Sunday, November 08, 2009

Why I Defend Roman Polanski

Okay, so here we go.... I swore I'd never write about this, and haven't in the nearly 40 years since it happened, but since there's been so much attention focused on a similar crime committed more than 30 years ago by Roman Polanski, I thought it might be helpful to hear from someone who knows firsthand the difference between statutory rape, and rape as conversion of genitalia into lethal weapons.

In the fall of 1972, when I was in my first year of graduate school, I lived in Greenwich Village on LaGuardia Place. One evening, I went with a few friends to an bar on the upper west side of Manhattan. It was quite late--after midnight. I had a few drinks which, given my petite size, readily went to my head.

The waiter was a tall, slender fellow maybe five or six years older than I--in his late twenties. He was an attractive fellow, had auburn hair, and pronounced cheekbones. I recall flirting with him, and giving him my phone number.

Meanwhile, the radio station where I had a show for two years, an FM station in Buffalo, WBFO-FM, I think, anyway, I finally convinced the station to send me a tape of one of the shows I did on William Blake. It was the one where I read from "A Vision of the Last Judgment."

Concidentally, the tape arrived a few days before my waiter friend calls. We chat on the phone for a few minutes, and he invites me over. I tell him that I'd prefer to meet him in a public place, but then recall the tape---"Oh, wait," I say, "do you have a tape recorder? There's a tape I'd like to hear." Yes, yes... he assures me, he does.

He lives only about half a mile from me in Little Italy, as I recall--maybe Mulberry Street. In any case, he suggests coming over during the afternoon before he leaves for work. I tell him I need to check something out first--hang up, and think about it. I know where the dude works, I think, I know where he lives, it's broad daylight, and I have too much information on him. He'll never do anything to me, so I call him back and arrange to come over the next day.

When I get there, he was fine. We sit and chat in the livingroom. I ask him where the tape recorder is----"in the bedroom," he says. I laugh. Okay, I tell him, bring it the hell out here. "I can't," he says, "it's part of a console. Oh, come on," he adds, "anything I can do to you in there, I can do to you right here." Makes perfect sense, so I go in the bedroom, sit down on the bed.

He puts the tape of me reading "Vision of the Last Judgment" by Willliam Blake on, then comes and sits down on the bed. He starts kissing me, and fondling me. I say "Look, I'm not into playing games. I don't want to do this--I came here to listen to the tape. I thought that was understood," so he pushes me down forcefully, and starts unzipping my jeans. "hey," I said "I said stop, I mean stop."

He ingores me, and out of somewhere comes this insane and idiotic statement: "You can't rape me, I'm an existentialist." By this time, he has my pants off. He stops--sits back, and says: "What the fuck does that mean?"

I said, sheepishly, "It means that I have control of my vaginal muscles" demonstrating, with pride, my knowledge of what a sphincter muscle is, and how it's used....

"Okay," he says, then turns me over on my stomach, and pounds me---anally. I remember screaming, a bit, but mostly kicking him with the back of my feet and all my might.

"Hey," I say, "if you'd only slow down, I might enjoy this."

"You're not supposed to enjoy this," he says, so I take a deep breath---now it's time to think, no time for emotions: 1) I'm not a virgin, so he didn't take my virginity, and 2) I'm being forcibly raped--lord knows what the guy has in mind for me, and I don't want to find out as I lay there being sodomized while listening to a recording of myself reading from William Blake's "Vision of the Last Judgment." It was all terribly surreal, but I wouldn't allow myself to go there, but instead focused on two things: 1) what am I going to do to get out of there alive, and 2). What can I say to make him stop? I told him I was going to defecate. He said "It just feels that way." I say "No, trust me, I'm going to. Don't say you weren't warned," so he finishes up quickly, and I run to the bathroom.

Suffice it to say that what I saw in the bowl was not feces--it was blood--lots of blood. He tore me up, but there was no time to look as he charged in the bathroom, and into the shower. I had to flush the toilet fast before he saw anything.

He's in the shower, and I say: "Well, it's been fun, but I've gotta run. Got lots to do today."

