The guy in this video (Jay Smooth) makes a series of intelligent, thoughtful arguments as to why he feels Roman Polanski should be extradited to the United States and tried for his 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl. I have great respect for everything he says here.
Now, to borrow one of Smooth’s turns of phrase: let me be clear. I absolutely believe that Polanski committed this crime. He took a 13-year-old to a house under the guise of taking modeling photographs. He fed her drugs and alcohol, and then he forced himself upon her sexually while she repeatedly asked him to stop. There is no question of consent here. This was rape.
That being said, I am struggling with an element of the argument made in this video. The victim has been very clear that she does not want this case pursued. Jay argues that although the needs of the victim are important, sometimes a crime is seen as being committed against the state, or against the public good, and therefore needs to be prosecuted, even if it’s against the victim’s wishes. I have very strong feelings about this idea. The “state” was not raped. The “public good” was not raped. Samantha Geimer was raped, and she has chosen to forgive Polanski in order to move on with her life, so that she is not defined by this one terrible event. She has asked that the case be dropped so that she is not forced to re-live her trauma over and over, and so that she and her family won’t once again be forced into the public eye. Shouldn’t her wishes be respected?
Do I think that Polanski took the coward’s way out by fleeing to France rather than facing the consequences of his actions? Yes. Do I think people should be accountable for their behaviour? Absolutely. But if that can only be achieved in this case through the further victimization of someone who has already suffered so much, is that justice? Why is a collective need for vengeance seen as more important than Samantha’s desire for closure? If we ignore the wishes of the one person who was most affected by this crime in order to prove that “the system works”, doesn’t that actually prove that the system is broken?