Further erasure of a victim who has spent much of her life asking to be heard.
A piece by Victoria Coren in today’s Guardian claims to be a call for balanced debate on the complexities surrounding Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. It is not: is, in fact, both rape apology and a further erasure of a victim who has spent much of her life asking to be heard. Jane Fae comments.
Hands up all those who wouldn’t have been able to remember the name of the individual raped by Roman Polanski before today?
I can play smug: say that I did! But that’s only because I happened to tune in to a late night in-depth interview with her on BBC News a week or so back. Even then, I almost didn’t, expecting this to be yet another predictable softball interview playing to all the worst media tropes. I’m glad I did.
S ...– comes across as a strong, thoughtful, intelligent woman. She has survived. Not just her rape, but the societal objectification that followed. By the police, by the legal establishment (in the US, always laced, poisonously, with politics), by the media and, of course, by the millions of Polanski-groupies who blame her their hero’s vilification.
You may not agree with all that she has to say. Her book, released this week, is provocatively titled: “The girl”. Because of course, that is who she is, all she is, to the vast majority: some anonymous, faceless 13-year-old GIRL who spoilt things for the film world by having the audacity to cry rape on one of their darlings.
Which is, S explained in her interview, one reason why she chose to write about the subject now. Things might have been different had she been granted anonymity all those years ago. But from the moment the very first police report was made all those years back, her life changed.
She found herself pitched into some weird celebrity limbo: everyone who knew her knew who she was, knew her story. But the rest of the world knew her as mere cipher – “the girl raped” – onto whom it was possible to write whatever agendas one wished.
Today, Victoria Coren was at it again. For there are two stories here. The first, relatively easy, is about Polanski’s decision to groom, drug and sodomise a young child. That is, of course, rape.
The second story is a far more difficult one. It is about S' response both to that event and to the way the fall-out from it has shaped pretty much every day of her life since. She has points to make: her own story to tell.
Which is why Ms Coren’s response is utterly grotesque. First, the focus of her piece, insofar as it has focus, is on Polanski. Sorry, no. Today of all days, reviewing and responding to a book by his victim about the effect he has had on her life is not an appropriate day for focussing AGAIN on the overly feted perpetrator in this saga.
And second, having chosen to focus on the wrong person, Ms Coren turns her hand to obfuscation and rape apology. Her argument appears to boil down to: he had a pretty shitty childhood. So maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on him.
Puh-lease! Ms Coren’s piece is riddled with the presumption that stories should balance: that a victim showing signs of independent thought is excuse for blaming her and being nice to their abuser.
For myself, I remain deeply impressed and affected by the courage of S. If we really want to look at this story again, today, of all days, is a day for hearing from her – and not having to digest tired old excuses on behalf of another.