Round up: Posts on Polanski’s arrest

Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland this weekend. He’s spent the past several decades abroad after fleeing the U.S. during his trial for raping a 13-year-old girl.

Sometimes other bloggers say it first and say it better than I can. May I direct you to these fine writers for some commentary:

Kate Harding: Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child

Amanda Hess: Common Roman Polanski Defenses, Refuted

Kieran Healy: “I look forward to more detailed explanations of who the Real Victim is here, and more fine-grained elaboration of the criteria — other than “marvelous dinner guest” — for being issued a Get Out of Child Rape Free card.”

Scott Lemieux: “The fact that the victim forgives Polanski doesn’t give him a license to skip out on his punishment.”

Amanda Marcotte: “I tend to have a negative view of doggedly pursuing a criminal decades after the crime, but there are exceptions. In this case, I think that that the pressing need to send the message that fame and fortune doesn’t give you a free pass to rape is worth the resources and effort put on bringing him in.”

Sady Doyle on rape culture and liking the artistic output of someone who happens to be a rapist.

What have you all been reading about the Polanski arrest?

Related posts:
Newsweek hearts Polanski (and victim-blaming)
Loving sex and hating rape: Not mutually exclusive

Join the Conversation

  • ooperbooper

    A little mistake is accidentally leaving the gas on while you’re out.
    Drugging and raping someone is a fucking gargantuan mistake.

  • Lisa

    Now that I’ve had the day to think about it, I’m going to reply to myself. The issue of whether or not to dismiss the case seems to be largely an issue of class. Is it fair that a middle class Joe from Georgia has to spend x years in prison while Polanski serves no time for the same crime? The only difference between them is that Polanski had the means to leave the country and the good fortune of having citizenship in a country without an extradition treaty with the US. Yes, it’s 30 years later, but how can we hold two people to two very different standards simply because of the resources available to them?
    Would those who say “let the past be past” feel the same if Joe from Georgia raped a 13 year old and fled to Mexico under a hidden identity to escape punishment? It’s pretty easy to argue that living in hiding under a false identity would cause more suffering than living in luxury in France and making critically acclaimed movies, but I’m sure everyone would be cheering when Joe was finally caught. I think there is something to the fact that Polanski has “hidden” in the public eye for so long and been so visibly productive that makes it easier for people to disconnect him from his crime and failure to serve time.
    And last, would people feel the same if he had broken out of prison and fled? Essentially, it’s the same thing. He plead guilty and didn’t want to deal with the punishment, so he took off.

  • likeclaws

    This is so fucking rage-inducing. I cannot believe how many people are okay with his despicable actions, just because he’s rich and important and stayed out of the country for a while.
    I need to step away from this bullshit for a while because my heart rate is seriously through the roof.

  • Alice

    Telling a victim that it was worse than they think is no different than telling them that it wasn’t all that bad. Either way, you might be right, but even granting that the victim doesn’t know their own suffering, how does it follow that somebody else would know any better?

  • cattrack2

    No, I’m just unwilling to play armchair detective 30 years after the crime, over the protests of the victim herself. I know from personal experience not to take the blanket accusations of law enforcement at face value. Maybe you do, but I don’t.
    We had video taped evidence in the case of R. Kelly but he was acquited at trial, yet somehow you expect 100% certainty from people over a 30 yo case???
    This is a horrible crime & a horrible decision for all the authorities involved.

  • Lily A

    I don’t think anybody’s trying to say that we should be second guessing victims’ perceptions of the crimes committed against them.
    But what I would say is that even if a rape survivor doesn’t feel traumatized by the rape, that doesn’t make it any less of a serious crime. We need to prosecute and punish rapists, and NOT have to make victims “prove” that they were traumatized in order to have the rapist punished. Survivors can have a wide variety of experiences and reactions… but rape is still a serious crime.


    The irony of it all, or perhaps the tragedy, is that had Polanski stuck around and faced the charges, he would have been punished far less.
    I am in two minds about this case… frankly, I wonder what the ‘reality’ of it all is. I certainly don’t believe it’s black and white. Though I do believe he did commit the crime.


