right foot by pointing out the sheer ridiculousness of feeling sorry for a man who RAPED A 13-YEAR OLD, admitted it, and then fled to France to live a fabulous life of Oscar wins and villas and probably lots of European glamour and delicious cheeses. Why on earth would we shed a tear for that ass hat?

Harding continues, linking to several articles on Polanski’s recent arrest that are discussing (still! after 32 years!) how the girl didn’t really look 13, and how she had a bitch for a mother so that makes it not Polanski’s fault (who can resist a girl with a pushy mother?!?), and basically how he shouldn’t be prosecuted for a crime he committed because, well, we’ve all been there. And besides, he’s old! And he’s made great films! And the press is demonizing him! But, you know, he still raped a child, so there’s that.

There is also the matter of the 45-year old victim who does not want to deal with the media circus that is this case. Who can blame her? Her desire to be left out of the spotlight, however, does not mean that Polanski should not be prosecuted. Harding again:

The point is not to keep 76-year-old Polanski off the streets or help his victim feel safe. The point is that drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not – and at least in theory, does not – tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are, no matter how old you were when you finally got caught, no matter what your victim says about it now, no matter how mature she looked at 13, no matter how pushy her mother was, and no matter how many really swell movies you’ve made.

So here’s hoping that Roman Polanski is prosecuted, the way he and all other child rapists deserve to be. And we’ll conclude here in the only appropriate way, by quoting Kate Harding:

The reporting on Polanski’s arrest has been every bit as “bizarrely skewed,” if not more so. Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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27 Comments Have Been Posted

Amen. I've been waiting for

Amen. I've been waiting for someone to say this. He drugged and raped a child -- it doesn't matter how long it has been or how old he is now.

I wasn't aware that anyone

I wasn't aware that anyone was feeling sorry for him. I certainly don't. Put him away.

bad news

All of the articles and news I have read on his arrest were quite sympathetic towards the old man. They all used quotes from director friends like Wong Kar-wai to show the art and film world backing Polanski up. It's enough to make you want to vomit.

Let's hold our horses a minnit..

Its water under the bridge- it was a long time ago. Prison beds are limited so wouldn't we rather that one precious prison space be used for another man who truly is a menace to society? Also, at the time and circumstance social mores were quite different than they are now. And last, I wonder how many of you vehemently spouting against him actually have ever seen any of his films?

Yes, but that is beside the point.

Yes, I have seen many of Polanski's films, as have many of the other commenters here I'm sure. However, the art he has made has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he is a convicted (and confessed) rapist. Rape is illegal, and justice should be served in this and all convicted rape cases. Polanski should not get preferential treatment because of his age, social status, or portfolio. He should be sentenced now just as he should have been 32 years ago, because he IS a menace to society (because he raped a 13-year old).

Also, I hope that when you speak of past "social mores" you are not implying that the rape of a 13-year old girl was frowned upon in 1977 but is somehow acceptable now. It is certainly not acceptable to me, and I hope it isn't to you either.

Well, obviously, what's more

Well, obviously, what's more important is your ability to watch his future films. Think of it this way: rapists rarely spend any time in jail and if they do it's only for a short time so you won't have to be parted from your favorite rapist filmmaker for very long. Sorry to have inconvenienced your ability to partake in the picture shows.

Dude's a rapist and needs to do his time. Nuff said.

Not water under the bridge if you run...

Well, see, here’s the thing Susan. I happen to think that a fugitive who apparently considers himself to be above the law and who in addition is well-know and (for some reason) respected enough to influence people’s perceptions of what is right and what is wrong *is* a menace to society – and a serious one at that. It would perhaps have been water under the bridge if Polanski had faced up to his crime, stuck around for the trial and done his time. But he didn’t. Which means that every day for the past 32 years he has been committing a second crime all over again, by simply not turning up to do his dues.

Honestly, it is beyond me to understand why France didn’t hand him over to the US – yes, the extradition treaty between the two countries allows the French to refuse to extradite their own, but they can negotiate individual terms for specific cases if they so choose. In addition, although I am not familiar with the ins and outs of French criminal law, I can’t see how they could possibly not have had the option of trying him in France for crimes committed abroad. And before anyone speaks up for French sovereignty in the face of mean American global policing or what not, I’m not American but European myself and I do think that states should cooperate to bring criminals to justice – especially high-profile or dangerous ones…

Roman Polanski

Are you kidding me? What does having seen his films have anything to do with it? He raped a child, and it was just as wrong 30 some years ago as it is now. The fact that he's lived his life free and clear all of this time makes it that much more vile. What message are we sending with this "water under the bridge" attitude? I'll let it go after he's served his time and paid his debt to society and his victim.

