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

  • Anywoman

    First time commenter, here.
    Thank you for a place to allow me to vent. The reporting on this story is terrible. “Sex Charges.” Not “rape charges” is how CNN has been reporting on it. Also, France has come out in support of this rapist!!!! http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/09/28/zurich.roman.polanski.arrested/index.html
    Makes me sick. I am SO glad that the US still is trying to prosecute him. I hope his victim is ok and able to survive the public lynching that is going to happen in the media.
    Victims get victimized twice.

  • JesiDangerously

    I had no idea that the lead singer from Modest Mouse had been accused of rape. His response to the accusation was despicable. Man, it’s a good thing I never bought any of their albums.

  • Alice

    I do have to disagree with Scott Lemieux. The victim in question is the only person with any legitimate standing in this crime. She was raped, not you, or me, or society in the abstract, and as such, she alone is entitled to pursue or not pursue the matter in courts. Ideally, the legal system would recognize that. The fact she was 13 when it happened justified pursuing it regardless before, but as an adult she is now presumably capable of taking charge of legal preceding being carried out in her name, which she should be allowed to unilaterally bring to a close if she has indeed forgiven her rapist.

  • Gretel

    The media is tripping over itself to appear objective when there is absolutely no cause to do so. Polanski is a convicted rapist. He admitted he was a rapist as part of a plea bargain before he fled to France. Yet the media is portraying him as the victim. Most articles I’ve read in the mainstream media state that Polanski “had sex with a 13-year-old girl.” False. Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl.
    That Amanda Hess article was very helpful. Thank you for posting it.

  • LivingOutLoud

    Alice, I think you make a really good point, and I almost want to agree with you, but I can’t. He was convicted at the time charges were pursued against him, and then fled before his sentencing. The case is still open, so to speak.
    I understand the wishes of the victim, but it’s not her case to pursue now, it’s a matter of the federal courts, because he fled the country to avoid his sentencing, after being convicted of a crime. He’s already been convicted of the crime, that’s not up for debate. It’s a matter of how the U.S. Justice Dept. will move forward with his case.
    And I think this being pursued and him being forced to take responsibility is important, because otherwise it just reinforces the idea that if you’re rich and powerful, the world will let you do what you want without consequence.

  • ooperbooper

    Quoting Kate Harding because she said it better than I could:
    “But what of the now-45-year-old victim, who received a settlement from Polanski in a civil case, saying she’d like to see the charges dropped? Shouldn’t we be honoring her wishes above all else?
    In a word, no. At least, not entirely. I happen to believe we should honor her desire not to be the subject of a media circus, which is why I haven’t named her here, even though she chose to make her identity public long ago. But as for dropping the charges, Fecke said it quite well: “I understand the victim’s feelings on this. And I sympathize, I do. But for good or ill, the justice system doesn’t work on behalf of victims; it works on behalf of justice.”
    It works on behalf of the people, in fact — the people whose laws in every state make it clear that both child rape and fleeing prosecution are serious crimes. 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.

  • Hara

    He sodomized a drunk, drugged 13 yr. old girl.
    He is a rapist.
    California V Polanski, whether the woman who was raped when she was a child wants to prosecute or not.

  • llevinso

    That is basically what I was trying to say in the Community post on the subject but you’ve said it much better than I. Yes, the victims do get a chance to speak during sentencing and their voices are heard. But in the end it is up to the courts to decide punishment, not the victims themselves. This is an important part of our justice system.

  • alixana

    But when the victim says that the continued dragging out of this 30 years later is the only thing that continues to victimize her, I completely disagree.
    I feel bad about disagreeing with you, llevinso, because you’re one of my favorite commenters here.
    But it seems to me that everyone is fighting so hard for justice that the victim is being subjected to a huge amount of injustice that she has begged to be set free from.
    She’s spent 30 years stuck between a fight between her male rapist and the male prosecutors and judges who are rabidly refusing to let go. She’s been asking for years for them to stop and let her move on.
    If this had all just happened last year, and he had just fled, I’d have a different point of view. But this woman’s entire life has been marred by this. It’s time to let her have her rest.