    Well I guess they would probably consider compensation for the woman along with some form of jail sentence.

  • Lindsey

    I was disgusted when I watched the View today and co-host Whoopi Goldberg was upset with the other co-hosts using the term “rape” to describe Polanski’s crime. Whoopi wanted them to not call it “rape” because he had only pleaded guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.” THAT IS STILL RAPE! He was originally charged with more serious rape crimes, including anal sodomy, but took a plea deal for one charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Since a 13-year-old child can NEVER consent to sex, it most definitely is rape.
    It sickens me that some members of the film and Hollywood world and coming to his defense and are outraged by this. The “Little House on the Prairie” actress on the View today expressed that she thought that the arrest was out of proportion. THIS WAS THE RAPE OF A CHILD! This is the most heinous crime, short of murder, that one can commit.
    Also, I’m tired of people putting the blame on the mother for allowing the girl to go to the home of Jack Nicholson alone. Nicholson and Polanski were Hollywood royalty, and highly respected, well-known stars..It’s sort of like today most mothers would feel comfortable having their daughters alone with Brad Pitt or Justin Timerblake, because they are such huge stars and s well-known by the public, we feel like we know them and would feel that we could trust them…It’s not as if he was just some sleezy director off the street.

    On reading this from Samantha Geimer, I would again reiterate that there is absolutely no doubt on the rape from either side, but there are serious doubts about what went on then legally and what has gone one since with the media coverage.
    Let’s hope this arrest sorts it all out once and for all.

  • Sandi

    He raped a 13-year-old. He admitted to raping the 13-year-old. How much more cut and dry does it even get?

  • llevinso

    The victim is still saying she was raped. RAPED. Her story has not changed. She would just prefer Polanski not be charged now.

  • Comrade Kevin

    I’m not sure what I can add that hasn’t been said already, but aside from Polanki’s arrest, what hasn’t been mentioned as why this happened now. After 30 years and constant travel between different countries, why was the decision made at this moment to arrest him?
    I’m also a little disturbed at how easily artists who make it big can be so easily forgiven for more than just their eccentricities. Artists who don’t make it big are hardly forgiven for anything.

  • Suzann

    So the ‘estate’ has ‘compensated’ her – and so his confession and conviction should be ignored?
    Just curious – exactly how much wealth and celebrity do you need before you can drug and sodomise a 13 year old? And do you pay just once ( like a hunting liscense maybe? ) or is the cost per-child?
    I’m finding the contrast between certain comments here and certain other comments on the Hofra case really… enlightening.

  • Lily A

    How about having to wear a t-shirt with the word “rapist” every time he appears in public?
    How about having to go on an unpaid lecture circuit where he talks in schools about consent, and how to avoid being a rapist?

  • tommydagun

    Anne Applebaum’s invocation of Polanski’s past as a Holocaust survivor as explanation for his absconding in her column here I found particularly offensive.

  • Newbomb Turk

    It wasn’t a “mistake” at all. He knew what he was doing.

  • Justin O

    The story I heard on NPR this morning was that he pled guilty as part of a plea bargain he struck with the judge. The judge then reneged on that plea bargain AFTER the guilty plea, so Polanski fled to France.
    Granted this is what Polanski and his lawyers say – who know if it’s true. Knowing the unjust court system of the United States, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. So I’d feel a little bit better about bringing Polanski to justice if I felt confident the case had been treated to justice in the first place.
    Also – why Polanski? If it was someone less famous, do you think they would have kept the case open for 31 years? It’s sad that anyone could get away with a heinous crime for so long, but it’s even sadder if we’re only going to actually go after famous people to improve the reputation of the district attorney.
    So there’s lots of things that smell wrong with all of this. I don’t know that anyone (not the victim, not society, not the legal system) really benefits from his arrest. This isn’t to lessen the impact of the charges against him – if he did what they say he did, it was a hideous crime. I just don’t see what arresting him now accomplishes besides a giant publicity stunt. Not to mention I agree with what one of the previous commentators said about prison – since he isn’t a danger and therefore not really anything to rehabilitate, what’s the point?

