Getting Over It

[Trigger warning. Any and all rape apology will be deleted from this thread.]

I’ve been skeptical about the efficacy of trigger warnings in the past, but after reading post after post on the Polanski case on the blogs, and seeing the story cycle through news media hour after hour, and hearing the story discussed by acquaintances day after day, I can safely say I’ve been officially triggered for the first time in eight years, trigger warnings or not.

I was raped when I was thirteen years old. It was my first sexual experience, if you consider rape a “sexual experience.” There are some things that are private and will remain private about the incident, because I do not want to also trigger my family who still unnecessarily feel responsibility for the incident, but regardless, I was raped when I was thirteen years old. I kept it a secret for a long time because I thought it was my fault, and due to the five-year emotional spiral that resulted after I was raped, everyone around me was unable to discern whether I was being truthful when I finally gave my problem a name.

So when I’m reading the opinions about whether Roman Polanski should be extradited and prosecuted for drugging and raping a child, whether or not it was thirty-two years ago, whether or not the man is elderly today, whether or not punishment deters crime, whether or not the man is powerful and successful, whether or not our outrage is inspired by a hatred of all things libertine, whether or not the rapist is remorseful, and whether or not a child rapist has the support of the rich and powerful behind him, I think about a few things:

After years of therapy, personal reflection, and healthy, consensual sexual relationships, after relieving myself of the burden of feeling that I’d “gotten myself raped,” after (today) fifteen years, I thought it was behind me. I am surprised that it’s not. I’m equally surprised at my surprise.

What does rape do to you? Afterward? It changed me; there is before and after. Before, a child, playing with Barbies, looking sideways at boys, wondering. After, confusion. Depression. A litany of fuck-ups and fuck-its, whatevers, mistakes, trusting no one, least of all myself. Before, sex was mysterious; after, miasma. I was tarred as a Lolita. I was called jail bait.

Rape is not the only assault. Around rape is a large segment of the population that questions the victim, a culture that looks down on victims for allowing themselves to be victimized, or keep them victimized, questions about the victim’s credibility, questions about the legacy of rape and how bad it is, because how bad is rape really? Rape, because various levels and forms of sexual assault are systemic and pervasive across all societies, exists alongside one’s experiences of unwanted touching, wanted touching, sexual objectification, sexual desire, sexual harassment, incest, love, leering eyes, cat calls, roaming hands, consent, confusion, tits, vagina, rectum, penis, mouth, rape and not-rape, all of it loaded, all of it veering at rape’s ugly legacy, co-mingling, the legacy that tells us to be more careful, to dress more conservatively, to BE BETTER AT BEING VULNERABLE, or BE MORE POWERFUL, or BE MORE FEARFUL, or GET OVER IT ALREADY. Rape leaks into healthy, consensual experiences. It lingers. It pervades.

I’ve long had an irrational hatred of Roman Polanski, to the point where I’ve openly, publicly, and venomously criticized people I mostly agree with for daring to say they even like his movies. On political and aesthetic levels, I have some trivial issues with the portrayal of women in his movies, but I find him so loathsome because of who he is (a fugitive rapist) and what he’s done (he drugged and raped a thirteen year old girl). What happened is public record. He raped Samantha Gailey when she was a thirteen year old girl. He groomed a girl, possibly two that we know of, to be sexually abused by him. I was raped when I was a thirteen year old girl. The man who raped me, who is nameless and faceless in my memories, groomed me over the course of several days to lure me into his room. The man who raped me was never brought to justice, was never reported. He knew I was thirteen because I told him, he knew I didn’t consent because I told him no. I cried, there was blood, there was a lot of blood. I was afraid of him and of what would happen to me when it was discovered that I’d “had sex.” I ran, I hid, I withheld, I self-destructed, and afterward I willingly invited people into my life who would further take advantage of and abuse me. I think of Polanski and I think of the man who raped me. I wonder who he is, where he is now, and if he hurt other people like he hurt me, whether their families suffered the turmoil mine did. All of it unnecessary.

I also wonder if you ever really “get over it.” Today I’ve been mulling over a passage Melissa wrote, herself a rape survivor, about Gailey’s request to drop the case against Polanski:

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…

…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.

I go back and forth about the effects rape had on my young self, and the legacy it has on me today, but I know this: It’s a big fucking deal and it still matters. Eventually, I finally got along with life. I spent years in therapy teasing out the details of the afterward before I could have a healthy relationship with my loved ones again. I owned what mistakes were mine, made goals and achieved them. And as Melissa says, what closure I got was hard-won. It is mine, and it was earned with my sweat and blood and the passage of many years. But what I’ve realized this week is that it’s never really over.

I don’t have a concrete opinion on whether Polanski should be extradited to the United States to face sentencing for a sexual assault he has eluded for over thirty years. But then, I have no artistic fondness or personal sympathy for him whatsoever. Neither am I comfortable with letting him walk away from his crimes absolved of responsibility even though Gailey wants the subject dropped. Rape has an immeasurable legacy, one that is not taken seriously enough by the public or by the law, and I’m not hard-pressed to admit I want to see more rapists brought to justice. The political is personal, too.

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94 comments for “Getting Over It

  1. September 29, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Thank you for this, Lauren. You are heroic to write this and make it so public.

    I was twenty, grown, when it was me, but there is still a before and an after, and I’m not over it, either. And the way you deal with your “not over it” is one of the reasons I look up to you.

  2. September 29, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Agreed with Little Light. This is such a much-needed contribution. And you are very brave.

  3. Caro
    September 29, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Thank you for writing this Lauren!

  4. Liz
    September 29, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you Lauren. Really well-written and important. Inspiring. I was 20, and the circumstances made me completely blame myself and made others completely blame me (boyfriend.) Thank you so much for this comfort and companionship. Fantastic…

  5. Kripa
    September 29, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    It was brave of you to share your story and I appreciate it.
    But re: Polanski, I’ve actually been pleased with the coverage. I was afraid that everyone would be defending him, but by and large, the commenters on the internet loathe that man. They really, truly loathe him. And those who defend him, I’ve seen people who aren’t even feminist rip into them. It’s quite heartening. Example? Anne Applebaum of The Washington Post defended him and damn near every comment read her the riot act. Eugene Robinson wrote calling to throw his ass in jail. Etc. I’m not seeing the kind of slutshaming and victim blaming that has gone on in previous cases of alleged rape. Now granted, this time around there’s nowhere near as much room for debate, and the public record shows every sordid truth about the case (and might not be showing more sordid details still). Still, I’m regaining my faith in humanity.