What do his films have to do

What do his films have to do with the fact that he drugged and raped a minor?!
Social mores were quite different? The girl was underage and did NOT consent. <i>Social mores</i>, are you kidding me??

wow. douche.

I guess us silly feminists never get around to watching films...

Times are different? Are they so different to the point of drugging a 13 year old girl and fucking her in the ass is acceptable now?

I must just be a prude Philistine who could never understand sexuality and art like you do.

Back in the 1970s ...

It was quite common for teenage girls to have crushes on adult "older" men. Think John Travolta (who was in his early 20s when he was on "Welcome Back Kotter") ... Starsky and Hutch ... Burt Reynolds ... Crushes on the teen-heartthrob likes of Leif Garrett were for the elementary school set.

My aunt was a teenager back then and all her so-called "boy crushes" were really "man crushes." Nobody wanted to date anyone their own age. It was all about being grown-up at the moment and against anything that happened in the 1950s- values that parents tried and failed to pass along to their teens and children, despite "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" being among the top TV shows of that decade. Statutory rape laws? Not always enforced everywhere. My aunt had several friends who insisted on dating adult men and nobody was put in jail for those activities, ever.

Many of us have seen "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" where Jennifer Jason Leigh lost her virginity to an adult man (the stereo salesman), Phoebe Cates' character (her best friend) had an adult boyfriend that was never shown in the film. Watching that film with my aunt one day, she told me that so many scenes in the film were very spot-on. It is also one of the best films ever to depict the subject of abortion. (Note: if you have never seen this film, you really, really must!)

But all that teen rebellion in that time does not mean that my once-rebellious aunt today condones Roman Polanski's actions. Her friends that dated those adult men now feel some regret for having done so (They are faring well in stable relationships with people around their own ages. My aunt has been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years and her two daughters ... my cousins ... are two of the coolest <i>Bitch</i> readers I know!). This really is 2009 and if Chris Brown is paying his prices for attacking Rhianna, then it's high-time Polanski face his sentencing. As for the victim who wanted to put her ordeal behind her, it is not ever behind her until he pays his price for what he did. Rape is a crime no matter what decade it happened in, no matter what country you live in, and the message of it being a crime can never be repeated and emphasized enough.

<a href="">Some very important reading on the matter. This book is truly required reading!</a>


When I began reading your piece, I admit my blood pressure started rising. Lots of girls have celebrity crushes on older men? This is relevant HOW? I have no doubt that it was and still is true that teenagers (female and male) crush on older people (again, female and male) but bringing it up here feels dangerous. I'm happy and relieved to see you do not support Polanski's actions at all (and link to one of the best books ever,) but I'm still struggling to understand the intention behind the majority of your post. Even if the child had been crushing on Polanski or wanted to "date" him, she was drugged and brutally raped -- would it make any difference?

I know this is probably going to get me in trouble...

But here goes nothin'.

Roman Polanski is my favorite filmmaker and I have felt a deep connection to both him and his films for the better part of a decade. Therefore, I might be biased about this situation, but I do not blame Samantha Gailey Geimer in any way, shape, or form. After spending the better part of yesterday trying to write an essay about being a feminist in love with the work of Polanski, I've decided that this piece by critic Tom Sutpen is pretty perfect:

"If Roman Polanski had been hauled in on a statch rape complaint, made bail and then fled the country . . . which, from news reports in the last 36 hours, seems to be what everyone thinks actually happened here . . . then I'd be all for his extradition; though I would question (as I do now) the zeal with which LA Country has apparently revisited this matter after three decades. The fact that Samantha Geimer is urging that Polanski be left alone is important for gauging the severity of her trauma (or lack thereof) after all these years, but as a purely legal matter it's irrelevant. Statutory Rape is on the books as an offense against the People. The law is unambiguous: consent means nothing; the goodwill of the victim means nothing. What people are forgetting here is Why Polanski Fled.

There was a plea deal; agreed to by all parties in the case *including* that eminent jurist, Laurence J. Rittenband: The court would order that Polanski be sent to Chino for a Psychiatric evaluation; the judge would then follow its recommendation at sentencing. Fine. They send him out there, the shrinks determine that he's not a rape-o, not a pedophile, not a danger to the community; they write a report reflecting said determination; recommending a sentence of Time Served and sending him home. He's out of Chino in 42 days (*not* an easy stretch, regardless of how long he was there).

