Polanski Raped Her

Each morning on my drive into work I would hear the latest radio report on the apprehension of Roman Polanski recently in Switzerland.  Each morning for the past week it was reported that “Polanski pleaded guilty for having sex with a minor…” I guess a part of me accepted what I was hearing reported even as I knew it wasn’t accurate.

Roman Polanski

This morning I heard the much needed correction.  A listener called in to express how disappointed she was in the reporting of what Polanski did.  She was under the impression that when you drug and liquor up a 13-year-old then have sex with her throughout the evening that what we may be talking about isn’t “sex with a minor”.

It may be rape.

The case of Roman Polanski is not one blurred by ambiguity.  We know what happened.  We know how the guilty ran.  We know his celebrated career for the ensuing three decades afterward.  Yet, we still don’t know if we should call it rape?

We are afraid of that word aren’t we?  It was just a year ago that Tory Bowen wasn’t allowed to use the word ‘rape’ by a judge in court when describing how she was raped by her perpetrator.

Even Whoopi Goldberg, this morning on The View had to inform us that what Polanski did wasn’t “rape-rape.” Going so far as to tell the rest of the panel that she wanted to talk about “what he did” and not to speak out of a sense of “passion…when we don’t have all the facts.”  That’s interesting Whoopi.  Here are the facts.

From a legal standpoint, we know that Mr. Polanski plead down to a lesser charge.  He raped the victim, but he got a break.  This happens all the time.  Regardless of what he did, our legal system watered down the charge to the puzzling and much more friendly ‘sex with a minor’.  You can certainly water down what is, but does that ever change what is?

It seems there is a bit of confusion among society at large as to what exactly rape is.  I guess the only way to clear this up is to take our case straight to the most agreed upon definition we can find, courtesy of Funk and Wagnalls.

Rape – any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.

If your one and only idea of what ‘force’ constitutes is violent, physical brutality than we really need to have a discussion about the nature of abuse.  Quaaludes and alcohol in a 13-year-old girl functions in quite the same way that Rohyphol, known commonly as the date-rape drug, works in adults.  It makes it easier for a perpetrator to rape their chosen victim.  The more altered she is, the less force that is needed to apply.  Sometimes it takes such little force that it can almost seem like it’s not rape.  But it is.

There is a greater awareness in our communities about the dangers of date-rape drugs.  Yet, we still fail to apply what we know to Mr. Polanski’s case.  I understand the delicate nature of rape.  It is a serious charge.  It is equally a serious offense.  If Roman Polanski ‘raped’ a 13-year-old would we be so worried about his well-being?  Would we be less likely to ‘cut him a break?’

If you want to make excuses for poor Mr. Polanski you are entitled.  If you think it’s been 30 years and he needs to be cut that break, then go ahead.  But there can be no question about what we are talking about in the first place.

In 1977, Polanski got what he wanted.  He raped and sodomized a girl and pleaded down to the lesser charge of ‘sex with a minor’.  Then he ran.

Now three decades later we are still struggling with what to call his offense.  Some call it sex with a minor.  I call it astonishing.

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What Your Gut Tells You

In your minds eye, how does a perpetrator look?  Would they appear disheveled and transient?  Maybe have a evil snarl with lined faces and bloodshot eyes?  We’ve all seen the mugshots in the paper or on the television, from those perpetrators that LOOK like they are capable of violence.  The newsreel confirming their guilt, we imagine we could clearly see it in them.  It oozes out of them.

Then we read about Jon Pomeroy and his wife, Rebecca Long.  Mr. Pomeroy recently pleaded guilty to ‘mistreating’ his daughter.  He was accused of sitting passively by while his wife ‘disciplined’ his daughter.  At 4 ft 7 inches and weighing 48 lbs, this severely starved girl was taken from their Carnation home.  The trauma most probably stunting her growth permanently and the rotting of all her teeth, not to mention the irreparable emotional and physical harm she will have to come to terms with for the rest of her life.

When I first read the story I imagined Pomeroy and Long as the seedy character I always stereotyped abusers to be.  Recently the Seattle Times posted a picture of Jon and Rebecca walking to the courtroom and I was shocked.  They looked so… normal.  I couldn’t reconcile this outdated image of what an abuser is ‘supposed to look like’ with how they appeared in the

Jon Pomeroy and his wife, Rebecca Long, were arraigned last fall in King County Superior Court on charges of mistreating Pomeroys teen daughter.

Jon Pomeroy and his wife, Rebecca Long, were arraigned last fall in King County Superior Court on charges of mistreating Pomeroy's teen daughter.

photo.  Not visibly someone you would think capable of these atrocities.  They could easily be someone living next door in some residential area , saying hello and being neighborly.

But isn’t it so often how a perpetrator either fits or doesn’t fit our expectation of what an abuser should look like that determines whether we follow our gut instinct? Obviously there is no such thing as ‘should’ when it comes to abuse.

For Jon and Rebecca, we may completely ignore our instinct.

If we heard the cries of a child in that dirty mobile home at the end of the block we  just may make that call to Child Protective Services.  But would we do the same if it came from the 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath, well manicured, freshly painted home next door?  It certainly wouldn’t be very neighborly.

In this busy modern world, we have become good at dismissing, delaying, or debating our core instinct into submission.  It’s the reason why we stay up an extra hour when our body is telilng us to go to sleep.  Or when we have that extra donut as our stomach protests.

Looking at Jon and Rebecca, it didn’t surprise us to read the testimony of neighbors and people who knew them.  Friends and family were ‘shocked’.  Neighbors thought they were ‘always such a nice couple.’  Some even now indicating that they ‘aren’t capable of this.’  Ignoring our instinct when we need it least has caused us to second-guess it when we need it the most.

Pomeroy is looking at 2.5-3 years behind bars.  His daughter doesn’t get her life back in 3 years.  She also doesn’t have a parent anymore.  Mr. Pomeroy sat idly by as Rebecca Long starved his daughter nearly to death.  All too often we are content to sit idly by, ignoring the twisting of our gut,  while the people we know as ‘nice folks’ abuse and torture defenseless victims.

It’s interesting.  I look back at my life and when it comes to gut instinct I can look at the worst mistakes I have ever made and it almost always was a result of ignoring my own gut feeling.  Follow yours and speak up when you see something  that isn’t quite right.  We can always judge wrongly, but wouldn’t you rather be wrong than right and not say anything?