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Roman Polanski Finally Arrested for Rape

September 27, 2009

Roman Polanski, who admitted to raping a 13-year old girl (no, he didn’t call it rape, but I refuse to say he had sex with her, since that would require him being with a partner who could and did consent) but fled the US before he could be sentenced, was arrested by Swiss police as he entered the country on his way to the Zurich Film Festival. To read the news reports, however, you would think that his arrest was the injustice, rather than his crime, was the injustice. As usual, when a wealthy man is held accountable for such crimes, rape apologism comes to the fore.

Let’s start with CNN. Their headline reads “Polanski arrested in connection with sex charge“: “in connection” as if he were not the one who committed the crime and “charge” as if he had simply never been to trial rather than running away after pleading guilty. That “charge” error is repeated in the first sentence, in which it is referred to as “a decades-old sex charge”. Notice that it is referred to as “sex” rather than “rape”.  Notice, too, how “decades-old” is used to suggest the contemporary irrelevance of his crime rather than to express outrage at how long he managed to elude capture for long. Indeed, he is not referred to as a fugitive. Rather, we are simply told that he “has lived in France for decades to avoid being arrested if he enters the U.S.” The article does eventually note that Polanski pleaded guilty to one charge, but this is sandwiched between a defense of his character from Anjelica Huston and a certain grossly biased documentary.

The headline and opening sentence of the AP article fail in ways similar to CNN’s. Rape is called sex. Polanski is presented as a passive party. The note that he pled guilty does come a bit sooner in the text, however. Unfortunately, the article spends far more space trying to build up Polanski as a sympathetic character, going into the details of his successful movie-making career and mentioning both the murder of Sharon Tate and his own escape from the Krakow ghetto. This information is not relevant to the case at hand; frankly, it’s insulting to those who have lost loved ones to violence and to others who have escaped genocidal regimes to imply that it is.

ABC goes with a generic headline which at least avoids some of the problems of the other two: Movie-Maker Polanski Arrested in Switzerland. Still, the story’s author also seems determined to paint Polanski as a sympathetic figure, even referring to his “turbulent life” in the first sentence.

I could go on about this forever. Google News lists 188 articles and not one I’ve skimmed appears to be much better. Fifty one of those article include this gem reported by the AP:

In France, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said he was “dumbfounded” by Polanski’s arrest, adding that he “strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.”

Poor baby. Perhaps he should have tried not raping. Here is what all these rape apologists fail to understand:

  1. Rapists choose to rape. They use their agency to take away another’s, whether they do so through brute force, drugs and alcohol, or targeting someone otherwise unable to consent.
  2. This means that having lived a difficult or turbulent life does not make someone turn into rapist, nor does it give them an excuse for raping or a pass to escape punishment.
  3. It also means that rapists should be referred to as active participants, not as merely having some unspecified connection with their crimes.
  4. Even a rich white man who flees the country to avoid jail time is a fugitive. He isn’t just living elsewhere.
  5. Rape is not sex.
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  1. Sarah permalink
    September 28, 2009 9:24 am

    Thanks for the great article.
    It seems to be nearly the only one whose author has clear mind about a crime that should be sentenced no matter how long ago it has taken place and especially no matter who commited it.

  2. rachel permalink
    September 29, 2009 8:39 am

    Thank christ for this article; it feels a bit like i’m going mad. Roman Polanski is a child rapist. He raped a child. This makes him a child rapist. Beacuse he raped a child. That is an incontraveinable fact. The very fact that his victim requests the case to be dropped because of the continuing pain its memory brings to her and her children is striking; the damage his action inflicted is still palpaple for a whole family Perhaps he could prove temporary insanity, perhaps a biased prosecution, but the point is he needs to stand trial and be held accountable.
    It is hard to believe a man who truly regretted his crime could have spent the last decades enjoying such freedom and success
    The number of woman who have stood in his defence is shocking. Maybe he is a sweet old guy theses days; i don’t care, he is a child rapist. It certainly makes holywood look a seedy little backscratcher of a place.

    It is also striking how public reaction is so differnt from the micheal jackson case; save for the crazy hardcore fans it was bacically recognised that despite his earlier genius his alledged actions were unforgivable. Does this suggest society is more comfotable with (white) men raping girl children than (black) men raping little boys? It certainly shows that when acts of peodophilia are commited by somone other than a sterotypical loner in bad glasses or others that are notably ‘strange’, we are happier to ignore it rather than have it rock our world veiw.
    So he is a genius, so fucking what? Are we prepared to sacrifice children to the appitites of such a genius?

    The fact of Polanski’s earlier traumas are in themselves absolutly awful and i am not without compassion for him; it is very possible that after his wifes’ death he did indeed suffer from a period of maddness, but that does not change the fact.
    As a jew i am also uncomfortable with the use of his terrible persecution in the krackov ghetto being presented as a legitimate defence; a sort of pre emptive punishment. It seems like a collective guilt over the still un recognised global responsiblity for the holocaust is being assuaged through the campaign to free this one man. Who is, did we mention, A Child Rapist.

  3. Megan permalink
    September 29, 2009 12:10 pm

    I found this blog after I became so disgusted with what I was reading in the media about this story that I googled “Roman Polanski feminist blog.” Thank you for addressing the media response here–it needed to be said. I was watching “The View” yesterday, and I lost all respect for Ms. Goldberg, who defended Polanski and implied that the “sex” was consensual, even in the face of the facts of the case. And what are the facts? That Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year old girl, who was asked in court why she did not stop him. “I was afraid of him” was her response–imagine that, a child afraid of the grown man raping her.

  4. ti cote permalink
    September 30, 2009 2:16 am

    thanks much for this great article. to think of his crime is horrible, and its shocking to witness how he’s being defended & justified by the media & movie-making establishment. i am a mega-huge fan of his movie ‘chinatown’ but this crime he did is something else. i also believe that as far as these issues are concerned back in 1977 attitudes were horrible. there is, to me, absolutely no way in the universe to try & ‘spin’ his crime in a positive way.

  5. Emma permalink
    September 30, 2009 8:19 pm

    Thank you so much for being sane. This is great stuff to hear after reading about the “FREE POLANSKI” petition. Ugh.

    • October 1, 2009 3:16 am

      Some of the names on that petition left me deeply disappointed. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to read Immortality again without thinking about it.


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