Roman Polanski, Unwanted and Undesired

Gauguin was a failure in the Paris art world and a lousy provider for his wife and children so he boarded a ship for Tahiti. Leaving behind his debts and his family, taking with him his resentment, his prejudices and his syphilis he preyed on Tahitian women. Mistaking their customs for a lack of morals, mistaking difference for noble savagery, he ‘discovered’ the Tahitians and translated them to the western world. He also created some of the most beautiful paintings, the most sensitive portrayals of the island people that have ever been made. Your image of Tahiti is probably colored in the shades of a Gauguin poster on a classroom wall.

Life isn’t fair.

Recently I heard a lecture by Linda Ledray; director of a sexual assault nurse examiner program. She said, ‘When I walk into a bar I don’t wonder whether there is an offender there, I wonder how many.’

Knowing what is really going on can make you cynical and frightened. Unlike the heroic antiheroes we see on TV and the movies, perps are as common as dirt. (No offense to dirt, which is useful.) Unlike those imposing hypermasculine guys who get carried away by their uncontrollable passions, a perp is likely to be an insecure man who plans ahead and looks for a victim who can’t fight back. Or one who won’t tell.

The recent Catholic church scandals exposed a sorry pattern of men using their authority and position of respect to get access to children. ‘Father McGillicuddy would never do a thing like that,’ you can hear the believers saying. Because to admit that he could and he did would take the roof off the church. Blaming a famous director for raping a child not only invalidates a lot of people’s meal tickets, it scares us. The only way to keep a comfort level is to blame the victim.

Samantha Gailey (now Geimer), thirteen years old, was not protected by any shield law after she was raped by Roman Polanski in 1977. She was instantly branded a nymphet, a Lolita, a temptress. The poor guy couldn’t help himself. The tabloids loved it.

The child who dreamed of being an actress, of finding fame, instead got notoriety. The man who lied to a mother to get access to a child, the man who enticed that child into taking a combination of drugs and alcohol that could have killed her, the man who violated not only that child but her whole family got a plea bargain.

The rape charges were reduced to ‘having sex with a minor’ because the family could no longer bear to see Samantha put on the witness stand again. In her own words in a 2003 interview in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Polanski had asked Geimer’s mother if he could photograph the 13-year-old girl for a French magazine, and her mother allowed a private photo shoot.

“My mom and I thought the photos would help my acting career,” Geimer says, laughing. “I wanted to be a movie star.”

“I had done some commercials, but I didn’t really want to be a model. I thought this would be helpful.”

But soon after her meeting with Polanski, Geimer began to feel uncomfortable around the director 30 years her senior.

“Everything was going fine; then he asked me to change, well, in front of him,” she says. “It didn’t feel right, and I didn’t want to go back to the second shoot. But I didn’t at that time have the self-confidence to tell my mother and everyone, ‘No, I’m not going to go.'”

During that second shoot, Polanski’s motives became apparent.

“We did photos with me drinking champagne,” Geimer says. “Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn’t quite know how to get myself out of there.”
Polanski sexually assaulted her after giving her a combination of champagne and Quaaludes.

Samantha Geimer gave up on acting after the rape. She did her best to put the whole episode behind her and recover her private life. Today she lives with her husband and children. Every so often Roman Polanski is in the news, reporters show up at her door and Samantha Geimer is forced to tell her story again.

Who would want to be defined by a crime committed against her? Samantha Geimer’s recovery is to the credit of her and her family. That she has forgiven Polanski is to her credit. She wants to move on. It’s a shame that he continues to intrude on her life.

After the plea bargain, Polanski fled to France to avoid going to trial. The press replayed the nymphet story. The wording of the reduced charges was taken as proof that this child consented to sex with a 44 year old man.

That’s still how the press plays it. Polanski is a free man in Paris, wealthy, powerful, respected for his creative work. It is supposed to be a terrible injustice that he cannot come to the US without facing the charges he ran from.

Blaming the great man is so disruptive. Recognizing how dirt common it is for an adult to rape a child makes the world a more frightening place. Accepting that someone could be both a pedophile and a person who has done things that are widely admired requires some growing up.

