The Huffington Post: September 30, 2009
When I saw the petition protesting the recent arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland was signed by some of my most cherished artists – the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Ariel Dorfman, Costa Gavras, Jonathan Demme, Sam Mendes – men who I believed to be champions of women’s and human rights, frankly, I was shocked. It made it distressingly clear to me that all our years of work have not yet penetrated or changed the culture so that it understands that rape is a legal crime and a crime against the soul. As a survivor, I can attest to the fact that rape forever changes your life, robbing you of dignity, self-worth, agency over your body, and comfortability with intimacy and trust, while also escalating a pervasive sense of isolation and shame.
After 11 years of traveling the world and meeting with rape survivors across the planet I can say that the long-term consequences are multiple and far-reaching, ranging from homelessness, drug abuse, and eating disorders, to imprisonment, suicide, and early death.
The petition defending Polanski doesn’t even address his crime. Instead, it calls it a “case of morals.” That expression – a “case of morals” – takes the anti-violence movement back about a hundred years. Rape is not a question of morals. In fact it’s not even a question.
Let’s review the facts:
1. A 13-year-old girl is lured to a house by promise of a job by a famous and powerful director.
2. She finds herself in a hot tub.
3. She has an asthma attack.
4. The director says he will help relieve her asthma attack and offers her (unbeknownst to her) half a Quaalude as a remedy.
5. Once the Quaalude takes effect and the girl is sufficiently pliant, he rapes and sodomizes her without consent.
6. When charges are pressed, the director later pleads guilty to “engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.”
7. After spending 42 days in prison, the director flees the United States to avoid the threat of further imprisonment.
What about this clear-cut case isn’t criminal? Does Roman Polanski’s undeniable brilliance as a filmmaker somehow not make him a rapist? Does his talent give license to violence? Does the brotherhood of fame endow you with a lifetime exemption from accountability?
No one is arguing the genius of Roman Polanski, or even the pain and tragedy of his difficult life. But in the end, that has nothing to do with the crime he committed. Being an artist does not make any of us exempt from the laws of humanity – in fact, it actually makes us more responsible to them.
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