  • ooperbooper

    I missed your community post llevinso, but I’m interested to read it now.
    And I messed up the HTML on my comment. That whole block should be in italics. Those aren’t my words, they’re Harding’s.

  • Angelo

    Rape is a crime against the State.
    The ramifications of giving victims of crimes the decision to pursue criminal charges on behalf of the State could be dangerous– a criminal could simply pay off victims, threaten them, etc. (threats happen often enough anyways) in order to evade criminal charges, which could further endanger the public.
    Victim’s wishes are more appropriately obeyed in civil court proceedings, but full discretion is currently given to prosecutors in criminal courts.

  • llevinso

    Yeah I realized that after I responded. So I completely agree with you quoting Kate Harding :)

  • Gretel

    I wish this woman all the peace in the world, but the fact that she was raped by a famous film director means her life will always be marred by this in a very public way. She will be mentioned in the first paragraph of his obituary, even if not by name.
    I find it reprehensible that he is able to secure funding to make big-budget films and that he is presented with lifetime achievement awards. Every “achievement” of his that he has as a fugitive puts her back in the spotlight.

  • llevinso

    I do understand what you’re saying and I appreciate that we can discuss this like adults. Obviously, being a rape survivor myself I sympathize very much with the victim in this case. But I just cannot change my mind on this fact otherwise the whole justice system becomes a joke. Something that doesn’t apply to the rich and famous. I just…can’t be okay with that.

  • SaraLaffs

    Thank you for posting this. As a rape survivor and hard-core movie lover, I’ve always avoided this topic because I’ve never been able to distill my thoughts. These writers – and all the commenters here – have really helped with that.

  • Nona

    The Kate Harding piece is great, and also Little Light’s on Feministe is particularly affecting:
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/09/28/puzzle-activity-time/

  • Alice

    That is how it works, but it’s exactly that sort of thing that I’m arguing against. Polanski did not rape the Federal Court System, and acting on behalf of “the people” in disregard to the wishes of the person who was actually victimized is a complete perversion of justice.
    This isn’t how things actually work, of course. Recognition of the fact that only individuals can be victims would mean an end to victimless crimes, which is a huge part of the present legal system.

  • Lisa

    Even ignoring the crime itself, he was convicted (not just charged) of a crime and fled before sentencing. Do we really want to send the message that as long as a person has the means to stay away for enough years, we will just remove the obligations they fled from?

  • Gretel

    Switzerland has an extradition treaty with the United States, so Polanski went there knowing that he could be arrested and extradited. His traveling there to accept an award is the ultimate act of “I’m above the law.” An angle of this story that I haven’t seen discussed about how this affects Polanski’s family. His children didn’t ask to be born to a child rapist who fled the U.S. criminal justice system. And so in going to Switzerland–which was his choice; he could have avoided prosecution by staying in France–Polanski has hurt not only his original victim, but also his family and friends.

  • hfs

    For better or for worse, this is how it works. Unfortunately it leaves a lot of power in the hands of prosecutors, so you get abuses like the Genarlow Wilson case, the Duke case, etc.
    A high-ranking federal or state prosecutor is probably the one individual you should most go out of your way to avoid pissing off: they can singlehandedly ruin your life (probably permanently) and there are few checks on their power.

  • Newbomb Turk

    I never realized there were so many apologists for child molesters until I noticed not one, but two columns on Huffington Post showing outrage that Polanski would be collared. One of them even calls for a boycott of Switzerland!
    In a way I’m not surprised. Huffington Post has always revolved around star-fucking (all the columns from D-list celebrities) and child abuse (all the anti-vaccination bullshit), so why wouldn’t they combine the two?
    Don’t even get me started on IMDB, which has so many people supporting this child rapist that I started to wonder if IMDB wasn’t a front for NAMBLA.