I wish to god that all the film critics who gush over this director would just face it. Polanski might be a creative genius. He raped a little girl. There is no law of nature that ordains that accomplished people can’t do appalling things. Consistency is seldom found in humans. Polanski himself suffered terrible losses in his life. But his rape of Samantha Geimer required convincing lies to her mother, two opportunities to get her alone, and drugs. Hardly an act of uncontrollable passion. More like the MO of someone who had practiced this before and thought he could get away with it. If Polanski didn’t prey on any other children he would be the exception, but I hope that is the case. Samantha Geimer believes he is sorry for what he did. Perhaps some day he will apologize.

We have two choices in a situation when a powerful man is found doing something indefensible. We can be grownups, and face the truth. Human nature allows for good and bad in the same person. A crime is not less because it was committed by dear old Father McGillicuddy, or the great director.

Or we can invent a fantasy world where conniving children seduce innocent adults. We can portray Roman Polanski as a poor lonely guy, who ‘had sex with’ a girl and now suffers a terrible exile in the film world of Paris. That’s how most of the critics frame it. That’s the message we give our children, that no one will believe their story. That’s a perp’s best refuge.

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19 responses

  1. joe bernstein

    Nancy-here is one subject where we are 100% on the same page.I had a hard time dealing with people who victimized children in particular,sexually or otherwise.Any sexual predator in fact was the lowest from of life imaginable-they made the average drug dealers I arrested look like Mother Teresa.
    I once had a case where a man assaulted a 7 month old girl -he inflicted a depressed skull fracture,four broken ribs,and over 30 puncture wounds with a hatpin.Oh,he didn’t sexually assault her-what a nice guy for that.He wasn’t related to her.The child lived,but justice was never served.He posted bail and fled the country.He fell and hurt himself ,so the judge gave him a low bail.Nice.
    Had another beauty in Illinois,a smuggler named Albert Cedillo.We recovered a woman from his basement who he had been holding as a slave to take care of the needs of the smuggled aliens he was harboring in his house.She was repaying her smuggling fee in this manner.She had to cook and clean and do “other things”-her compensation was that Cedillo allowed her daughter to attend school.
    Cedillo had previous convictions for manslaughter,raping his 18 year old daughter,and alien smuggling.Additionally he beat his wife one night, inducing a fatal heart attack.No charges.”Insufficient evidence”.
    This story had a happy ending.after he was arrested,Cedillo threatened a witness and his bail was revoked.He plead guilty and died in prison awaiting sentenceTerrible thing.
    So you know I have an attitude about a lot of offenders-not all.I understand the difference between malum in se crimes(basic evil acts)and malum prohibitum crimes(we say it’s illegal,so it is)and I react accordingly.
    There are some well-meaning young(and not so young) people who want to “rescue” offenders in institutions and help them straighten out their lives.they just have to make sure they haven’t latched on to a Jack Henry Abbott -that guy played a worldly old writer like Norman Mailer as if he were a sophomore at Brown.

  2. joe bernstein

    Nancy-I forgot to mention that I had an older female distant cousin,but who was close with my family who was raped repeatedly as a child by her father.She was a very attractive woman,but never married and eventually became severely mentally ill to the point of total disability.The father,who I never met and who thank God was not a blood relative was thrown out of his house-that’s it.No jail.Nothing.That was what happend back then,it was all hushed up.I saw a photo of him once-he looked like a normal businessman.He should have had his head cut off with a hacksaw.I never saw my daughter until she was five months old because I was away on my job and I was afraid to pick her up the first time I saw her-I thought she’d break or something.I cannot understand how people hurt children.This is why I have such a cold anger at the ACLU-they think convicted pedophiles have rights.So does Art Handy.He voted against Jessica’s Law.Every other legislator except Edith Ajello voted for it.What were they thinking?

  3. thank you joe,
    tonight HBO is running a special on Roman Polanski that shows him in a sympathetic light. i wish people could get their heads around the fact that someone can be an artist, or director, or generally a nice guy and still do awful things that hurt people. the press is still putting out the story that he ‘had sex with’ that child, as if it were a consensual affair between equals.
    the worst of it is the media, i remember the smirking tone of the articles at the time. Samantha Geimer said that her mother was portrayed as a predatory stage mother and she as a gold digger. i can’t imagine the pain of a mother who bears the guilt of having placed her daughter in harm’s way. Samantha’s life was thrown out of balance by that crime, and it continues to invade her life.
    My grandmother was raped by a housebreaker, so I know what it feels like when someone in your family is treated like that. It feels like a death. She didn’t want to go through the trial process, and she was also a strong woman who got on with her life. the credit is to the survivors, not the perps.