  6. September 29, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    I was afraid that everyone would be defending him, but by and large, the commenters on the internet loathe that man.

    Agreed, but I think TV and other traditional media types are handling it poorly, which further clouds public opinion. See: All of Hollywood and/or HuffPo.

  7. September 29, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Lauren, thank you for your powerful words.

    When you wrote: “What does rape do to you? Afterward? It changed me; there is before and after.” that also describes the impact being raped had on my life. I was raped at 15, not 13 but the harm from being raped by someone I would have trusted with my life went soul deep. Both of my parents died not knowing I was raped, only knowing that their quiet daughter suddenly changed into a stranger they couldn’t make sense of. And who just as suddenly seemed to change back 3 years later. I wasn’t changed back but for years I desperately tried to be who I was prior to my rape.

    So many of those who call for Roman Polanski to be freed immediately and forever cite helping the victim get over it (and by “it” that includes the impact on her by Polanski’s flight and legal battle) while denying the full reality of her experience. I understand his victim wanting the retraumitization to end, but the resolution of the criminal case won’t end the trauma she experiences each time this case or Polanski’s history reenters the news cycle.

    Until everyone who writes stories about this case or who might be quoted about this case truly get the scope of the harm Roman Polanski caused, his victim won’t have a chance of seeing her trauma end since the crime done to her will be misrepresented in the media for years or decades to come and she will continued to be slandered as being less than a full victim of a serious crime. Her statement of forgiveness will continue to be twisted into a statement that she now finds his crime to be an acceptable action and not “rape rape.”

  8. September 30, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Thank you, L.

  9. Sivan
    September 30, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Well-written, honest and very touching. Thank you for writing this.

  10. September 30, 2009 at 3:25 am

    Thank you for writing this. I was 14 when I was raped and like others, I kept it quiet for many years. You have articulated many of the things I still feel 22 years later, and although I find it disturbing, it also helps me.

  11. sydneyb
    September 30, 2009 at 3:49 am

    I also was thirteen when it happened to me. I wasn’t able to tell my family about it because of our culture/strict rules and it wasn’t until I was 19 that anyone even knew. My rapist was never arrested because I kept it a secret. I didn’t think I could trust anyone (since I blamed myself for giving him access to me–he was my 17 year old boyfriend) and I was afraid of being sent back to my family’s native country for disobeying my parents strict rules. 2 years ago my rapist attacked me again. This time I was 25 and capable of bringing charges. But I was afraid that I wouldn’t be believed by the police (since I didn’t report the first attack) and that I would be publicly condemned and humiliated. My friends whom I told assured me that it would be okay–that people wouldn’t think that at 13 I put myself in a comprising situation and “asked” to be raped. After all, I was 13–clearly a child cannot consent and anyone who would do such a thing was a bastard. I didn’t believe them so I never reported the second attack. For the last two years I have wondered whether I made a huge mistake. After seeing all the coverage in Roman Polanski’s favor and all the people willing to dismiss his lecherous, disgusting and just plain criminal actions, I’m almost glad that I didn’t report either rape.

    And THAT horrifies me. Its like I’m being told that I was right—I would’ve been in the wrong to wish for justice. my rapist ex should be allowed to move on with his life peacefully since he has a successful life now.

    How has my rape affected me–when I read about Roman Polanski, I become livid with rage. I literally cannot think straight and to hear others defend him and seeing that list of Roman supporters makes me want to both scream and hit something in frustration.

    But only after I finish weeping at my own cowardice for accepting the belief that I wouldn’t be believed. And being shown 14 years later that apparently I was right all along.

  12. Banisteriopsis
    September 30, 2009 at 4:51 am

    Lauren I don’t know what to say. Thank you for speaking up.

  13. A. M.
    September 30, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Thanks so much for this. Between you and Kate Harding, I don’t think there’s anything more to be said about this issue. But I’ll ramble about my own experience anyways.

    I was 14 (below the age of consent where I lived). He was 29, or so he said. (I think he might have been older.) He gave me drugs that he claimed would make me happy, and told me I was beautiful and that he wanted to fall in love with me. And then he raped me, even as I was saying no and crying and struggling. He told me that he couldn’t stop, because my body was “saying yes.” Eventually I gave up struggling once the world started spinning faster. I tried to press charges, but the police told me that my experience was meaningless, that they would not help me. So if Polanski is brought to justice and this case is taken seriously (even years later), I will feel a little better, even though the man who took advantage of me will never face the consequences of his actions.

    (Totally irrelevant: the shithead had the nerve to send me a facebook friend request a few months ago, as if we were friends or ex-lovers or something. I spent almost a day huddled in my bed sobbing at the very thought of him, and I actually had to get my boyfriend to delete the friend request for me as I couldn’t handle looking at his face. Thanks for raping me, Thomas Carroll. No really, thanks. ‘Preciate that one dude.)

  14. Sheelzebub
    September 30, 2009 at 5:09 am

    Lauren, this is both brilliant and brave. Thank you.

  15. MKP
    September 30, 2009 at 6:57 am

    I am so sorry that happened to you, and thank you for writing about it so bravely.

    One of the horrifying things about the media coverage for me is how tonedeaf they are regarding the impact of their rape-apologetic statements. And how they could possibly think they don’t know someone who was raped, or not think of them when they begin an article excusing or pleading for clemency for Polanski. We all know somebody, many of us /are/ that somebody.

  16. mk
    September 30, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Thank you for this. It should be required reading for, well, humanity.

  17. Catherine
    September 30, 2009 at 8:03 am

    #15 – I am not shocked at the rape apology coming from the men. I saw one woman write that many of these male celebrities have been with underaged girls themselves. You know, Hollywood has this rep as liberal and leftist, but come on, I think we all know that it has always been very exploitiative of women. And of underaged girls.

    What i am blown away by is the women. WTF is wrong with you Whoopi Goldberg? WTF is wrong with YOU Debra Winger, you with your incredible, staggering assholery. And where are the women in Hollywood who have self-identified as Feminists? Can you hide any harder? Are you going to speak up? Or are you going to give approval by way of your deafening silence? There are some of us out here, probably many of us who feel so powerless because other than refusing to patronize Harvey Weinstein’s films, what can I do? What wouldn’t I give to have the power of Meryl Streep’s voice right now? But it’s not power if you don’t use it.

  18. gretel
    September 30, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Thank you, Lauren.

  19. Ishtar
    September 30, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Lauren, thank you. You are an inspiration. It’s people like you who give me hope when I despair at the pervasive asshattery in the world.