  • patriarchive.wordpress.com

    Ann Little at Historiann has a great post about the disappearance of the term “rape” in these news stories. http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/28/the-word-rape-has-been-disappeared-from-the-english-language/

  • EKSwitaj
  • Lily A

    I’m honestly a little confused about what you’re saying here.
    Recognition of the fact that only individuals can be victims would mean an end to victimless crimes, which is a huge part of the present legal system.
    Are you saying that the only crimes that should be prosecuted are the ones where there is a clear victim who wishes to press charges? What about smuggling illegal arms — should that that not a crime until someone is actually killed by the guns? What about someone who kidnaps or rapes a child and manages to brainwash her into thinking there’s no problem?
    I agree that Polanski didn’t “rape the federal court system,” and I have a lot of sympathy for the survivor who simply wants to move on with her life. But in my mind there are other victims in this crime — any other child who could be raped in the future, and never get justice because the perpetrator fled the country. All the woman in our society who live in the midst of rape culture, and see our concerns not taken seriously by the justice system. Anyone who could be pressured or threatened by their rapist not to press charges or to make public statements of forgiveness so that the rapist can go unpunished.
    It’s a really tricky situation and I understand that people in good faith can honestly disagree here… but I don’t see how only punishing crimes with a clear victim eager to prosecute would be better than our current system.

  • cattrack2

    I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I certainly don’t feel like Polanski has “atoned” for the crime since he only partially fulfilled his sentence.
    On the other hand, the witness reports say that a number of people at the house where the incident took place thought the girl was as old as 25. And, I think you certainly have to factor in the views of the now 45yo woman who was the victim in the case.
    Based on this I think I come down on the ‘let the past be the past’ side.

  • Gretel

    cattrack2: Polanski did not receive a sentence. He fled the United States while his attorneys were arranging a plea agreement with the judge.
    Also, as some of the linked-to blog posts stated very eloquently: It doesn’t matter how old she looked. She said no to Polanski’s sexual advances, but he ignored her and raped her. Even if she had been of the age of consent, it still would have been rape.

  • LivingOutLoud

    I think the fact that the victim required permission from her mother to engage in the photo shoot dissolves any confusion about her age.
    The people who were at the house at the time were not the rapist. Polanski, having to get permission to photograph her, was undoubtedly privy to her actual age.
    Why must we continue to make excuses for this man? Is it because he makes movies? Seriously people?
    Let’s just let the past be the past…are you serious? I would rethink that thought and think about how many perpetrators of crimes that could apply to….

  • Alice

    Are you saying that the only crimes that should be prosecuted are the ones where there is a clear victim who wishes to press charges
    Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. I’m rather strongly opposed to the use of violence, and so must insist on heavy burdens of proof on the part of the state that represents me that the use of it is justified. However, as I mentioned above, I’m ok with the state prosecuting on behalf of children. Homicide victims as well.

  • Lily A

    How about the example I used of smuggling illegal arms?
    Or what about corporate fraud? If somebody’s cooking the books and stealing money, it’s not clear who the “victim” is — I guess with publicly traded companies it’s the shareholders, but what about private companies?
    Or how about voter fraud? If I have a thousand dead people “vote” for my chosen candidate, who’s the victim (especially if there is no other candidate, or if the fraud didn’t change the results of the election)? Or if I make a fake ID for my 13-year-old sister so she can drink? Or if I drive drunk but get caught before I actually kill anybody?
    In all of these crimes, there’s not one clear victim who would feel directly harmed and want to press charges. But they obviously have negative effects on society, and I would argue that they should all be prosecuted. Do you disagree?
    I’m not trying to attack you, I just really want to understand your position.

  • llevinso

    Did you actually read the victim’s account of the rape? Regardless of whether she was 13 or 35 she DID NOT CONSENT TO SEX. She said no multiple times and Polanski continued to rape her. It’s clear cut rape!

  • llevinso

    Wow, well I’m totally NOT on board with that idea.

  • Anywoman

    “On the other hand, the witness reports say that a number of people at the house where the incident took place thought the girl was as old as 25. And, I think you certainly have to factor in the views of the now 45yo woman who was the victim in the case.”
    Seriously? The victim was DRUGGED and then RAPED. She could not consent!

