The film director Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland, and might be extradited to the United States, where he would probably be jailed. Many have lept to his defence, with the writer Robert Harris complaining that the arrest was “humiliating and that “it strikes me as disgusting treatment”.
Without knowing the background, one might think that Mr. Polanski was some sort of political prisoner who had escaped, or else someone who had served his time and was still being harassed by the authorities. He is neither. He is a rapist who pleaded guilty to having sex with a underage girl in 1977, and who has been on the run ever since. Nor was this some teenage fumble between a fifteen and a sixteen year old. He was forty four when it happened, while the rape victim was only thirteen years old (and it was rape since children cannot consent), which Mr. Polanski well knew, given that he had to ask her mother’s permission to let her accompany him.
Ms. Geimer, the rape victim, now wants Mr. Polanski to return to the United States and live his life in peace. I think that this is very admirable, and I am glad that she has not been consumed by hate. There has also been criticism over the handling of the case. Both points are worthy of consideration, but we are still left with a case where someone has pleaded guilty to raping a thirteen year old, and this is what seems to escape many people.
Even the Daily Mail describes the rape as a ‘sex scandal’, which always conjures up images of married MPs having affairs with glamour models, not the rape of a child. Mr. Polanski has continued to be feted throughout the movie industry, despite being a rapist on the run. I’m not given to punishment for the sake of vengeance, but it is a sad indictment of our society that just because someone is famous and successful he can get away with rape in the eyes of so many.
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