  4. Roman Polanski–Unwanted and Undesired…

    The parish priest, the famous director, the politician. When the Great Man preys on a child, the child must be to blame. So the man who drugged and raped a 13 year old is remade as a regular guy who ‘had sex with’ a conniving Lolita. Careers depend o…

  5. This same blame-the-victim mentality applies to acquiantance and date rape in general, too. People like to imagine a world where “they” are the bad guys, and the people they know (“we”) are the good guys. Bad guys there. Good guys here.

    It’s much, much too scary to think that someone you know, someone you even date or even like could do something terrible to you. It’s a tough truth to face.

  6. Suzanne Arena

    I agree 100% with Joe.

    My grandfather spoke 8 languages and raised in Constantinople with 40 servants. Best of best for schools and really a nice man. A man that always took an interest in children and they seemed to be drawn to him. It started with my mother and I was his victim for years. Strangely he was like a priest in that he provided a lot of emotional support that a child growing up in a dysfunctional home sought. I testified for Jessica’s law and continue to fight for the many reasons Joe lays out.

    The average pedophile will victimize 244 children in his or her lifetime, according to the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.

    Absolutely they are on every street in USA. They are in your family. The only way to oust them of their disease (which is definitely is an impulse trigger disease) is to kill them (I vote for this one) or chemically castrate or Tattoo S.O. on their forehead so we can see habitual caught offenders coming through the library or the playground. I opt for anyone of these.

    Shame on the Catholic Church whom long ago allowed men to marry. But due to greed and the loss of their precious land when the husband would die – – the land went to families and the almighty Church was peeved and implemented the Rule that they need to not be married. Certainly wasn’t because of more dedication…if they thought about the ramifications of not allowing men to have physical acts of romance with a woman, it’s forcing some to have unnatural exposure luring victims to feed their desire upon young parishioners.

    I wouldn’t support in anyway this type of garbage on the screen, in a book or listen to someone like Rep. Handy explain away why he voted against such a Bill.

    And the ACLU which feels they have rights. The ACLU forgets whom they are supposed to represent – – a voice for the people…for the ACLU or the media to glorify any actions is incomprehensible to me.

    They have committed a crime and served their sentence and should be able to be in society or direct a movie, write a book and make money. We victims live with an open wound, surviving, acutely aware of the eye of a S.O. with a sixth sense if you will, never…ever serve out our term of victim and are able to be “untouched” by the pain endured.

    Children don’t lie – listen, and be an advocate for your child’s innocence.

  7. wow. thank you for writing suzanne. it is so true that people who are respected and liked can be destructive to children in their power. the anger a person feels when they are treated as a means not an end is not to be underestimated.
    what bothers me about this current roman polanski revival is not just a man getting away with a crime. this is the norm not the exception.
    what bothers me is that the press uses the same evasions and mis-characterizations today that they used thirty years ago. raping someone is not ‘having sex with’ them any more than robbing someone is accepting a gift. with all the supposedly frank talk about sex, the mainstream press still would rather distort the truth than face reality.
    i have to just say, though, that we all have the right to be assumed innocent until proved guilty. i have four brothers and many nephews, and it helps no one at all to convict the innocent.
    roman polanski is staying out of the country because he fled rather than face a trial. too bad he’s not man enough to acknowledge his crime, apologize, and face a jury.

  8. joe bernstein

    Nancy-The reason I am so angry with the ACLU and Handy is that Jessica’s Law applied to convicted offenders.They had their due process.The ACLU in the NAMBLA case is defending a pedophile support group against a private civil suit by the parents of a murdered 10 year old boy.The family’s name is Curley and the case is in Massachusetts.The ACLU is supposedly there to defend against governmental abuse of constitutional rights.No governmental entity is involved as a litigant in the case.I confronted Steven Brown about this case on radio-he claimed not to know about it.He is a lying scumbag.That is my true feeling.The case had a high enough profile that as an Executive Director in the next state over he couldn’t not know about it.He had no acceptable explanation is what I believe.
    Suzanne-my wife suggested tattooing just under the eye where it can’t be hidden by a beard.Thank you for having the courage to say what happened to you.I don’t know if I could given the same situation.