    I was molested (no penetration, though that wasn’t for lack of trying) several times from about the ages of 4 to 8. In my 20s I was forced, on two separate occasions by two different lovers, into having sex. The first time he ignored my crying and me saying no no no. The second time I gave in because I was afraid of his mental state that night. I thought that a refusal could spark a physical beat-down.

    It’s sad that so many people simply don’t get it – that Polanski DRUGGED AND RAPED A 13-YEAR OLD GIRL. I’m disappointed in the celebrities supporting him. Whoopi? WTF?

  20. Rhiannon
    September 30, 2009 at 8:44 am

    I was 5 when I was first molested, 15 when I was raped. There is a before and after, but the before for me was when I was five. The rapes I endured will never be as harmful to me as that first shattering when I was 5. That’s what I call it, my world “shattered” into a million tiny little pieces. I often wonder if I could’ve (and if I could, should’ve) gone after any one of my assailants in my life, but it was and is so hard to get over just what was done – for me to even consider what I would have to do, what I would have to endure to see justice – I can’t. Even when I know that it’s not likely I was their only or last victim – even the guilt isn’t enough to overcome the fear of more pain, more trauma. It’s taken me so long to put what few pieces I had left back together, yet the guilt I feel for not pursuing justice – no matter the personal cost. I just don’t know, there is no “over it”, there is no putting it “behind me” – there’s just trying not to be a completely shattered mess anymore and that’s it.

  21. September 30, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Thank you. That’s all I can say. Thank you.

  22. Oneofmany
    September 30, 2009 at 10:14 am

    I too was raped a few years ago. The guy was never brought to justice and I’ve paid the price of justifying my actions that lead to the rape, going through the short free therapy I got and later the on-going discussion and unability to set boundaries for my physical self in my new relationship. I know exactly what you mean: I feel that it doesn’t matter, it’s not that big a deal because the absolute worst has already happened. I can never change that. So – what boundaries? What physical self? What love? I can’t set the boundaries (I need) because the fear of someone breaking them again is too much to bare.

    And I was a grown-up, almost 30, when it happened. It didn’t even hurt. I honestly didn’t feel a thing. Later, I’ve felt the need to feel, to remember everything I felt. The shame adn compassion I felt for him for not somehow understanding what he was doing. The reason I was silent because I felt I was cheating on my boyfriend when I realized what was happening. I’ve even thought it would’ve been better if it hurt – that would give me at least one reason to believe it really was an assault no matter what the cops, the doctors or the prosecutors thought. Or the guy himself – the rapist who said I wanted it and lead him on even though I was asleep in my then boyfriend’s bed.

    Still my biggest fear is, that one day I’ll get a call telling me that somehow the case is still on, that I have to testify, that I have to go through it all again – and to meet him. I couldn’t do it. I don’t want to go there anymore.

    It will never stop hurting. No matter what. And I still think it would be really important for him to get a sentence. He needs to know what he did. But he never will.

    From time to time I get panic attacks, bad dreams, feel anxious and unloved without any real reason. I am happy in my new relationship. Everything is well. Except for one thing. That guy raped me. And never paid for it. I pay for it every day of my life. It’s a part of me that I won’t be able to take out no matter how much therapy, no matter how much love. Me and all my loved ones are all forced to live with it. Day by day.

    Why won’t him?

  23. September 30, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Thanks for all the support, everyone. It would be immensely helpful for me to take the focus off of my experience and hear from other sexual assault survivors about how they deal with the aftermath, what works for them, and how they respond to these high-profile cases in the media.

  24. September 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I feel that it doesn’t matter, it’s not that big a deal because the absolute worst has already happened. I can never change that. So – what boundaries?

    Yep. This has been the hardest thing to battle. The flipside is that I get so vigilant about the boundaries I do set that I have a hard time picking battles in my personal relationships — all disagreements are fight or flight territory.

  25. Mari
    September 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Long time lurker, never-before replier. Thank you for writing what you did; it brought me to tears in class. You’re very brave.

    I was assaulted when I was 19, by an acquaintance I was very much attracted to after he walked me home. I was only forced to third, and I ran as soon as he figured out my sobbing was preventing me from doing my job–he shoved me aside to finish the job himself, and I took my escape. I could never have fought off a former soldier. Since I was drunk, he was drunk, we were alone, there were no marks on me, and it was only oral, there was no chance for justice.

    I was in love with someone else at the time. He didn’t love me; I told him what happened, he sad he felt concern for me as a friend, and aside from a conversation about WoW and the weather where he was at in North Carolina, I was cut out of his life.

    I think I would be coping if I could stop being afraid of men, and quit being so dubious of the idea that there are men out there worth loving. Like, I know what I’m afraid of now, and I really don’t think that men are going to want to deal with damaged goods like me.

  26. Mari
    September 30, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Just to make my weird self-hating rant clearer, it’s only been eleven months. My apologies.

  27. kevin
    September 30, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    thank you.

  28. Q Grrl
    September 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Mari: it’s not your job to find out if there are men worth loving; it’s the job of all men to prove that they are capable of compassion and empathy.

  29. September 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve been coming back to this comments section all day, trying to formulate a decent enough response, but all I can say to you, Lauren, is that you’re the bestest. You have inspired me in ways I can’t begin to talk about.

    Mari, it does get better. I can tell you that I personally go through cycles – sometimes those feelings come back. I think a lot of people can cycle back to that place. But once the original healing process happens, you begin to get to that point of “oh hai! Look at me! I can manage this stuff so much better now.” You can begin to build upon past experience, and you do emerge stronger for it.

    If you ever want to talk to someone and find yourself unable to – drop me a line: nvantonova [at] gmail [dot] com. I know I’m a total stranger, but sometimes, total strangers can be alright for this kind of thing, or so I have found.

  30. September 30, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I comment here very, very infrequently (I believe this is my third comment here ever), but Lauren, I just wanted to say thank you for this post. My rape happened when I was just 3 years old, but when I was 13, I was being sexually abused by a relative, so I can relate. I will probably never have justice because I don’t want to go through a court case. And I’m 28 years old now, so I’m not sure whether I could do something about that even if I wanted to.

    It makes me so angry to see so many people in Hollywood willing to let Polanski off the hook for this hook for this horrible crime. I understand that Samantha Gailey wants to move on with her life, and I certainly don’t fault or blame her for that, but I also believe we can’t just let him off the hook either.

    I hope that you feel better soon Lauren, I agree with Natalia @ post 28, these things do seem to go in cycles. I’ve mostly moved on with what happened to me, but occasionally there’s a bump in the road and I have to be gentle with myself and find my footing. You sound like you’ve been able to cope for sometime now, and I’m sure you’ll find your footing again.

