Polanski Case Goes Past Victim's Wish To Move On

While Roman Polanski remains in custody in Switzerland, where he was arrested over the weekend, questions are swirling in Los Angeles about his victim's desire to see the case dropped. But prosecutors say it's not that simple.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now to the case of Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski and his legal fight to avoid extradition to the U.S. He was arrested in Switzerland over the weekend on a 32-year-old warrant. Polanksi fled Los Angeles back in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old. That girl, now woman, says she'd like to see the whole thing dropped.

But as NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, prosecutors say it's not that simple.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Samantha Geimer feels that what followed after Roman Polanski had sex with her was almost as bad as the act itself. In the HBO documentary, "Roman Polanski Wanted and Desired," Geimer recounts what occurred when she told her mother what had happened earlier that night.

Ms. SAMANTHA GEIMER: It was so traumatic starting that night when my mom called the police and the police come over and they take you to the hospital, then they take you to the police station. And the next morning we were getting up at 6:30. We're going to court where they're going to sneak you in and all these men are going to ask you exactly what happened.

BATES: The graphic details - much more sordid than what we can go into here -are outlined in court transcripts. In them Geimer testified that Polanski knew she was just 13. He plied her with drugs and alcohol, had sex with her several times during the evening as she repeatedly asked to go home. Geimer and her family ultimately settled with Polanski for undisclosed damages, and she hoped she could retreat into private life. She's now 45 living quietly in Hawaii as a wife and mother of three. Geimer says she's forgiven Polanski and wants to move on.

Professor SUSAN ESTRICH (Law, University of Southern California): My heart goes out to this woman and her desire to make this all go away.

BATES: Susan Estrich is in a unique position to know. She's a law professor at the University of Southern California and a rape victim.

Prof. ESTRICH: As a matter of fact, most of us who've been raped in one way or another want to close our eyes and make it go away. But rape isn't a crime against the victim. It's a crime against the state.

BATES: And while Polanski's rape crime is serious, Estrich says, what Polanski did afterward is even worse.

Prof. ESTRICH: To be a fugitive from justice is as serious a crime as the underlying rape offense.

BATES: Polanski's friends and supporters say the director's entire life should be taken into account, not just one evening where a clear moral lapse occurred. Former studio head Mike Medavoy.

Mr. MIKE MEDAVOY (Former Studio Head): I think it's, you know, everybody knows that this is a man who's made some great movies, you know, I think they are sympathetic to him.

BATES: Medavoy is hoping if or when Polanski returns, the judge will say something like this.

Mr. MEDAVOY: He's suffered enough and he should move on and the rest of the world should move on.

BATES: So if it's what both the offender and the victim want, why can't that happen? Will Marling is executive director of the National Organization for Victims Assistance. Marling says many rape victims would rather fade away than go through a trial that will force them to relive the crime they experienced.

Mr. WILL MARLING (Executive Director, National Organization for Victim Assistance): For many victims that can be okay, depending on their perspective. Some of these very intimate violations of people clearly are the kinds of things that people don't want, you know, in the public eye. It's common to want to stay off that radar.

BATES: Off the radar is exactly where Samantha Geimer wishes she were. She says she's beyond what happened to her 13-year-old self, but she also admits the latest round of Polanski news only challenges her ability to remain safely beyond the trauma of her past. Susan Estrich says she understands Geimer's pain, but she also understands the state's need to made Polanski accountable for what he's done.

Ms. ESTRICH: Because, you know, I sit 30 years later a rape victim and I still feel the pain. And frankly, I wouldn't want to relive it in a courtroom. But that's not a reason that Roman Polanski somehow becomes the victim and should avoid justice.

BATES: Los Angeles authorities say they will pursue Roman Polanski to the fullest extent of the law, which means Samantha Geimer's privacy has again become collateral damage.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.