jeudi 5 mars 2020

An interview with Samantha Geimer

Peggy Sastre : If I'm not mistaken (please correct me if I am), it's been since 2003 that you've publicly defended Polanski's right to pursue his career. How are you and how are you holding up with the recurring controversies ?

Samantha Geimer : Actually it was around 1997. I am well, thanks for asking.  These controversies only affect me as much as I let them, I could disconnect if I chose.  But most of the time I still feel that I want to tell my own story and continue to set the record straight as I did with my book.  I don’t know why the general public is so adverse to the truth, but that has only gotten worse in recent years. The #MeToo movement, which I believe meant to give us solidarity and strength, has been turned on it’s head.  Attacking famous and powerful men in order to “take them down” for sexist or abusive behavior even if it was unreported at the time and happened decades ago helps no one being abused today. If we want society and men to evolve, I don’t think demonizing people and labeling them as irredeemable is the way to do it. I’ll never stop directing attention at the misconduct by the court in our case, these things should not be left standing, it’s dangerous to all of us.

One might have expected that a victim of sexual violence as "famous" as you would have supported the #MeToo movement, but instead, you chose to sign the open-letter I've co-authored in January 2018 which was very critical of its excess. Why ?

The #MeToo movement has devolved into something negative.  I am a feminist. I do not believe we elevate women by tearing down men. I do not believe we stop sexual abuse and harassment by demonizing those who behaved in a way that was accepted by society years ago and demanding they are irredeemable now.  It is counterproductive. We need to educate people and change the world today. Equality is not demanding you be protected, demanding you cannot be held accountable for your own actions or criticize and report the actions of others because as a women, you are simply a child, too weak to stand up for yourself.  Women are strong, women are smart, we fought hard for our sexual freedom and should not go back so easily to gilded cages.

You're very clear that the media and the 1977 lawsuit against Polanski were much traumatic to you than his rape. How do you explain this ?

The sex was brief, I understood what was happening, that it would not last long and that I would go home soon.  The media and the court were much more unpredictable, a complete unknown, terrible surprises and unfair and terrifying demands it seemed every day.  There was no way of knowing when and if it would ever end. It felt much more deliberate and designed to harm.

In an interview, Polanski said it was Harvey Weinstein who dig up your case in 2003, as an agitprop operation made to sabotage The Pianist before The Oscars. Where you aware of this ?

I was not.  He also came out in his support years later.  It just shows how powerful men have used my case to their, and only their own advantage over the years, I am a side note.

Speaking of propaganda, seeing the very same lies and untruths about your case being waved over and over by people who claim to defend victims of rape is very disheartening to me. It’s like truth will always be the first casualty of politics and power struggles. What's keeping you going ? Aren’t you sometimes tired of setting the record straight ?

I admit my level of frustration with the lies and use of my story for the advantage of others is far higher than my frustration with setting the record straight.  If people don’t know, that’s okay. When they tell untruths and use my story to advance their own causes it is much more of a violation. It shows the hypocrisy of the “activists”.

Your book is full of very powerful statements. As this one : “It is disconcerting to be a young girl and know that people are on your side yet still feel a sense of regret you weren’t damaged enough. Almost immediately, from the start of this case, I felt the pressure to be damaged. But I refused to be damaged enough to be a “good” victim.” Why is rape the sole crime where victims have to be pretty damaged to be “good” victims ? And even to be heard ? And why a rape victim is always suspect if she recovers too well ?

I have never been able to reconcile that so many wish me to be brutalized to fit their anger and indignation.  We must care for victims of sexual assault and help them recover, to insist that they must carry pain and damage to somehow support other victims is ridiculous on it’s face. A strong woman is a good example, perhaps strong women intimidate some people.   To need a victim to feel pain for your own satisfaction or benefit is just as much of an abuse as an assault.

Your case in 1977 tells a story where psychiatrists fancy themselves as film critics and were somewhat lenient with Polanski because of his talent as filmmaker. Isn’t that ironic that, more than 40 years later, we have now cinema professionals who fancy themselves as police and judges ?

That is a good example of the double edged sword of celebrity.  Sometimes it gets you better treatment, but sometimes it makes you a target.  It is those who are not famous that suffer at the hands of those who use celebrities for their own ends.  1977 what happened to me was not uncommon and was not viewed as such a violation as it is today. Today, young women are simply used in a different way by activists, courts and attorneys, still the powerful abuse the weak to their own ends.

One lie about you is that you’re suffering from “Stockholm syndrome”, but it’s very clear reading your book that it’s very much not the case. You're not in awe of Polanski at all, he even seems to vanish from your mind almost at the minute he raped you. Now that psychiatry has gained some scientific ground (and is very far from what it was in the 70’s), we know it’s a very normal and healthy reaction from the brain : we forget things that are too painful in order to survive and thrive again. Why is that so difficult to understand to so-called “anti-rape activists” ?

True advocates do not trade on the pain of victims or use and abuse them without their consent to advance various causes.  This dark side of advocacy does not care about helping victims heal and changing views to make the world a safer place. It simply uses the pain and fear of women to stoke outrage and anger for its own sake, bringing attention to itself, not societies problems with sexual violence. In short, they don’t care, they just want to use you.

Few people seem to know you’ve decided to sue Polanski for sexual assault in civil court in 1988, after you’ve discovered he’d romanticized what he did to you in its autobiography - and that you’ve won, 5 years later. This ignorance was logical at the time because of the clever thing your counsel did to hide your case from the press. But nowadays, it just seems like an inconvenient truth people want to hide as to profit from the narrative “Geimer didn’t get justice and Polanski fled from it”. What do you think ?

He fled from injustice which he and I were both the victim of and I was glad he did.  That is the truth plain and simple. It is that injustice that has followed me for 4 decades, not his actions that night.  The civil suit gave me the justice the court count not, but Roman remains the victim of a corrupt system and and immoral judge.

Reading your book, your blog, your op-eds, your posts on social media… I have the strong sense you’re a very tough, clever and clear-headed woman. Where did you get that ?

I believe that came from my mother.  Watching her good example and facing what I did at such a young age.  It toughened me up and gave me good lessons in self preservation, you have to be in charge of yourself.  You cannot let the actions of others determine how you feel and react. You need to take responsibility for yourself and do what is best for you, don’t give your power to others.

In 2018, in a public event, a french scholar told me I’ve thrown my resilience “at the face of victims” writing and publishing the so-called “Deneuve’s letter”. I still haven't gotten over it because it summarized all too well what I think is wrong with the public discussion about rape. As if a rape victim has to never recover, because if she does, she’ll be a threat for other victims. Do you think it’s possible to change that ? How ?

All of us, victims and loved ones, want the same thing, recovery, health, happiness. I will never understand how people who say that are advocates and promote pain, damage, fear, anger and revenge.  It goes contrary to loving a person to wish and demand these feelings from someone who has already been hurt. To demand victims remain perpetually damaged as if that is the only way to prove sexual assault is wrong, is abusive and absurd. It is just another way to hold women back, to control them and convince them they are weak. That is not for me.

“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims. It means raping women isn’t that bad” said Adèle Haenel in the New York Times. What do you think of that ?

I disagree entirely, asking all women to carry the burden of their assaults along with the outrage of others for eternity is spitting in the face of all women who have recovered and moved on with their lives.  Dragging victims along in order to punish those who have done wrong simply abuses the victims further. It is not for others to say how any victim of assault should feel. When you deny victims forgiveness and closure for your own selfish need to hate and punish, you injure them further.  They have the right to let go of their past and men have the right to rehabilitate and redeem themselves when they have admitted wrongdoing and made amends.
(Draft version of the interview published here)