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.
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.