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Squirrel M. Nutter
890 posts

Re: General question for those supporting Polanski...

Here is a great take on the situation:
Here, just to set the scene, as it were, is how the 13-year-old girl whom Roman Polanski pleaded guilty to having illegal sex described the assault: Testifying before the Los Angeles Supreme Court in 1978, she said that Polanski, then 44 years old, gave her a sedative, Quaalude, along with champagne. He performed a number of sex acts on her, as she repeatedly told him "no" and that she wanted to go home. Unsure whether the child was taking a birth-control pill, Polanski sodomized her.

Because the girl did not want to testify at the rape trial of an internationally admired film director, Polanski was allowed to plead guilty to the least important charge against him, that of having sex with a minor.

The effect of that plea bargain has been to put the emphasis on the age of the girl rather than the assault, as though she had been amenable, just too young to be having sex.

This idea that the girl wasn't entirely unwilling might be what prompted Whoopi Goldberg to say "Whatever Polanski was guilty of, it wasn't rape-rape," as if real rape only happens in dark alleys. (This is nonsense, of course: According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 38 per cent of rape victims are assaulted by a friend or acquaintance, 28 per cent by "an intimate" and seven per cent by a relative. Only one in four is committed by a stranger.)

Polanski also has long held the view that sex with a minor is of little consequence. In a Tatler magazine interview in 1979, he said there was so much interest in his case only because "everyone wants to f---young girls." By this year, he had gone in his mind from being an object of interest to becoming the chief and possibly only victim in the case. The case against him was a "lie," and U.S. authorities were seeking his extradition only to "serve me on a platter to the media of the world," he said from his Swiss chalet where he was confined after Switzerland arrested him at the request of the U.S.

Unfortunately for the cause of defending children from the sexual attentions of grown men, Polanski is not alone in thinking he is the victim. A distressing number of writers, film directors and actors lobbied for his release.

On Monday, when Switzerland set Polanski free, the unspeakably pretentious French writer Bernard-Henri Levy pronounced himself "mad with joy." Polanski's beautiful and much younger wife -she is 44, he, 76 -was relieved that the "undeserved suffering" of their children, ages 17 and 10, was over.

Stars such as Salman Rushdie and Martin Scorsese apparently gave no thought to the effect their support of a child rapist could have on what is still an uphill battle to criminalize child sexual abuse. But at least as artists they don't have a hand in public policy. Unhappily, some of Polanski's most fervent backers are highly placed elected officials. France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, to take one frankly scary example, said he was "delighted" by Switzerland's ruling.

Kouchner, co-founder of Medecins sans frontieres, was at various times in the running to be head of the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. These organizations' missions include protecting children. How could a man who believes that the rape of a child is less important than the freedom of a film director have upheld his duty to keep children from harm?

The tragedy of sexual abuse, including sexual trafficking, of children throughout the world should, at this point, be known. Everyone might not know specifically that one in four South African girls will be raped before the age of 16, but the broad outlines of child sexual abuse are known. Less well known, perhaps, is that conviction rates for rape in general remain shockingly low: In Britain in 2006, the BBC reported, there were 85,000 reports of women raped and only 800 convictions.

Switzerland did not extradite Polanski because under its rules a person must face a minimum six-month sentence in the country requesting extradition. In Polanski's case, there is confusion about whether the Los Angeles judge promised the director his time undergoing psychiatric evaluation would constitute his entire sentence. There's nothing there to suggest that Polanski was not guilty of a crime, whatever his sentence. His wealthy, privileged cheerleaders might drop that particular illusion and give some thought to how their support for a child rapist has undermined the seriousness of child rape.

Jul 16, 2010, 18:47


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