The Victim's Perspective

Ben Cohen
In the fall of 2013 Samantha Geimer published her memoir, The Girl, a life in the shadow of Roman Polanski. In 1977 Samantha Geimer, (then Samantha Gailey), accused Roman Polanski of rape; Polanski would eventually plead guilty to the lesser charge of statutory rape as part of a plea deal (the accuser was thirteen at the time). When the presiding Judge threatened Polanski with an indeterminate sentence of up to fifty years Polanski fled to his home country of France, which refused to extradite him. Surprisingly, Samantha Geimer now advocates that the case against Polanski be dismissed, and has harsh criticism for the judge, Laurence Rittenband.

Geimer's position is rather simple: Roman Polanski is old and no longer presents a threat to society, therefore the matter only concerns the two of them, and since she considers it settled the state has no business seeking further sanctions against him. Further, at the time Polanski agreed to a deal with the prosecution, a deal which would have resulted in probation and no jail time. The judge violated this agreement by threatening Polanski with indefinite incarceration.

While one can certainly understand Geimer's perspective, it makes this author distinctly uncomfortable. At the time she and her family pressured the district attorney to seek a plea agreement because they didn't like the publicity and she found the prospect of testifying humiliating. They did not seek to incarcerate Polanski, merely to receive an acknowledgement of wrongdoing in the form of a guilty plea. The district attorney reluctantly went along with this, and one can understand his reluctance. The primary role of district attorneys is to protect the public, not make victims and their families happy (something Samantha Geimer acknowledges).

Given Polanski's predatory behavior it makes sense that a prosecutor would want to incarcerate him. Although Geimer states unequivocally that she neither desired or consented to the acts Polanski performed on her, she remains uncertain whether he knew this, describing him as an arrogant and horny man. According to her testimony, he took her to an isolated location, gave her alcohol and Quaaludes, and then had sex with her despite her verbal protestations. Polanski either knew, or should have known, that the girl was afraid to resist him; he either knew, or should have known, that his behavior was predatory.

His complete lack of contrition must have also raised eyebrows among judges and prosecutors. While in France he defended his actions thusly, "If you had seen her, she was so beautiful, you would have wanted to fuck her too." And in an interview with Martin Amis, "Everybody wants to fuck young girls." Given his very public view that he did nothing wrong, and the police were just haters, the judge may have perceived a substantial risk of future offenses.

While I understand the perspective of a victim who doesn't want to go through a lengthy trial, or a victim who has moved on with her life, I also can appreciate the desire of judges not to allow unrepentant sexual predators to escape jail time. But a deal is a deal, if the prosecutor really did promise him that he would not serve time, or serve no more than his forty-two days, then that has to be honored. At the same time, Polanski is not an American citizen and we have no obligation to allow him to return. Even if a judge decides to dismiss the case he should never be allowed to live or work in America again.

In the fall of 2013 Samantha Geimer published her memoir, The Girl, a life in the shadow of Roman Polanski. In 1977 Samantha Geimer, (then Samantha Gailey), accused Roman Polanski of rape; Polanski would eventually plead guilty to the lesser charge of statutory rape as part of a plea deal (the accuser was thirteen at the time). When the presiding Judge threatened Polanski with an indeterminate sentence of up to fifty years Polanski fled to his home country of France, which refused to extradite him. Surprisingly, Samantha Geimer now advocates that the case against Polanski be dismissed, and has harsh criticism for the judge, Laurence Rittenband.

Geimer's position is rather simple: Roman Polanski is old and no longer presents a threat to society, therefore the matter only concerns the two of them, and since she considers it settled the state has no business seeking further sanctions against him. Further, at the time Polanski agreed to a deal with the prosecution, a deal which would have resulted in probation and no jail time. The judge violated this agreement by threatening Polanski with indefinite incarceration.

While one can certainly understand Geimer's perspective, it makes this author distinctly uncomfortable. At the time she and her family pressured the district attorney to seek a plea agreement because they didn't like the publicity and she found the prospect of testifying humiliating. They did not seek to incarcerate Polanski, merely to receive an acknowledgement of wrongdoing in the form of a guilty plea. The district attorney reluctantly went along with this, and one can understand his reluctance. The primary role of district attorneys is to protect the public, not make victims and their families happy (something Samantha Geimer acknowledges).

Given Polanski's predatory behavior it makes sense that a prosecutor would want to incarcerate him. Although Geimer states unequivocally that she neither desired or consented to the acts Polanski performed on her, she remains uncertain whether he knew this, describing him as an arrogant and horny man. According to her testimony, he took her to an isolated location, gave her alcohol and Quaaludes, and then had sex with her despite her verbal protestations. Polanski either knew, or should have known, that the girl was afraid to resist him; he either knew, or should have known, that his behavior was predatory.

His complete lack of contrition must have also raised eyebrows among judges and prosecutors. While in France he defended his actions thusly, "If you had seen her, she was so beautiful, you would have wanted to fuck her too." And in an interview with Martin Amis, "Everybody wants to fuck young girls." Given his very public view that he did nothing wrong, and the police were just haters, the judge may have perceived a substantial risk of future offenses.

While I understand the perspective of a victim who doesn't want to go through a lengthy trial, or a victim who has moved on with her life, I also can appreciate the desire of judges not to allow unrepentant sexual predators to escape jail time. But a deal is a deal, if the prosecutor really did promise him that he would not serve time, or serve no more than his forty-two days, then that has to be honored. At the same time, Polanski is not an American citizen and we have no obligation to allow him to return. Even if a judge decides to dismiss the case he should never be allowed to live or work in America again.