  • Logrus

    I’ve only read the interview where he professed his innocence and stated that it was a false accusation and that he didn’t think anyone would ever lie about such a thing before it happened to him. What was it that he did that was so shitty? Was it where he said something about giving herself enough rope to hang herself? I mean that seems like the kind of thing you say when someone is making up stuff about you, not really all that bad or bad at all if you’re really being falsely accused of something.

  • Uppity Broad

    Somehow I don’t think we’d be having all this apologizing, “long time ago” discussions, etc. if the victim had been MALE.

  • Uppity Broad

    Maybe the message that avoiding justice for (however) long doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it. Isn’t it interesting that a male thinks it’s no big deal? Not surprising, however. Maybe the message is that the next RAPIST will be punished too.

  • Glauke

    I’m not sure I’d want to listen to a lecture about “consent” by child molester.
    No, strike that: I think that is worthy of official protest

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  • Glauke

    I’m sort of hoping that a less famous person wouldn’t get away with this type of crime either. It just wouldn’t be all over the news.
    And then, that person might not have the financial means to leave the country.
    Btw your justice system tends to fail people of colour, not rich white men, so I don’t quite understand that part of your comment.
    After leaving the States he started another “affair” with a fifteen year old. How does that make him ‘no longer a danger’?

  • Glauke

    I can imagine that would have changed the dynamics.
    Are you implying that male rape victims are more likely to be perceived as a victim? More likely to be believed? Or is it because same sex rape is considered somehow more evil? Or because a man reporting being raped by a woman is simply laughed at? I’m not sure which different dynamic you are hinting at.

  • Uppity Broad

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Roman Polanski is a MALE. Men are not supposed to be raped; that’s women’s place in the world. If his victim had been a boy NO ONE would be apologizing, saying “it was so long ago,” etc.

  • joanneod

    This is interesting because on BBC radio they are reporting it as “having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl”. I didn’t even realise they were rape charges until I came on here. If it was rape and they’re playing it down, that’s completely unacceptable.

  • joanneod

    You are quite right. The BBC is also reporting this as he “had sex with a thirteen-year-old girl”. The language we use in reporting these kinds of cases is critical. Changing it from “rape” to “sex” contributes to minimising an inherently violent act and is completely unacceptable. I have written to the BBC to complain. Very disappointing from them!

  • zuri

    I think there are terms one can and cannot legally use here before Polanski gets all legal on their asses, like he did with Vanity Fair.
    Although this is clearly calls for the term “rape”, I think what he officially plead guilty to was “engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor”.

  • zuri

    “His traveling there to accept an award is the ultimate act of “I’m above the law.”
    Actually, Polanski has a house in Switzerland and regularly stays here. He has travelled around Europe and Asia for decades, unharmed, and it took American pressure on a sticky situation with the Swiss banks to encourage the authorities here to honour their responsibility to extradite.

  • llevinso

    What annoyed me was today on’s front page there was an article that said he “allegedly” had unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Um…he pled guilty! You can take the “allegedly” part out now!

  • Lily A

    Can you explain what this has to do with the Swiss banking incident, or link us to an article? I’ve never heard that angle and am curious.

  • Lily A

    I dunno… with the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, a lot of people were dismissive of the (mostly male) victims, saying that their abuse had been so long ago that it was pointless to try to get justice now, or we should leave the old priests alone because they are no longer a danger, etc.

  • alawyer

    The story I heard on NPR this morning was that he pled guilty as part of a plea bargain he struck with the judge. The judge then reneged on that plea bargain AFTER the guilty plea, so Polanski fled to France.

    No, in the U.S. a plea bargain agreement is struck with the prosecutor, not with the judge. Typically, the accused agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense and the prosecutor agrees to request a sentence of no more than X. The decision regarding the sentencing, however, is ultimately in the hands of the judge, who is free to reject the plea bargain if they think it is inappropriate or unjust. That’s what happened here.
    Had this prosecution just been opened, this would be a nonissue because the statute of limitations would long since have expired. However, Polanski was actually convicted and has been living as a fugitive from justice for the past 30 years. I don’t think the justice system should tolerate that kind of behavior.
    The fact that Hollywood has closed ranks behind this guy because he’s made some great movies is just repulsive.