  9. People, convicted pedophiles or not, *do* have rights. One of these rights is to representation, and that is what the ACLU is providing. After the sentence is over, they lose a portion of their right* to privacy after having registered as sex offenders. Most people don’t take advantage of what they can do to protect their privacy in America, so I imagine that they effectively have almost as many rights as you, Joe.

    So many of these guys are repeat offenders, that I’d prefer that they’d be imprisoned for life on the first offense, but instead, politicians seem to prefer to meander around the sentencing issue, instead trying to combat the distribution of child pornography on the internet rather than it’s actual production (which is itself is much more evil than the *distribution* of child porngraphy, which is closer to libel than violent crime).

    *While a right to privacy as I define it isn’t enumerated in law, the U.S. is probably the best country in the developed world for privacy – no other society assumes that people have a right to be left alone.

  10. Suzanne Arena

    Good point about allegations Nancy towards the men in your family. One can look not too long ago at the young football team boys that were falsely accused of a gang rape. I’m afraid there are many malicious women and it’s unfortunate that folks have to use their savings to prove their innocence.

    Nancy, thank you for providing this information – it seems we turn over to other country’s their felon’s and I can’t help but wonder why France is not obligated to do so under the International Treaty (but this is not my expertise).

    Joe, I am very very familiar with that case. I lived in Quincy, MA at the time and I have only been here 6 1/2 yrs. ago. I agree with your assertion that this was widely recognized. I recall the two S.O.’s raped the 10 yr old and dumped his body in a plastic rubbermaid container in …NH (I think). I also recall the family tried to reinstate the Death Penalty, not sure if that ever went through though. I agree with you about ACLU – I am very disappointed and you should continue your fury against them. I like the way your wife thinks.

    Parents don’t want to think about educating your children (for age appropriate learning) on how to spot a predator. I have taught mine at a young age and the first lesson is:
    No Secrets
    Respect your body
    Act with socially acceptable behavior
    Every poor choice has a consequence

    While I don’t want children to be obsessed, I want them to have awareness and fear. They are like cubs when we are out and stay close to my presence because the jackals are near, and waiting.

    I recall a late night movie that had all these criminals on an Island. I think we should use the same theory here. Just patrol Boats and Helicopters that would shoot an escapee and food flown in. Essentially, a community of Sex Offenders that can never feed off of their desire to feed off children. Shangri-La!

  11. you’re right that we need to teach children how to say no to inappropriate demands on them from adults or even peers.
    Day One had a ‘good touch, bad touch’ program.
    the value of teaching children that they have a right to say no, and that no one has a right to require them to keep a secret, is that this assertive skill can be used in other situations.
    power is misused all the time. criminal assault is the extreme, but bullying and undermining is the norm.
    the reason we have to protect children is that they depend on adults–the younger they are the greater the dependancy. and adults depend on the patronage of other adults. it takes maturity to take the side of the child, or the unimportant person, over the power structure we all work with. California voters decided that Arnold Schwartzeneggar’s selective sexual bullying of women over the years was not a bar to being governor, but they should be warned. Character shows in other situations, and they elected a man with a mean streak and experience in finding people to take it out on.

  12. I watched the documentary on Roman Polanski and I did not find it put him in a positive light. If anything, it made me think less of him. However, what was shocking to me, as an attorney who has spent most of her career representing abused children, were the actions of the judge in this case. I do not believe I have ever seen a case where the prosecutor and the defense attorney agree the judge committed malfeaseance. The judge victimized Samantha as much, if not more, than Roman Polanski, as it was his job to protect her.

    As for the ACLU and Megan’s laws, in a perfect world they would work. However, I know several young men who at seventeen had consensual sex with their fifteen year old girlfriends who are branded as sexual predators. On the other hand, I have heard of actual predators who have been allowed to plea bargain their cases to offenses that would not have them end up on the sexual registers list. It is an imperfect system at best.