    Thanks again for this post!

  31. Gina
    September 30, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you, Lauren. It does get better. I love to see all the support here.

  32. Marlene
    September 30, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    (shaking) Thanks

  33. kelly
    September 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you…just thank you. These past couple of week have been incredibly triggering for me. I was sexually abused from age 11 until 15 by a close relative. I know the “before” and the “after”, and how nothing is ever the same. The comments in the media about how “it isn’t as if he killed someone”, and “how bad could it really be?” and the real tragedy being the persecution of this great artist….the negation of his victim and his violent and vile acts upon her make me feel incredibly bleak and angry and ….I can’t even articulate it. i thank you for putting all of these things into words.
    I am 40, and it has been over for 25 years, and i am still not “over it”.

  34. Jessica
    September 30, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I just started following this blog recently. And today I’m being brought to tears by it.

    Thank you to everybody who’s shared their story on here, especially Lauren. This blog post, and these comments have given me so much courage and hope.

    I was abused by a family member both physically and sexually from the time I was (at the earliest) 4 til I was 11. And 2 years ago, I was date raped by somebody I called a friend. I am just now dealing with both of these issues, and I am scared. I am being reminded that I am still a human.

    When I was in my early teens, I tried to tell my mother what went on when I was a kid, and she denied it. For years, I have felt so condemned to just live with this weighing on me. There was a long period of time where I even questioned if it did actually happen. How could my mother deny this? I felt betrayed, lost and angry. I never spoke about it again.

    And it only occured to me about a year ago that what happened to me when I was 21 was in fact rape. I couldn’t move to save my life. I had to be carried “home” from the bar we were at. I don’t know if I was drugged, but I remember laying there, unable to move, and saying no many times. And then I blacked out. Later, he told me if I ever use the “R” word, and his name in the same sentence, he will sue me for slander.

    I have been digging up past memories for the past two weeks trying to work through this. It’s not easy to talk about, but it feels a little better when I do. It’s bittersweet to know I’m not alone, even when I feel the most alone. I have nightmares every night, I am riddled with anxiety, and I don’t even know where to go for therapy, which is something I know I could use. However, my family is supportive, my mother has apologized profusely, and I am starting to work on this. I know it’s nothing I’m ever going to “get over” or forget about, but it helps to know that I will be able to eventually let go of all (or at least most) of this anger and frustration I’ve held onto for so long.

    So again, thank you all so very much.

  35. September 30, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Excellent points, so bold and well-written. I’ve been in some scary sexual situations w/ men and can only imagine at 13-years-old how it must feel to be taken advantage of in such a crude, vile manner. Thank you for these words and your post.

  36. falloch
    September 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I had very ambivalent feelings about Polanski’s arrest until I started reading on blogs like this one. I know that he has had a tortured personal life – between Holocaust family ties, murder of his very pregnant wife, etc. – but I have read recent posts about the particulars of his raping the 13-year-old, etc. and have decided that Whoopi Goldberg’s depiction of his crime as a not ‘rape-rape’ is just twisted.
    However, I am curious about the timing of this arrest in Switzerland; a very weird AP internal mail that I saw today on the Intertubes (alas, I didn’t grab the link, not am I competent enough to know how to search for it beyond Google) speculated that the US’s acting on an ageing warrant on Polanski was part of a bargain exchange, where the US would not go after US tax evaders that sequester their millions in Swiss banks, which are under scrutiny after the credit crunch. So there you go, sex is prosecuted to save money’s skin. It was ever thus …

  37. harlemjd
    September 30, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Falloch – if it makes you feel any better, Polnski’s lawyers were trying to get the outstanding warrent completely quashed recently and one of the arguments they used was that the DA’s office in LA wasn’t spending its time stalking him to figure out when he would be out of France (which will not extradite him) and have him picked up then by someone else. they pretty much dared the prosecutors to do what they did.

  38. Michael
    September 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Long time reader – first time commenter…

    I find myself infuriated at the apologists for Polanski. He’s a rapist, and a serial child molester.

    I don’t think consent comes into the picture when you’re dealing with a 13 year old and a older adult, the power relationship dominates everything. (On top of that, Polanski committed physical assault and rape).

    I’m 55 years old, male, and I was sexual abused by a ‘close family friend’ for 2+ years between the ages of 12 and 14. I was not physically assaulted – the molester’s techniques included shame and emotional manipulation. I didn’t know how to say no, and I didn’t know how to speak for myself.

    I spent 40 years thinking I’d beat the shit out of my molester if I ever ran into him, and thought acknowledging that anger was effectively dealing with my trauma (perhaps a typical male response given our societal conditioning).

    It wasn’t until, a couple of years ago, I found myself in an excellent therapist’s office (trying to work through chronic low grade depression), in tears -because I didn’t feel I could say no- (to anything)… and I wanted to be able to say no, that I started recognizing and working through some of the deeper issues I’d buried around shame, and the difficulties I’ve had in asking for things (for fear someone wouldn’t say no, even when they wanted to, when power was not an issue), and the feeling that I was worthless.

    I’ve reached a point where I’m at least conscious of at least many of the ways that experience has shaped my psyche, and I can make choices now in areas where I only used to react. But scars are still there.

    Me – I want to see Polanski be extradited and face consequences. I think a part of ending rape culture is holding rapists accountable, and not allowing excuses.

    (and thanks to Lauren and the rest of you who will put it out there to perhaps help people understand that consent -matters-)

  39. Allie
    September 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Lauren, and everyone else here.

    I was 21. I am 28 now. Every once in awhile something will trigger it, and it still amazes me how quickly I’m back there. I still have waking nightmares about not getting out of that room when I had the chance. The police officer I talked to later said, “It doesn’t matter if you did something stupid. You can walk naked down main street, and that would be stupid, but if someone rapes you they still make the choice to commit that crime.” This is true, and I know it is true, but when I think about what happened, all I can hear is my best friend – herself a rape survivor – say that most people who are raped were “just gullible”, and all I can think about was how stupid and gullible I was. I can’t even call her on it because I know I would lose it. I feel like the walking wounded.

    Jessica – you mentioned that you didn’t know where to start for therapy. I’m told that is an excellent resource – and they have a 24-hour hotline. I haven’t quite worked up the courage to give them a call. Has anyone here called them?

  40. September 30, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    The flipside is that I get so vigilant about the boundaries I do set that I have a hard time picking battles in my personal relationships — all disagreements are fight or flight territory.