  • cattrack2

    Please don’t flame me. This is a borderline case with old & possibly sketchy evidence, official misconduct, and laws which were quite different at the time, including the fact that age of consent was then just 14 (apparently making the girl able to consent to sex well before she could consent to a photo shoot). This is hardly a slam dunk decision on either side & those that hold otherwise aren’t being objective. If the victim felt otherwise about prosecution, you could make the opposite determination, but on balance I think it suggests moving forward. I understand that others feel differently, but don’t paint me as Ted Bundy or some BTK killer because I disagree.

  • llevinso

    No the age of consent WAS NOT 14. It was 16. And she wasn’t 14 anyway, she was 13.
    Like I said, regardless of age: she said no, he did it anyway = RAPE.
    What is sketchy at all about that?
    Did you actually read the articles linked? Especially the Kate Harding one?

  • ooperbooper

    The age of consent at the time was 16.

  • alixana

    Even though I’ve been arguing that should they let it go for the victim’s sake, since the victim has been pleading for them to for years, I don’t think there’s any question at all that Polanski drugged and raped her. Even in her most recent statements asking the prosecution to just let it go and stop re-victimizing her, she states that all the “lurid” (her word) details are true, which is why she feels victimized every time the media latches onto it again.
    It’s not a question of wheth

  • alixana

    Even though I’ve been arguing that should they let it go for the victim’s sake, since the victim has been pleading for them to for years, I don’t think there’s any question at all that Polanski drugged and raped her. Even in her most recent statements asking the prosecution to just let it go and stop re-victimizing her, she states that all the details are true, which is why she feels victimized every time the media latches onto it again.
    My feelings about how the prosecutors and judges are basically using her all these years later without regard for her well-being are completely aside from any speculation about the truth of the charges.

  • alixana

    D’oh, extra-clicky-thumbs hitting ‘submit’ before I fully formed my thoughts, sorry. I thought I’d stopped it before it went through.

  • ooperbooper

    “My feelings about how the prosecutors and judges are basically using her all these years later without regard for her well-being are completely aside from any speculation about the truth of the charges.”
    Yes. Exactly.
    By the way alixana, this was basically the gist of the two perspectives they ran on Broadsheet. Mary Elizabeth Williams does a good job supporting what you’ve argued in this thread and countering Kate Harding. I respectfully disagree with you but you do have a legitimate argument.

  • Tara K.

    I’m torn on this one.
    I want to hate any rapist. I do.
    But I don’t like prison as a form of punishment. I think prison should be used to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated and to protect society from those who cannot.
    30 years later, it’s too late to rehabilitate Polanski, and he hasn’t shown any record that he is a repeat offender of violence. I don’t think rapists should go free just because time has elapsed, but I’m not sure I think prison has a purpose.

  • Newbomb Turk

    Exactly!
    I bet there are thousands of child rapists in jail right now who are just kicking themselves:
    “If only I had been a successful movie director when I fucked those kids!”

  • Alice

    I disagree that society is a rights-bearing entity against which crimes can be committed in any but the most metaphorical sense. Crimes against society are crimes only insofar as they are crimes against individuals. For the legal system to act otherwise leads to absurd situations in which individuals are victimized in the name of preventing the victimization of an abstract collective.
    With corporate fraud, it is as you said likely the shareholders who are the victims. This isn’t too much of an issue; shareholders sue corporate management all the time over such things. The company being private actually makes it more straight forward, since ownership tends to change hands less frequently than for a public company.
    Making a fake ID for your sister would be a form of fraud against the seller of alcohol, who for whatever reason is only willing to sell to those over a certain age. Driving drunk without hurting anyone would not itself be a crime. However, owners of roads, presently governments for the most part, would also be free to set rules for use. Since I can’t imagine any owner of a publicly accessible road that would allow drunk driving, it would be a crime of trespass against them. This wouldn’t need to be posted; surely a court would find that any reasonable person would assume such a prohibition.
    For smuggling illegal arms, I’d say that the arms shouldn’t be illegal in the first place, as outlawing such things constitutes preemptive violence. Smuggling large amounts of weaponry despite it not being illegal to do openly could constitute probable cause for investigation, but if nothing comes up regardless, what’s there to do? Imprison people who have yet to actually do anything wrong? Completely unacceptable.
    The only troublesome case you bring up is voter fraud, which is sticky because it involves an institution which necessarily commits aggression to sustain its very existence, the government. Being something of a “necessary evil,” it is to be expected that some ancillary evils will be needed for its smooth operation, and so I would say that, to the extent that the existence of the state itself is tolerable, punishing such apparently victimless crimes as voter fraud must also tolerable.
    There are probably other ways in which the situations you describe could be found to victimize some party other than society in the abstract, but the onus would be on the allegedly victimized party to prove it.