  • llevinso

    Very true alawyer. The plea bargin wasn’t with the judge, it was with the attorney. The judge has final say as to whether to uphold the deal or not. Now, the reasons behind the judge not wanting to uphold the deal could have been sketchy (I don’t think the deal should’ve been upheld anyway because it was WAY too lenient but I do know the judge’s history as well and I doubt that’s why he chose to throw it out) but Polanski would have been able to appeal the judge’s decision in that case. Instead he chose to flee.

  • zuri

    I don’t know of any English language articles, but if you read German there’s Probably the French-Swiss papers are full of it too.
    Of course it is all speculation, but there are even demonstrations here in Zurich complaining about this example of the US bossing Switzerland around. Lots of people are expressing solidarity with Polanski precisely because of this, it’s incredibly embarrassing.

  • Hara

    are you seriously defending R. Kelly AND a convicted rapist?
    Wow, I wonder what is going on underneath the need to defend a convicted rapist, who admitted to raping a 13 yr. old.
    as well as the decision to let a man go, even with evidence of him paying and pissing on a 14 yr. old girl.
    What is that?
    I’m genuinely concerned.

  • Newbomb Turk
  • Justin O

    Thank you for assuming how I identify in terms of gender based on my name. May I ask what part of “heinous crime” you thought meant “no big deal?”

  • Justin O

    Oh, and thank you also for dismissing anything I have to say because of my perceived gender identity.

  • Justin O

    I guess my point was that the justice system picks and chooses who it prosecutes. A vast majority of the time, that plays out as injustice towards people of color. I just have a tough time believing that if Polanski were some random person no one had ever heard of who had the resources to flee from sentencing 31 years ago, that the LA Sheriff’s department would have still cared enough to track him down. Whether we like it or not, rape isn’t taken seriously enough by the justice system to pursue for this long in all but the most sensational of cases (like this one).
    I don’t want anyone to think I’m defending Polanski – I’m not. He certainly deserves the fate he has in store for him (and deserved it 31 years ago). My criticism is the criminal justice system.

  • Justin O

    Another example of poor reporting in the case – the NPR story made it sound like the judge had accepted the plea bargain, then went back on it. I didn’t realize that’s not what happened. I guess put it up there with the news agencies avoiding the word ‘rape’ at all costs.
    Too bad there’s no mainstream feminist news agency!

  • zuri

    oh ,whoopi, why why why express an opinion on something you evidently know nothing about?
    a. if she had actually read about the case at all she would know it was rape.
    b. sex with minors is totally de rigueur in Europe? get a clue Whoopi: this is not a case of asylum.

  • everybodyever

    Actually, when pleading guilty to a lesser charge, Polanski himself admitted that he was aware at the time that she was 13. If you want proof, here’s the court transcript:
    Even if he HAD made the argument you ridiculously proffer, since when has “she looked 25!” ever been taken seriously by men who rape middle schoolers?

  • everybodyever

    That should read “from men who rape middle schoolers,” not “by men who rape middle schoolers.”


    Actually, you have your facts wrong.
    The State of California indicted Roman Polanski for rape and sodomy and the son of a bitch pled guilty
    And then he fled jurisdiction, like a coward, rather than do his time.
    And then, years later, he bribed his victim with an out of court settlement – a condition of which was that she forgive him for raping and sodomizing her
    The so called “apology” was brought and paid for by that sociopath, which is typical of how he’s used his wealth and power to evade incarceration all these years.
    Bottom line, confessed child rapist Roman Polanski belongs in prison.


    Well, convicted rapist Polanski could have avoided all of that if he had decided not to be a rapist – since he chose to be a rapist, he has no right to whine and complain about “injustice”

  • Mycroft Holmes

    Apparently even after he agreed to pay her; he took his sweet time actually doing it. Letting over $100,000 of interest build.