He quickly takes his hand and holds the door shut. "Where the hell do you think you're going? " he says.

From the window in the shower which emits lots of sunlight, I can see that he has a prominent scar on the right side of his face.

"How did you get the scar?" I ask "From a fight," he says.

"Look," I say calmly as I can, "I'm not a transient. I live half a mile from here, and have friends and family nearby. What happened here is your word against mine. There's no evidence of a crime. If you put one hand on me, you will have committed a crime. If I disappear, it will be noticed. Don't do anyting stupid---I'm not going to the police. Trust me. By the time by the police are finished with me, it'll look like I raped you. Don't do anything stupid, just let me go. You did me a big favor. You may even have saved my life. It'll be a cold day in hell before I go to a stranger's house again."

He gulps hard, and looks at me quizzically: "You're sure you're not going to the police?"

I laugh "Like I said, by the time they get done with me, it'll look like I raped you. Just let me go."

And, he did. I walked up LaGuardia Place a half mile back to my furnished room. I told myself over and over again not to let this horrible act influence my feelings about sex, or men, and that what he did to me had nothing to do with sex, or men, that it was an act of violence that used the sex organs as a weapon. On the walk home, I told myself that a fraction of 1% of men would do that to women.

Still, I felt guilty because I was aroused by his smell. I felt like some kind of freak. I felt deeply ashamed that something like that could happen to me, and didn't talk about it, or tell anyone one for two decades or more.

I lied when I told my assailant that there was no evidence a crime had been committed. I didn't go to the police because, there was no concept of "date rape" then as there is now, and I would have been victimized all over again by scrutiny of my sex life.

Why do I tell the story now because there is a difference between statutory rape, or having sex with an underage girl, and rape---an act of violence that uses genitalia as a weapon. A man who wants to hurt a woman wouldn't anesthesize her by giving her qualudes and booze before the act. The only way I knew, for sure, that it was rape, and not my pushing him a bit over the line was when he said "you're not supposed to enjoy this." Somehow, I don't think Roman Polanski had the same thing in mind which is not to say that what he did wasn't rape---it was statutory rape, and if she said she didn't want it, he should have stopped, but I doubt if she, at any time, was in fear for her life. I was, and it was a valid fear.

To this day, I don't allow myself to think about what might have happened to me if I had cried, and reacted differently, instead of trying to argue my way out of. I know why Polanski's young victim, now a woman approaching fifty, wants the whole thing to go away, but I also know that were she torn apart the way I was, she might feel differently.

What Polanski did was a crime against the state of California, it was a felony, and running merely compounded it, but let's not confuse that with an act of violence against women.

The reason I tell this story now, nearly 40 years after the crime, is in the hopes that people will stop calling Polanski a "rapist" in much the same way that they would one who perpetrates an act which uses sex as a vehicle to do grave bodily harm.

Roman Polanski was charged with "unlawful sex with an underage girl," or statutory rape. He copped a plea of guilty to a greater charge of battery in order to get a lighter sentence. Do not confuse sex with a minor, violation of a statute with felonious rape with the intent to commit grave bodily harm. To do so is to trivialize what happened to me, and many other women who did not come forward because they didn't want to be victimized by the system, or their peers.

No one is saying Polanski should walk. If the judge had honored the plea deal, and the 42 day commitment he received had been allowed as the sentence, he might not have, but obviously Mr. Polanski had bad advice. He had a team of managers, lawyers, agents, and knowledgeable friends----someone encouraged him to make a dumb, but understandable move. I doubt if he would have received a fair trial then any more than he would today. Under our system of government, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As a victim, I wasn't convinced that was true of me. I know it wasn't true of Polanski. He took the hit, and admitted culpability---paid out huge sums in civil settlement, and was about to be given a long prison sentence despite the wishes of the victim, and any back door plea deal. This is celebrity justice, meaning he would have been made an example solely because of his fame.

Most of those who call the loudest for Roman Polanski's head have never themselves experienced rape. If they had, they would defer to the wishes of the victim for she is the one who was violated. She wants it to be over. Let it be over.