Should The Victim Decide Polanski's Fate?

Illustration for article titled Should The Victim Decide Polanski's Fate?

Roman Polanski's victim Samantha Geimer hopes that now that Switzerland has refused to extradite the director, his case is "over once and for all." But should her wishes matter?

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Reacting today to the Swiss Justice Ministry's decision, Geimer said, "I am satisfied with this decision and I hope that the district attorney will now close the case and get it over once and for all." Geimer has wanted the case closed for a long time, and Polanski's supporters have cited this as an argument for dropping charges. So is Geimer's discomfort with Polanski's ongoing legal battle a good enough reason to end it?

A BBC radio host posed this question to me and Broadsheet's Tracy Clark-Flory yesterday, and Clark-Flory pointed out that asking victims what they think isn't necessarily the best way to run a justice system. I'd add that concern for Geimer's desires is often disingenuous. Imagine for a moment that Geimer did want Polanski prosecuted — then his supporters would be focusing on her sexual history and trying to discredit her (as, indeed, Polanski's lawyer did back in 1978). The public rarely cares about rape victims' wishes when they're actually seeking justice, and it's only because Geimer gave up that search (she has said, "the judicial system did not work") that she's now being applauded by Polanski's friends.

And though many have blamed the courts for Geimer's continued pain, Polanski's the one who caused it in the first place. He's the one who raped her (as many of his supporters seem to have forgotten), and he's the one who fled the US, assuring she'd never get justice. Had he remained, the matter would be closed by now and Geimer would have the anonymity she craves — it's because he evaded punishment that her name is still in the news. And while it's understandable that she would want peace at this point by any means necessary, it's a shame that she's asking the courts, rather than Polanski, to cave. In any event, she may have gotten what she wanted — Swiss authorities mentioned her wishes in their explanation of the extradition decision. And while the LA District Attorney's office has vowed to keep pushing the case, they'll have to wait until Polanski enters a country with a favorable extradition treaty — something he's now very unlikely to do. Switzerland's decision may be a relief for Geimer, but it's a defeat for rape victims in general, whose voices seem to be heard far more clearly if they want their rapists to go free.

Polanski Victim Says Satisfied With Swiss Release [Reuters]
US Vows Continued Pursuit Of Roman Polanski [AP, via Brattleboro Reformer]
Reminder: Roman Polanski Fled Sentencing [Broadsheet]

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Earlier: Roman Polanski Runs Free Once Again
The Roman Polanksi Lawsuit: Unwanted, Undesired

DISCUSSION

msanthrope-old
MsAnthrope

Excuse me, but in aren't there cases involving assault where the victim has to press charges in order for the perpetrator to be arrested? The victim here is asking the system to cease and desist. It seems to me that enough time, money, and ink has been expended on this case.

It doesn't make it right, and it doesn't diminish the awfulness of what Polanski did, but to continue the international manhunt seems excessive to me. My sympathies are with Geimer, who as the victim of this crime should have the final say in my opinion. I may get jumped on for that but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway.