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Judge the Movie, Not the Man

Roman Polanski's 25-year-old crimes should not damage his chances for an Oscar, his victim says

February 23, 2003|Samantha Geimer

I met Roman Polanski in 1977, when I was 13 years old. I was in ninth grade that year, when he told my mother that he wanted to shoot pictures of me for a French magazine. That's what he said, but instead, after shooting pictures of me at Jack Nicholson's house on Mulholland Drive, he did something quite different. He gave me champagne and a piece of a Quaalude. And then he took advantage of me.

It was not consensual sex by any means. I said no, repeatedly, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. I was alone and I didn't know what to do. It was scary and, looking back, very creepy. Those may sound like kindergarten words, but that's the way it feels to me. It was a very long time ago, and it is hard to remember exactly the way everything happened. But I've had to repeat the story so many times, I know it by heart.

We pressed charges, and he pleaded guilty. A plea bargain was agreed to by his lawyer, my lawyer and the district attorney, and it was approved by the judge. But to our amazement, at the last minute the judge went back on his word and refused to honor the deal.

Worried that he was going to have to spend 50 years in prison -- rather than just time already served -- Mr. Polanski fled the country. He's never been back, and I haven't seen him or spoken to him since.

Looking back, there can be no question that he did something awful. It was a terrible thing to do to a young girl. But it was also 25 years ago -- 26 years next month. And, honestly, the publicity surrounding it was so traumatic that what he did to me seemed to pale in comparison.

Now that he's been nominated for an Academy Award, it's all being reopened. I'm being asked: Should he be given the award? Should he be rewarded for his behavior? Should he be allowed back into the United States after fleeing 25 years ago?

Here's the way I feel about it: I don't really have any hard feelings toward him, or any sympathy, either. He is a stranger to me.

But I believe that Mr. Polanski and his film should be honored according to the quality of the work. What he does for a living and how good he is at it have nothing to do with me or what he did to me. I don't think it would be fair to take past events into consideration. I think that the academy members should vote for the movies they feel deserve it. Not for people they feel are popular.

And should he come back? I have to imagine he would rather not be a fugitive and be able to travel freely. Personally, I would like to see that happen. He never should have been put in the position that led him to flee. He should have received a sentence of time served 25 years ago, just as we all agreed. At that time, my lawyer, Lawrence Silver, wrote to the judge that the plea agreement should be accepted and that that guilty plea would be sufficient contrition to satisfy us. I have not changed my mind.

I know there is a price to pay for running. But who wouldn't think about running when facing a 50-year sentence from a judge who was clearly more interested in his own reputation than a fair judgment or even the well-being of the victim?

If he could resolve his problems, I'd be happy. I hope that would mean I'd never have to talk about this again. Sometimes I feel like we both got a life sentence.

My attitude surprises many people. That's because they didn't go through it all; they don't know everything that I know. People don't understand that the judge went back on his word. They don't know how unfairly we were all treated by the press. Talk about feeling violated! The media made that year a living hell, and I've been trying to put it behind me ever since.

Today, I am very happy with my life. I have three sons and a husband. I live in a beautiful place and I enjoy my work. What more could I ask for? No one needs to worry about me.

The one thing that bothers me is that what happened to me in 1977 continues to happen to girls every day, yet people are interested in me because Mr. Polanski is a celebrity. That just never seems right to me. It makes me feel guilty that this attention is directed at me, when there are certainly others out there who could really use it.

*

Editor's note: The Times' usual practice is not to name victims of sexual crimes. Samantha Geimer's name is used here with her consent.

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