    Yes. I know this all too well. Boundaries are almost dirty words; as soon as I feel that one is even in danger of fluxuating, let alone crossed, I flip. I have more boundaries than most and am only now starting to realize this to be true, and because of your post and comment that I’m referencing, understanding why that is.

  41. September 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    To Allie @ comment #39

    Yes Allie, RAINN is an excellent resource, and they do have a 24-hour hotline. Not only that, but they have an online hotline as well, that works sort of like a one-on-one chat, except it’s secure, and you can speak to a trained counselor. If saying what you need to say out loud or in front of a counselor is too hard for you right now, I recommend this out, particularly because I needed to find some non-verbal sources of help for myself before I was able to see a therapist in person. You deserve to heal, and it’s such a good thing that this is out there for those of us from whom this has kept from talking to someone who can help. :)

  42. MissTiff
    September 30, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I’m really ambivalent about this Polanski thing. I was molested by my cousin at age 13 and that mixed with the verbal/physical abuse I suffered at the hands of my father and my mother’s ambivalence at the time left me grasping for meaning through most of my adult life. I still suffer from the scars (Hello my name is ___ and I’m a commitmentphobe) but I can certainly understand Gailey’s point of view. My cousin did a runner too and has never stepped foot in our city or even spoken to his mother (My Aunt) in the 26 years since! Should I hunt him down and make him pay, i.e. jail time? Or should I take comfort in the fact that when he stole my innocence he also threw away his family and the only life he’d ever known up to that point? I can’t claim to know what Gailey is thinking but I’d be willing to bet real money that she just wants to move on and get on with the rest of her life without constantly seeing/hearing her name in the media. And I totally feel her on that…

  43. Allie
    September 30, 2009 at 9:23 pm


    Thank you!

  44. AK
    September 30, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Eight months ago I was drugged in the bar at a Swedish Cultural Center in Seattle. I was brutally assaulted. I woke up in the morning in the hallway there, violently ill, covered in bruises, disoriented and unable to walk without falling down. I remember only fragments that have slowly surfaced. I don’t remember getting home or falling back asleep. I didn’t remember what happened until I woke up again and discovered my clothing in disarray. I was in denial. I was sure I had cheated on Sean because it seemed impossible that I would be drugged in this place I belonged, where I was respected and liked, at an event i created and ran. It was impossible because it didn’t happen to people in their 30s. It was impossible because it was too horrible.

    I died that night. Or the person I was died. I have spent energy since then pretending to still be that person, but it is exhausting. I am trying to come back to life. I am taking all the right steps. One of those steps is to confess to you, my friends, what I have gone through and am still going through, a process of recovery that takes years. This should not be a secret. My fear and shame and pain has kept me from talking about it, but I don’t want it to be a secret. I think it’s important for people to know that this kind of thing really happens. It happens more than we know and it’s happening more and more.

    Harborview and the Seattle Police have issued a memo that went out to the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center saying that incidences like mine are up significantly in the last few years. The drugs being used are not just prescription but similar ones made at home and harder to trace. They can’t keep up–yet–but they are making it a priority to figure out the pattern so that it can be stopped.

    What has happened since January 23rd:

    My friends and colleagues on the Cultural Center board ultimately betrayed re-victimized me. They threatened to kick me off the board if I talked about it to people involved at the Center. Some of those colleagues and staff members lied to the investigator, changed their stories to protect the perpetrator: the Executive Director’s son. There was not enough evidence for a criminal trial.

    I could not stay. I thought I only needed a break, but again I was in denial. I had to leave the Cultural Center. I had to leave the things connected to my rape. I resigned from my position as VP of Programs on the board. I resigned from the steering committee at a Heritage Museum’s younger adult program. I had to leave my job at the Consulate. I could not be reminded daily by connections to the community and the prominent members I had considered friends. I even have trouble speaking, reading, hearing my second language; listening to the country’s artists and watching the country’s movies; remaining connected to people from this part of my life.

    I had to give up my community, my job, the career path I had so carefully begun carving out. I lost my sense of security, my trust, my ability to go out in the evening. I have lost connections to my friends who don’t understand the profundity of what I’m going through and who in one way or another tell me to get over it, move on, or to keep chin up because the weather’s nice. I have lost connections with my friends who push me to do things I am not ready or able to do or who get angry with me because of it. I have lost connection with people who are more concerned that I communicate sensitive things by text or email than they are by the content. I don’t talk face-to-face or even on the phone because it is too intimate and too difficult, and because I have lost my ability to answer the questions “how are you?” honestly to all but very few people in my life. It is hard to try to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while because I have so little I’m able to share and my life changes beg so many questions. I have become one of the best actors I know. 

    I am having anxiety attacks again, chest pain, agoraphobia, weakness all related to PTSD. It seems to happen every few months that I get several weeks of symptoms. I can’t take anti-anxiety medicines because they are related to the drug I was given. It will pass again as it has previously. 

    I will recover. I will be fine. I have tremendous support from a small circle of people. But I will never be the same. I haven’t “been myself” since then. That self is gone.

  45. September 30, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Powerful post, Lauren.

    I was 25; he was a friend, and while things started off consensually, there was alcohol and a blackout involved. I wouldn’t have known that the blackout part had happened had he not left me a note telling me about the “second time.” You know, after I’d rolled over and puked my guts all over the floor, which might be a signal that things have gone south.

    I don’t really talk about it, and I’ve never mentioned it on the blog before. I don’t really know what happened, or what I said, or whether I apparently consented. He was drunk, too. He didn’t force me or anything. When I read the note, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I probably feel more shame about the blackout and about my subsequent use than anything else. I quit last year, and reading “Drinking: A Love Story” by Caroline Knapp really helped me see what the hell it was I’d been doing all those years, both with him and with other men, though I didn’t black out again with a man even if I got drunk, which I usually did.

    However, I am curious about the timing of this arrest in Switzerland; a very weird AP internal mail that I saw today on the Intertubes (alas, I didn’t grab the link, not am I competent enough to know how to search for it beyond Google) speculated that the US’s acting on an ageing warrant on Polanski was part of a bargain exchange, where the US would not go after US tax evaders that sequester their millions in Swiss banks, which are under scrutiny after the credit crunch. So there you go, sex is prosecuted to save money’s skin. It was ever thus …

    It’s a lot simpler and a lot less sinister than all that. In order for the LA County DA’s office to get him arrested and extradited, they had to file paperwork with the Swiss to request it. This paperwork takes time, and he was careful to time his visits randomly, so that the DA’s office either wouldn’t get wind in time or wouldn’t have enough time to file the paperwork with the Swiss until he was on his way back to France (who wouldn’t extradite at all). But this time, he made the mistake of making his plans to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival public and in plenty of time for the DA’s office to get its ducks in a row.