Long story short, Rittenband suddenly backs out of the deal just before sentencing, and on the most dubious grounds imaginable (an extremely prosaic newspaper photograph of Polanski at that year's Oktoberfest); deciding that he's going to unilaterally void the agreement, toss the Psych evaluation and send Polanski up for the maximum penalty under the statute. At the very last minute (according to Polanski's lawyer *and* the Assistant DA on the case) Rittenband presumably realizes that his About Face would look even worse in the papers than the supposed leniency of the plea deal, so he concocts this baroque, jaw-dropping piece of Judicial Theater whereby he would hand Polanski the maximum in open court, then have everybody come back that evening for a hearing in chambers where he would commute the sentence to Time Served, just like the shrinks at Chino said he should.

Roman Polanski, then, had a choice: He could trust an incompetent, borderline-senile glory-hound of a jurist . . . one who had repeatedly demonstrated during that case just how out-of-control a Judge could be . . . and risk ending up on C-block, waiting for the appellate courts to crawl to his rescue while every badass in the joint reminded him what they do to baby-rapers . . . OR . . . he could run.

He ran. And I don't fault him for one second."

It seems that you do not

It seems that you do not understand how the sentencing system works. The psychiatrists at Chico can make a recommendation for sentencing. However, the judge is completely within the law to use his discretion in sentencing. He can give more or less time depending on a variety of factors. If Polanski felt that he deserved less time, he should have stayed and re-negotiated the plea agreement. By fleeing the country, Polanski is saying he is above the law.

I would urge you to read the Grand Jury transcripts posted in The victim repeatedly said "no," while Roman Polanski orally, vaginally and anally raped her. Can you honestly say to me, if that happened to your daughter or sister, that 42 days in psych evaluation is sufficient punishment for a rapist?

I've never known that much

I've never known that much about this case. From the information I've gleaned over the last day or two, I'm prepared for all of the these to be true: Roman Polanski raped a child, Roman Polanski fled the US to avoid punishment for that crime, it is unfortunate all around that authorities have not been able to catch up with Roman Polanski until now, and Roman Polanski makes great movies. Kate Harding's point stands, though. The thing that is least talked about, most often argued away as untrue, unimportant or secondary is that Roman Polanski raped a child. I don't know what happens to us a species when it comes to celebrities. We lose our minds a little.

Did you even read Kate Harding's piece?

A few of my many reactions to this:
1. The fact that Samantha Geimer wants to be left out of the media circus at this time says nothing about the "severity of her trauma (or lack thereof) after all these years." How dare anyone think they can gauge the severity of her trauma. She was drugged and raped orally, vaginally, and anally at the age of 13. To suggest we can somehow deduce a "lack" of trauma is offensive and outrageous.
2. It makes me irate when people try to minimize Polanski's actions. Do you honestly think this looks like an average case of (using the language from your post) "statutory rape?" Polanski admitted to "unlawful sex with a minor" as part of his plea agreement, but age of consent was by no means the only problem here. This was rape, without consent, pure and simple. To quote Kate Harding's piece:<p>
<blockquote>"...let's take a moment to recall that according to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm."</blockquote><p>
3. You agree with the statement "I don't fault him for one second," yet you call yourself a feminist? This does not add up for me.

Um, I’m sorry, but

Um, I’m sorry, but that’s not the way it works. You are assigned a judge and you put up with him and you work with the system. On its side of course the system will do its best to make sure it provides you with a judge that is sane and unbiased and complies with the ethics code. If you believe that the system failed in this obligation, the system allows you to challenge the judge’s competency, request that the judge be replaced or move for a retrial and will even impose disciplinary sanctions against the judge in question. On top of this, the system will, as a matter of course, allow you to defend yourself in court, as well as appeal the judicial decisions you, for whatever reason, do not care for. Depending on the situation, you can even bring your case before the Supreme/High Court of your country, where chances are you will not be coming across many “incompetent, borderline-senile glory-hounds of jurists”. What you certainly can’t do however is run, because if you do, you are an outlaw. I’m really, really sorry, but I cannot think of any other word than “wrong” for the position you are taking here – surely neither you nor Tom Sutpen (whoever he is) would agree that every person accused of a crime should flee the country if they don’t like the look of their judge… There are procedures for such problems and they should be followed – if somebody doesn’t follow them, then they are, yes – very much – at fault.

"Achievements should not mitigate guilt."

Should we gauge Roman Polanski's morality by his artistic talents or by his actions? I say actions. Perhaps he gained his innocence with the passing of time? No. Or maybe it was gained when he won an Oscar for The Pianist? No. This isn't rocket science. I understand that "people change," but I also believe that it takes a special (or not so special) kind of person to rape a child. Can someone like this really change? This conversation can also take us into the debate on America's love/hate relationship (i.e. fascination) with the conviction and punishment of the presumed guilty. Why are we so hung up on delivering "justice" to those who wrong? Is it right to punish someone after 32 years? If so, why and says who? I don't know the answers to these questions. All I know is that Mr. Polanski should be judged by his actions and I agree with NPR's commentator: "achievements should not mitigate guilt."

