Published October 01, 2009
This week, on ABC's "The View," co-host and comedian Whoopi Goldberg had the audacity to suggest that Roman Polanski's 1977 sexual assault on a 13-year old girl wasn't 'actual rape.'
"I know it wasn't rape-rape," Goldberg said. "Initially he was charged with rape, and then pled guilty to having sex with a minor." On Wednesday, Goldberg said that she was not defending Polanski but rather trying to clarify the precise charge he pleaded to.
When listening to all of her comments in context however, it sounds painfully obvious that Goldberg was really trying to suggest was that sex with a minor is 'statutory rape' and not 'forcible rape,' and therefore not as bad. Forcible rape is a term used by prosecutors when someone is physically forced or intimidated into having sexual relations. Statutory rape is a term that describes sexual relations with someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent because they are underage. Other forms of rape include 'date-rape' in which a victim is so heavily intoxicated with drugs or alcohol that they lack the ability to consent.
Although prosecutors sometimes distinguish the type of rape that a victim suffers, the distinction was never meant to imply that statutory rape or date-rape are any less heinous than forcible rape.
Contrary to what Goldberg suggested, what happened to Polanski's victim was rape...and yes, it was in fact what she sophomorically referred to as 'rape-rape,' or what prosecutors properly call forcible rape. According to original police transcripts, Polanski's victim told investigators that she initially resisted him, but finally stopped because she was "afraid of him."
That's forcible rape.
"We're a different kind of society," Goldberg said about the U.S. "We see things differently. The world sees 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds in the rest of Europe... not everybody agrees with the way we see things..."
Contrary to what Goldberg said, the legal age of consent in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland France, Greece and Sweden is 15, Russia and the United Kingdom is 16 and Ireland is 17. Germany and Hungary allow sexual relations with 14-year-olds, but Germany criminalizes sexual relations if the older party exploits the younger party's mental capacity on a case-by-case basis.
The only country in Europe where sex with a 13-year-old is legal is Spain, but even then using deceit to lure the victim into having sexual relations is a punishable crime.
Polanski deceived a 13-year old child by lying to her and telling her he wanted to interview her for a modeling job in Jack Nicholson's home, and once she was there alone with him he intimidated her from leaving and illegally gave her alcohol and part of a Quaalude drug. By the standard of every aforementioned European country and all definitions of sexual relations under the law in the United States, Polanski's actions constituted rape.
Goldberg is correct that we are "a different kind of society," and that "not everybody agrees with the way we sees things."
In fact, in Europe some countries don't even use the same criminal justice system we use in America. Many European countries use the "inquisitorial system," whereas we use the "adversarial system."
In our adversarial system, defendants have a fundamental right to legal counsel who will challenge prosecutors and fight to get criminal charges dropped or disproven. In Europe's inquisitorial system, defense lawyers work alongside prosecutors to try and find the truth even if it results in the defendant's conviction. Polanski was actually afforded more legal rights in America than he ever would have been afforded in Europe under all accounts. His money gave him access to high-powered lawyers and his celebrity star-power helped him gain undeserved sympathy from the public that no ordinary person would have received.
Roman Polanski diabolically lured a 13-year old child to a remote area where he knew she would be powerless. He used his mental and physical advantage over her to intoxicate and drug her and then sexually violate her in every possible way that the law prohibits.
He deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a former Washington, D.C. prosecutor and investigative reporter who authored the only book on the Kobe Bryant rape case. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.