    The only reason that the warrant was “aging” was that he very deliberately evaded capture for 30 years. His crime of being a fugitive — for let us not forget that in addition to the crime for which he pled guilty, he also committed a separate crime when he took a runner — is ongoing.

    Also: banking stuff is under federal jurisdiction, and this crime was being prosecuted by the state. They tend to be protective of their turf, so it’s unlikely the LA County DA’s office would have cut any deals with the feds if they weren’t going to get a piece of that banking action.

    As for whether prosecution now will help the victim put it all behind her — hey, you know what would have helped her put it behind her decades ago? Had he served his time. He probably would have been out making movies by the late ’80s.

  46. Pre
    September 30, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I’ve mentioned before that I’ve narrowly escaped being date raped twice. In addition, there was one other sexual assault. These three instances have happened all within the last year and a half.

    There’s a handful of things that have helped me. I’ve surrounded myself with people who are unconditionally supportive. This means the second people start recommending I stop drinking socially, learn to choose my friends more carefully, ask if I was really not giving consent (and how could you know if you were drunk?), I immediately cut them out. It’s a cost benefit analysis. There may be some benefit to society for me to correct these people, but I can’t do everything myself, and it’s important for me to keep that in mind. When it comes to my uneducated immigrant parents, my distance has driven a wedge, but fact of the matter is that their blame would be infinitely more damaging to our relationship than the space I’ve taken.

    That said, I put some of my effort in change. Georgetown University currently has a policy in place that says if you’re being assaulted in any manner and fight back in any way, your assaultor can counter charge you. I know of at least one instance where this was used against a woman who struck her assailant to get away. The way it works out, both parties drop charges more often than not. I put this person in contact with the head of Health Services and we’re hoping the policy gets changed going forward. (There is absolutely no exception made when a man or woman is getting raped – if you hit your attacker, you can get slapped with a Category B violation).

    The nurse I saw at the first hospital I went to after the second near date rape was one of the people that asked if I was sure I didn’t give consent when I was drunk. After snapping at her [keeping in mind that I hadn’t showered, unsure of whether there was a rape or not (though I remembered enough to know that an ex-friend got naked and got into my bed before I ran out of my own house screaming in terror)because of the blackout that had occurred, am sitting in my own sweaty, rained-on filth, and the first person who is supposed to help me is suggesting I asked for sex when I was so incoherently drunk, two friends had to help me get into my own house earlier in the night] that you cannot give consent when you are that drunk, I proceeded to gather my things to leave. That hospital didn’t even do rape kits, and that absolute jerk tried to keep me there when it was obvious that I needed only one hospital trip and it needed to be at one where they weren’t trying to victimize me for the second time in 24 hours. When I told her I was leaving, I went back to the people that had come with me to the hospital, I explained to her that I needed to be somewhere where people were taking me seriously. She grabbed my arm and pulled me behind a partition (..yeah) to explain some bullshit about caring about my wellbeing. False. I wrote to the hospital the Monday after to make a complaint. I didn’t know her name, but I knew where she was working and when, and she was the only nurse doing check-in, so luckily it was sufficient. That hospital made their staff go through re-training because of my correspondence.

    I’m healthy. Super, super healthy. This is what works for me.
    1) I focus on me. I am always my greatest responsibility, and I know precisely where my moral compass lies. As such, I’ve made a few decisions.
    2) I don’t punish all men for the actions of a few. Not every man is a rapist, the same way not all Middle Easterners are terrorists and not all Republicans are soul-less (including myself).
    3) I see a shrink. Often and happily. There’s a trick to this. There are a few things you need to decide before going. I am not thrilled with the idea of meds unless they are necessary, and in my case they aren’t. One woman told me over the phone before meeting me that she was planning on referring me to a psychiatrist because she believes in throwing medicine at people. That’s not for me, but that’s something you should look at for fit.
    4) I recognize that this is going to affect my functioning, but it’s no different than having any other set of life stories. The trick is working with myself (and more often than not, with my shrink) to reconcile my past with my goals for the future.
    5) I spend a lot of time thinking about how nothing is wrong with me. And it’s not. There’s a lot wrong with our culture in how we handle it. So yes, I’m healthy, but hearing stories like Martin Scorcese is supporting letting Roman Polanski go breaks my heart every time. I posted a link to Robinson’s Post editorial on facebook and got into an argument about his position with a former Georgetown classmate. It denigrated to me calling her tacky for supporting a rapist on a sexual assault survivor’s facebook. I’m not perfect, but I’m better off than a lot of people with regards to this matter.
    6) Sometimes I cry over how society harnesses this rape culture. Then I try to change it in small ways. Drop in the bucket for some, but if everyone does something – talks to their 13 year old nephew now, joins that facebook petition and invites twenty supporters… change can happen. It’s not all up to me, but I can try a little bit.

    This is lengthy and a little purge-y so I have no interest in going back to edit for grammar and content. Consider this my apology for what may be extremely poorly constructed.

  47. PrettyAmiable
    September 30, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I have a comment awaiting moderation that I accidentally signed as “Pre.” Just FYI!

  48. karak
    October 1, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Thank you for saying this so well. I don’t care that the man makes good movies, he committed a crime and doesn’t get to get away from it because he’s an artist. There are plenty of other artists in prison, for much lesser crimes, and no-one gives them any pity.

  49. Robin
    October 1, 2009 at 2:18 am

    You know, I used to dismiss it because I hadn’t heard all the facts and really like Polanski’s movies, but after reading the testimony… wow, yeah, that dude needs to go to prison. Hard to believe the maker of Chinatown doesn’t have more of a conscience about child-abusers going unpunished. Or was that intended to be a happy ending?

  50. jo
    October 1, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Thank you for writing this, Lauren. Polanski is scum. He deliberately raped a child. He then deliberately fled and created/allowed a “poor little unfairly treated rapist” mythology around himself and his work. I think that in some ways, his mythology even plays on the rape, with it almost being treated as a subtextual example of his edginess and refusal to play by rules. That absolutely infuriates me.

    I hear you on the before and after. I was 5 when I was molested by a teenage acquaintance of our family. Nothing was ever the same. I did not think of it as traumatising at the time, but I certainly thought of men, women, bodies and my own usability, worth and boundaries very differently.