  • Luna

    I completely agree. But until we come up with an alternative punishment for crimes like these, what are we to do?

  • gothicguera

    I got so pissed off when I read this
    “He’s a brilliant guy, and he made a little mistake 32 years ago. What a shame for Switzerland,” said photographer Otto Weisser, a friend of Polanski.
    Really?????????? a 44 man invites a 13year old and drugs her and rapes her? The fact that he when to Europe to escape the charges makes him even more guilty in my eyes.

  • cattrack2

    Llevinso I read the Hess article, it was well argued & well documented. She’s the one who states the age of consent at the time was 14 not 16.
    I’ve also read some MSM critiques of the case & they differ substantially, hence my feeling that this is a hard case to resolve. No one else was in the room, and I’m not privy to all the investigative notes of the police, DA, etc. While I don’t like any 13yo girl being victimized, from an objective perspective this is a very muddled case. I’m sorry. The only way to come to the conclusion that Polanski is 100% guilty is to take 100% of the accusations against him on full faith & credit. I don’t think you can ever do that w/ the American justice system, much less in a case where the judge himself suggested there was official misconduct.

  • jane

    I think he should face the sentence mostly because you shouldn’t just be able to run. I also don’t assume that she is the victim in his life, merely the only one he was prosecuted for.

  • llevinso

    Seriously? Now you’re basically saying you don’t believe what the victim said? Really? After Polanski already PLED GUILTY? Oh my god. Your comments are making me want to puke.

  • kisekileia

    I think we should also note that victims are not completely objective in judging the severity of what was done to them. Stockholm syndrome and related psychological phenomena, along with simple closeness to the offender during the course of the crime, can make it difficult for the victim of a crime to acknowledge that the offender did a horrible thing that is truly deserving of severe punishment. It is not uncommon for women to have rape charges dropped because they cannot bring themselves to, as they see it, send the offender to jail.
    I believe that when this happens, society usually needs to override the wishes of the victim and continue to prosecute the crime if the crime deserves to be prosecuted. In some cases, the victim may be right that the person does not truly deserve the standard legal penalties. In many cases, the process of prosecution re-victimizes the victim. However, when the offender does deserve the full force of the law, the full force of the law should be used. The process should always be conducted in a way that minimizes trauma for the victim, but prosecuting rape has wider goals than simply providing resolution for the victim.

  • Lisa

    But he already plead guilty (to a lesser charge in a plea bargain, but a guilty plea no less). The issue is not about evidence and circumstances but the failure to serve his sentence.
    But even if we look at the circumstances, I fail to see how it’s “very muddled”. She was not only well under the age of consent but 30 years younger than Polanski. He supplied a 13 year old with drugs and then had sex with that intoxicated 13 year old. Even if she said yes to both the drugs and the sex, that’s still pretty clear cut rape. What would it take for you to believe it was rape? Would she have had to scream “NO!” and been heard? Would she have to kick and fight so she would have bruises and cuts for evidence? Would a weapon have to be involved in the coercion?

  • Newbomb Turk

    I agree. Even O.J. Simpson’s most moronic apologists never claimed he should be let off because he was such a great running back.