Her Reasons Are Not Yours

Things you might have heard about the woman Roman Polanski raped when she was a 13-year-old girl:

• She's forgiven him.

• She doesn't want the case pursued.

• Her mother was a fame-seeker who put her in the situation.

These are all things that aren't relevant to any discussion of why or why not Polanski should be extradited to the US to face the charges he skipped out on thirty years ago—but the real stickler of the bunch seems to be that "she doesn't want the case pursued" one, with the argument going something like: If even the girl he raped wants to let it go, why shouldn't we?

The simple answer for that is because justice doesn't operate on the principle of what's best for the victim; it operates on the principle of what's best for the community. (That's why prosecutors represent "the people.") Particularly in a case of sexual assault of a minor, there is additional pressure to prosecute, even if the victim(s) don't support the prosecution, because interviews of convicted/admitted child rapists in prisons suggest that the rapist who only rapes once and never again has about as much supporting evidence for his existence as does the unicorn. (To wit: Roman Polanski's ensuing relationship with then-15-year-old Nastassja Kinski.) Some of those who understand this principle nonetheless argue that Polanski is now an "old man," as if old men don't rape. Unfortunately, they can and they do.

The more complicated answer to If even the girl he raped wants to let it go, why shouldn't we? begins with this statement of fact: Her reasons are not yours.

Samantha Gailey's primary reason for not wanting the case pursued, according to the public statements I've read, have to do with her not wanting to subject herself and her family to the public scrutiny and media circus that will inevitably surround Polanski's return to the US and any subsequent court proceedings.

She's not motivated by sympathy—in fact, she has explicitly said she harbors no "hard feelings" but also feels "no sympathy" for Polanski, and in recent years publicly stated she wished he's come back just so she could put the whole thing behind her, irrespective of the outcome.

What Gailey quite evidently wants is this shit to end. She wants closure—something Polanski has been cruelly denying her for three decades while living as a fugitive.

When justice is denied, or interminably deferred, often one finds a way of closing the chapter, just to get on with life—to be able to live unencumbered by an ever-present sensation of imbalance. One longs desperately to evade the niggling feeling that you're betraying yourself, or upending some karmic sense of justice, merely by getting on with your life as though there had been a satisfactory and fair resolution, when there hasn't been.

When there is no justice to free you, no closure, it can feel as though not living as a victim tacitly condones what was done, retroactively making it not matter. Survivors of sexual assault whom the law has failed often feel they must serve a sentence of suffering themselves, beyond what they might otherwise naturally bear, in order to not join in the ubiquitous chorus trumpeting that what happened to them was No Big Deal.

That self-imposed sentence can be a hard place to leave. But once you grant yourself parole, it's an even harder place to which to return.

Given the opportunity now for the legal justice I was denied, I daresay I'd sound an awful lot like Gailey. It's not that my feelings toward my rapist have changed; it's that what closure I have was hard-won—and I fiercely protect it. The wanton appropriation of Gailey's words doesn't reflect an understanding of what it is to be a survivor robbed of justice; in fact, it reveals a profound indifference toward exploiting someone who has already survived a terrible exploitation.

The truth not being spoken is that the people incorporating Samantha Gailey's wishes as part of their arguments aren't doing so because they want to protect Samantha Gailey. They're doing it because they want to protect Roman Polanski.

[Note: Samantha Gailey is her birth name, not her name at present.]

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