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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Polanski’s victim forgotten in rush to revive 31-year-old caseÿ

How can anyone defend Roman Polanski? The short answer is: you can’t. The long answer is, you can’t, but that doesn’t make his sudden return to the world’s attention any less complex or troubling.

On the surface, it’s hard to think of a more open-and-shut case than that of legendary filmmaker Polanski, who fled the United States in 1977 to avoid facing a likely prison sentence for committing what the law refers to as “”unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.”” Polanski stumbled into a surprise arrest in Switzerland Sept. 26. He’s now awaiting likely extradition to the United States. (Polanski pled guilty to the charge of having sex with a minor back in 1977, so the usual statute of limitations on such cases doesn’t apply.)

The minor in question was 13-year-old Samantha Gailey, whom Polanski allegedly plied with Quaaludes and alcohol before engaging in what Gailey (now Geimer) has recalled as “”not consensual sex by any means. I said no, repeatedly, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.”” It doesn’t get any less ambiguous than that.

It’s hard not to be nauseated by the Hollywood community’s response to the arrest. The consensus seems to be that it’s not really fair to punish famous people. (Whoopi Goldberg came up with this gem: “”I don’t believe it was rape-rape.”” Thanks for that useful distinction, Whoopi.)

That said, there’s a case to be made for not dredging up the Polanski case after all these years. That case can be stated simply: Why should we force the victim to relive her horrific experience?

Geimer has said repeatedly that she has forgiven Polanski and doesn’t want to pursue the case. She filed a formal request earlier this year that L.A. prosecutors drop the charges against the aging director, stating: “”I have survived, indeed prevailed, against whatever harm Mr. Polanski may have caused me as a child. I got over it a long time ago.””

And the first thing every reporter in the world did after Polanski’s arrest, naturally, was to knock on Samantha Geimer’s door again.

“”What happened that night, it’s hard to believe, but it paled in comparison to what happened in the next year of my life,”” Geimer said in 2008. “”(Polanski) did something really gross to me but it was the media that ruined my life.”” And this is what she said in 2003: “”Sometimes I feel like we both got a life sentence.””

One need not necessarily sympathize with the unquestionably guilty Polanski to find something queasy in the press’s eagerness to see this case revived. The widespread indifference to the victim’s wishes — and the likely effect of this whole affair on her current life — is disturbing. “”One can certainly sympathize with this woman, but she is no longer central to this case,”” snorted Henry Champ, writing for the Canadian CBC News. This is something new, all right — a sexual assault case in which the victim is completely irrelevant.

Though Geimer won’t be forced to testify again, the Polanski affair is bound to drag on for months. It’s likely to turn into one of those agonizingly prolonged celebrity court cases that consume the attention of the entire country for months. We’ve seen it happen so many times we can already imagine the whole, sickening ordeal.

Pundits will chew over the details of the original case again and again, until every television viewer and every faithful newspaper reader will be able to recite them by heart. Psychologists will be trotted onscreen to explain how the victim could possibly desire anything other than the drawing and quartering of her famous assailant. The victim’s name will become a household word, forever linked with the name of the man she wants only to forget.

Does this mean that Polanski should get off the hook? Of course not. No one is above the law — even if, as some Californians are grumbling, Los Angeles could find rather better uses for taxpayer dollars than settling this particular case. But some of those rushing to cheer the news of his arrest might want to pause to consider the human consequences of his arrest — not for him, but for his victim.

After all, what will the consequences be? A guilty man will pay some form of belated restitution for what he did 31 years ago — although, given the charges of judicial misconduct that still hang around the case, it seems improbable he’ll face prison time. And an innocent woman and her family will be effectively terrorized for months.

Justice may be served, but it’s nothing to exult in. This is a depressing story, and it’s about to reach its sad conclusion.  

— Justyn Dillingham is the arts editor of the Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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