    I knew that I was not like the other girls, who did not know about this thing. I thought that I had to protect the adults and children around me from the knowledge of the abuse and had to keep this secret so that no-one would be upset or hurt. In effect, I guess I had to think that the very real impact on me was less important that my parents being upset and having to deal. That affected the value I could put on my other pain and fears (always less important than coping and not upsetting others).

    Though I was not sexually active until I was 18, I remember thinking that it wouldn’t matter if I had sex because I was already not a virgin (yeah, patriachal bullshit, I know). I could not really value my own sexuality as a precious thing, because society told me that I was already used and so it wouldn’t matter if I and my partners treated my sexuality as a light and unimportant thing. (From the age of 5!) I also had a lot of issues about trusting that men could actually value me and not see me as a convenient thing to get them off, the way my abuser had. That last fear even occasionally affects my relationship with my husband of 20 years (who does not see me that way).

    Thank you for your bravery and kindness in sharing your story and allowing others to do so. It helps.

  51. sydneyb
    October 1, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Hey Lauren-

    first off I want to say thank you for opening up and giving everyone a forum to talk. I didn’t say that before and I wanted to make sure that my appreciation was expressed.

    As for how I deal with my feelings when the media/ idiot members of society apologize for behavior like Roman Polanski (and I don’t know if this will help), I have to say that (to my shame) my first reaction is to drink. Its the only thing that stops me from wanting to inflict pain on myself. After that, I isolate myself from blogs and news on the internet for at least a day because being triggered—not a good idea. Then I fill my time with things that make me really happy to be alive–family, friends, hell even T.V. shows and music that are upbeat and positive and give me hope that life is worth living. In terms of long term help, therapy is an obvious resource. But escapism is the best tool for me. Its like I need to create/enter into a false reality so I can just believe that people can be good and that I can give myself hope to survive. And if that doesn’t work, i do a lot of mediation and breathing exercises to calm my emotions and then try to talk to someone I trust. I find its too easy to let my thoughts spiral into badness if i’m alone.

    I don’t know if any of this will be helpful but I just wanted to offer some of my methods in the hope that it might benefit someone. Again, I just want to say that all the people who’ve posted their stories are so brave and thank you for helping to create a safe space.

  52. MotherB
    October 1, 2009 at 6:40 am

    As a woman, mother, grandmother of two beautiful, young women and as a child advocate, all I can say about this powerful post is we all need to protect our children and do everything we can to believe in them. There is enough guilt to go around for the victims and those who should have protected them, but we can bring some justice to the helpless by being more pro-active and vigilant.

    I love you, Lauren and will always wonder about what could have been if this horrible event had never happened.

  53. Petr
    October 1, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Wow. Lotsa hard stories and brave people here. I commend you all.

    What angers me the most about the whole Polanski situation isn’t just that he raped a young girl, but that he’s been treated so royally along every step of the way. He’s committed two crimes and has been consistently coddled in a way that allowed him (and others) to feel like he’s being treated on a technicality: This is obscenity piled upon obscenity.

    Polanksi raped a girl. Even if she literally threw herself at him, she was under age and it would still be rape. But since she said no, repeatedly, it was rape;

    Polanksi pled the case down from rape to some amorphous ‘underage sex’, thus allowing people some meager cover (I’m looking at you Whoopi…) in defense of him;

    Polanski fled the country: he’s a fugitive from justice. A crime in and of itself.

    It’s monstrous that anybody defends any of this… any of it. It makes me sick.

  54. October 1, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Unfortunately, I must honestly say that I didn’t know much about the Polanski case before be got caught. I knew he had had sex with a minor, and thus committed statuary rape, but I didn’t realize that he had drugged her, making it rape in more ways than one.

    Lauren, thank you for sharing your story. And thank you the rest of you for sharing your stories as well.

    It’s hard to read such stories, and have anything but despair for mankind. The only thing in this matter that gives me a glimmer of hope, is the fact that many people, ordinary or famous, have spoken out against Polanski and the people supporting him. Maybe there is hope for a change?

  55. Heather
    October 1, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Thank you for speaking out and making it ok for others to do so as well. I’m a rape/sexual assualt advocated and I really appreciate this, for me and for all the women and girls I work with.

  56. October 1, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Well-said. Excellent post. Condolences for what you were put through.

    We’ve had bitter confrontations before, but no-one deserves that shit. At all. Ever.

    To the Rape-Apologists who signed the release petition:
    You Fucking Assholes. Why did you people have to let me down so bad?

  57. Michele
    October 1, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Thank you Lauren, for voicing some of what I cannot. In my circumstance I was a grown woman, anally raped by a man I was supposed to be able to trust, and victimized by him in so many other ways. I was stunned, in my middle-age now, to realize how this has triggered so much I thought had been put behind me.
    It’s good to know I’m not alone, so again, I thank you for reminding me it is ok for me to be human.

  58. Julie
    October 1, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    I was 18, then I was 20. Your story is important; thank you for sharing it.

  59. Anne
    October 1, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    I am outraged by those who wish to excuse Polanski as well.

    Two dear friends of mine were sexually victimized as children. The male friend was molested by a male stranger when he was 13 years old. The female friend was victimized by her father at that around age.

    Their wounds are deep, and the damage lasts life long. Their innocence and trust was stolen from them, far too soon.

    I want to shout THERE. IS. NO. EXCUSE. FOR. RAPING. A. CHILD.

  60. Lynni
    October 1, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    As my therapist told me at 13 – abuse and rape, once they’re over, are like a horrific compound fracture badly fused. As the years go onward, there will be times and triggers that hit, and you need to go in and get that segment re-broken and re-set so that it will heal straight…and it will never be completely straight or healed.

    I have very deliberately avoided the coverage of this case because I have other triggers currently being set off, and my family doesn’t need the stress.

  61. October 1, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I was also ambivalent about Polanski’s arrest. I wondered how much of a threat he poses to society in general (I mean, aside from inflicting his movies upon us) and the women of LA in particular. I thought about the amount of money that will be spent on bringing him to justice and if the money would be better spent getting rapists who currently pose a real threat to women in LA off the street. I was angry at the victim’s mother for allowing this man to have access to her daughter and I wondered if her desire to have the subject dropped stemmed from a desire to protect her mother from scrutiny. And I wonder why people insisted on calling his crime statutory rape all these years, implying that the crime was the victim’s age, when what happened was clearly not consensual and the victim’s age is irrelevant except in that it makes the crime more grotesque. While I don’t think extraditing him and making him stand trial will be worth the money spent (somehow, I suspect he will manage to work out a plea deal wherein he spends no time in prison), I hope it at least helps to open the dialogue in society about rape and I hope that as more people learn the facts of the case, they think twice about questioning the charges against Roman Polanski or suggesting that one’s artistic body of work or personal tragedies should absolve a person from the crimes they commit.