"It was a long time ago!"

I think you've brought up a crucial idea here: people DO think they can "judge Roman Polanski's morality." As some have indicated, liking someone's work does NOT mean you must find a system of logic to condone all of their actions. (As a less extreme example, how many people would actually get along with Shakespeare?)
They say he's not a menace to society, or not anymore, and I think there's usually an implication of "...'cause he's too old to be a sexual predator now!" Putting aside the ageism and problematic mindset of "good art = morality" for a moment, let's remember that Polanski's moral compass IS NOT the issue here. You ask if he has changed, or if someone who did something so horrible COULD change. No one could possibly have these answers, but then, I would argue that they're not at all relevant. If you commit a heinous crime, *it does not matter how truly sorry you may be afterward.*
If this were a murder case, or any other sort of violent crime (like, say, involvement in *gasp* TERRORISM) do you think people would even think it worth mentioning that the criminal was sorry? It's just one more way that news about rape reveals widespread sexism. He's sorry now; remember that she's an alleged victim; she wore and said this and this. To me, "I hear he's really sorry for shooting those four people" would be similar to "The alleged robbery victim was wearing eye-catching colors, and the accused says they acted friendly at first, so there couldn't have been a robbery." In other words, you will never hear it about crimes other than rape.
Put the rapist in jail already. Just like with every other jailed criminal, we can't know how much more damage he might do, but we know what he's done.


This whole thing wouldn't be an issue if he'd committed murder.

I just feel very sorry for

I just feel very sorry for his victim to have to constantly relive the horror.

I cannot believe what I am

I cannot believe what I am reading. You said "Is it right to punish someone after 32 years? If so, why and says who? You say you don't know the answers to these questions.
Well, I do.
Yes, it's right to punish someone after 32 years. Because they pled guilty to the crime. They then fled the country they were prosecuted in.
Put it this way: Is it right to punish the Nazis after so much time has elapsed from WWII? No? Then why are some of them still being put into prison after all these years? Because they killed people. For no reason. Without remorse.
Same with Polanski. He raped a girl. For no reason. Without remorse. Then fled from justice (much like some Nazi's, in fact.).
Yes, we are 'hung up' on delievering justice to people who are wrong: it's called a moral code.
It's too bad some countries don't have one, but America does. And will continue to.

It wasn't rape-rape

In the past few days, several prominent women have used the phrase, or something to the effect of "it wasn't rape-rape." As if drugged child rape could be some other form of rape. Or that there are types of rape more worthy of the word than others.

Here's a clip of Whoopi Goldberg calling what happened some form of crime other than rape-rape.

Oh, Whoopie, say it ain't so.

That clip made me ill. I think pretty highly of Goldberg generally, but that is just not okay. What she's saying is that it was only statutory rape, not rape without consent, which is just not true. I understand some feminists' positions against the current statutory rape laws (though I don't necessarily agree,) but this is not one of those she's-17-he's-19 situations. When her co-host brings up the drugging, Goldberg suggests that they had already had sex beforehand. Even if that were true, the drugged situation would still have been rape! I'm disappointed.

Uh, just what I've heard

Have some in Hollywood

Have some in Hollywood drifted so far out of the spectrum as to have become the polar opposite of the religous right? Peverting common sense in favor of an agenda so egregious and out of touch with 98 percent of the population its almost like watching some minstrel show? Woody Allen's involvement has me torn between wanting to laugh at the lunacy of a likely child molester (we know he was making eyes at his step daughter long before Mia left the picture) trying to seriously defend another child rapist, but the knowledge of his seriousness in the face of his known and suspected grievances just turn my stomach in the same breath. Freaking're actually giving the wingnuts proof that you're so wrapped up in your self indulgences your morals are beyond suspect...I'm so saddened and infuriated. The old prick belongs in jail, even if its just until his trial is sorted out, and they should give him some artistic material and leave him out in general pop.

Douche Bag decree, a loud minority of Hollywood

I used to despise Polanski

I used to despise Polanski and refuse to watch any movie he made. But then I saw the Pianist and couldn't believe such a great movie could come from such a low-life. Now I just feel sorry for him as he is obviously very talented. I still believe he should be extradited and punished to the full extent of the law. Why do the Hollywood elitists believe that because you're talented and famous, the law shouldn't apply to you?

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