  13. Thanks Anne. Point well taken that there is a grey area for sure, unfortunately, most Judge’s allow the plea bargaining of a “normal profile” M.O. (ex: 40yr old S.O. and a 6 yr old boy) from 30 years to 6 served and they plea bargain from Level III to II and get off the website. There are many avenues to eliminate them being on the radar. It is most unfortunate when young adult and a older teenager engage in consensual sex (ex: 18yr boy and 17 yr. girl). A grey issue, but Polanski is not in that example. We need to revamp and give mandates that they are chemically treated at every parole check follow up. Sorry lefties, but folks with anger disorders, ADHD, Biopolar are successfully treated with medication and it’s not inhumane, but I guess the argument is they are not forced to take it. Criminals such as Polanski should be forced to take medication as they lose their rights when they take anothers life and alter it.

  14. thanks, Anne and thanks,Suzanne. i have also heard of cases where situations that should have been dealt with in counseling resulted in someone being labeled a sex offender. it’s a terrible dilemma–that a well-intended law that is not written right can have unintentional consequences. That’s why I do appreciate the ACLU, although i don’t agree with them on everything.
    Interestingly, a professor who lobbys for stricter laws against human trafficking was defended by Steven Brown when she was sued for slander. She won on first amendment grounds, free speech.

  15. joe bernstein

    Anne-I don’t think the framers of Jessica’s Law have any intention of branding a teenager who engaged in consensual sex with someone of similar age,but under the limit,as a sexual predator.
    The ACLU and Steven Brown in particular almost seem to take a pleasure in running interference for dangerous people on the lines of the subhuman animal who sexually abused a little boy in the New Bedford Library-the judge in that case should be removed for malfeasance in light of the opinions of mental health professionals regarding the offender where they opposed his release.there is no cure for pedophiles any more than there is for serial murderers.Nancy is so right-there are many pedophiles who look so “normal”and hold responsible positions in society.They don’t seem like Baby Face Nelson or John Dillinger,but those guys didn’t destroy children’s lives either.I am sure you will agree that victims of pedophiles wind up doing life sentences of psychological injury and there’s no parole from that.
    I was recently in an acrimonious conversation with an ACLU attorney who told me convicted pedophiles had “rights”-I disagreed.They have NO right to ever be near a child again.If they have to live under a bridge to accomplish that end,fine with me.
    Children depend on us adults for security,guidance,education and a general sense of well-being-they deserve that much-when they get older they’ll find out how screwed up things are,but why rush it?

  16. the problem with a law that is not written perfectly is that it can be used in ways that the framers never intended. in the anti-trafficking movement I am hearing arguments that the Mann Act should be enforced. this is an old law that bars men from taking women across state lines for immoral purposes. it was used selectively, to target well-known people.

  17. Nancy-Jack Johnson?I spent about 2 years on the Anti-Smuggling Unit in the Chicago District Office of the INS-nowadays the rendy term is Human Trafficking-the state legislators who are introducing legislation are sadly uninformed about the bulk of human trafficking which consists of ordinary illegal aliens seeking work.I can’t go into detail of how big a business it is,but to make a viable case the investigation has to be quite complex in most cases.People are very quick to point out what they think is human trafficking and often haven’t the slightest clue.We had a major human trafficking case in RI in 1985-we got 11 indictments and 10 convictions in breaking up a ring that smuggled about 10,000 aliens from Central America(not Mexico)into southern New England over a 12 year period utilizing contract US mail trucks,commercial air and automobiles for the trip from Logan.we had to infiltrate the ring with undercover INS agents to accomplish a successful investigation.
    There are no “instant experts” in this field,but don’t tell that to some of our state legislators.
    No law is perfect because they are written by us humans,but I’ll side with those who want to keep convicted predators on a tight leash.

  18. i can’t argue against the ‘tight leash’. when i worked in mental health we had sex offenders who were on home confinement. they were sad, hapless guys who were harmless to everyone but children, and i think adults often underestimate how dangerous they are.
    i very much appreciate your take on human trafficking. there is a movement called the ‘new abolitionism’ that focuses on sex trafficking and pretty much ignores the fact that the driving force is money and that traffickers sell labor, they don’t care what kind.
    we got a law passed in Providence, I’ve been told that after a year of work it has no teeth and we were wasting our time. the coalition is focusing on lobbying for the federal ‘Wilberforce Bill’. I’m not joining them, i just don’t trust the whole premise.
    Meanwhile, the police bust a ‘spa’ every year or so and find illegal korean women living in squalor.

  19. Nancy-not for nothing-but i have been busted on frequently in various blogs for not capitalizing,punctuation,run on sentences,etc-it’s nice to see someone else with a liberated sense of the written word :))

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