  62. Samantha
    October 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I was literally brought to tears reading this post and many of the comments. I have suffered numerous instances of rape and sexual abuse: for 4 years when I was in elementary school, for 2 years in high school, and numerous attempts and one-night instances when I was drugged, drunk, or simply too scared to run. All in all, there are about 5 people who have sexually abused or raped me, and to be honest, I would not want any of them to be arrested. I have done my best to help myself get over these things, to lead a normal life and have good relationships, and slowly I am becoming more and more successful. The man that raped me for 2 years in high school has had his life torn apart in a few ways because of what he did (he was denied employment as a police officer when his recruiter found out what he did to me based on my account, my mother’s account, and one of his friend’s account), and the fact that he lives 2 hours away from me now makes me feel a whole lot better. Having these people who have hurt me be convicted would not change anything for me, and I doubt anyone would believe me anyway because I am a pretty strong-willed, intelligent person, and I “don’t fit the profile” of a rape victim.

    As for Polanski, if there is proof, he should be imprisoned, end of story. I have no proof to offer of all my hurts, and hopefully the truth about what I have gone through will slowly fade to the back of my mind. I am only 20 years old, and I have a lot ahead of me without being tied up in court proceedings and being forced to re-live everything that happened to me.

  63. October 1, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Heads up: This post just got linked on Boing Boing, which does not have the most spotless record of woman-friendly commenters. Most of them are fine, but one of tne of the comments over there actually just made me cry it was so vile. If some of them click over here, you might have a lot of deleting to do.

  64. October 1, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    @Allie (39):

    I used to believe that I was “just gullible” for 2 decades until after the Mike Tyson trial which triggered me so severely that what I had stuffed away immediately after being raped wouldn’t stay stuffed.

    For some reason I decided that I needed to capture the full dynamics of my date rape on paper and as I dredged up all the memories of the relationship which ended in rape I at first felt like that label was deserved because so much of what he did prior to raping me worked toward that goal. Then I realized that my rape had effectively dubbed in an underlying sense of menace (setting the tone as effectively as the music in a horror film does) to my memory of our entire dating relationship. But the obvious menace wasn’t there during those experiences.

    I realized I hadn’t been the slightest bit gullible. He had pretended to be a safe non-rapist and had used every trick he could think of to get me into a psyhological and physical situation where he could rape me and maximize his chances that he could leave me feeling responsible for his alleged loss of control. Which was a lie. Physically he could have raped me many times before he made the choice to rape me. Many times when he was extremely aroused he was able to simply say goodnight and walk away.

    His small and carefully spaced boundary violations fit with the idea I’d grown up with that boys always push for more than you want to give them so I had no reason to see them as warning signs. That was just how dating worked. I now reject that paradigm.

    I was no more gullible to trust him than I had been when I trusted boys and men romantically or platonicly who never tried to sexually assault me.

    When I’m expecting a package and the doorbell rings I open the door, but if I was raped after doing that somebody out there would decide to declare me gullible. After all, if I hadn’t opened the door, I wouldn’t have theoretically have been raped.

    But the problem wouldn’t have been me opening the front door (something I’ve done countless times without being raped) it would have been the presence of someone willing to rape me on the other side of that door at that time and place.

  65. Jonathan
    October 2, 2009 at 12:13 am

    When I was 7, my father started coming into my room late at night to “punish” me with genital torture and rape. I finally regained conscious memory of it 3 years ago at age 25, and dealing with PTSD has been a full time job and more ever since.

    I reported it to the police where it happened (and where my father still lives), not because I thought they’d do anything, but just to try and find closure. Even with no expectations, it still gets under my skin to remember the skepticism in the sherrif’s voice, asking why I was reporting it after all this time. When here I am giving first-hand information that a member of his community has raped a child before and covered it up successfully.

    I think I’m glad just that the Polanski case is bringing coverage of child rape into the media at all — dead silence is worse than anything. It’s what lets everyone who would rather not think about the truth behind child rape go right on continuing not to think about it.

  66. Jenna
    October 2, 2009 at 2:25 am

    You know, why don’t we start our own petition? We could call it “Hey, Weinstein, shut the Hell Up!”

    Honestly, we should start a petition, copy the courts on it, and we should also put in the petition that many of the people who pay his bills have been raped – and we are not amused.

    I’d be willing to sign a petition and boycott works/films by artists who support Polanski. That’s a no-brainer.

  67. Lauren
    October 2, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Lauren, thank you so much for writing this article. Your opinions and feelings are so well-articulated. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    It is disgraceful to me that anyone is defending or making excuses for the actions of Roman Polanski. He knew full well what he was doing when he raped a 13-year-old girl. Even if he DIDN’T know full well (was not in his “right state of mind,” whatever), ignorance is no justification for rape. Rape is rape, and rape is a crime of monumental significance.

  68. Adam O.
    October 2, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    @ Jenna (#68)

    If you get that petition together, please get the word out on Facebook. I think we need to show how strongly we feel that Polanski must be extradited to the US for sentencing. It will be easy to get signatures, that I can promise you.

  69. Caitlin
    October 2, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I am glad this was posted on Boing Boing because it needs to reach a wide audience. It is the most articulate, poetic and fire-breathing voice I have heard about sexual assault in many years. Lauren, your words are a force to be reckoned with.

  70. Adam O.
    October 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Here you go – I found a:

    Petition Supporting the Extradition of Roman Polanski

    Thomas Hawk is not a right-wing nom de plume. He is apparently the CEO for the photo sharing start up Zooomr.

  71. Patrick
    October 2, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    As an abuse survivor myself I appreciate you giving voice to the same feelings I have. I got my karmic justice and it did not make me feel any better. All the same, it let me hold onto one shred of faith in the powers that be.

  72. Piffle
    October 2, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    I was 32, and I trusted him. Thank you to all who speak out so eloquently.

  73. October 3, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Thank you for posting this. People need to hear stories like this before dismissing the acts of a rapist.

    And welll done to you for all the hard work you put in to makingn yourself whole again, as much as can be after being raped.

  74. J
    October 3, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Thanks to everyone here for sharing their stories. You’re all very brave.

    I was nearly abducted at the age of four by a pantsless freak who wanted me to get out of the car — I was in the backseat, reading a book, and we were parked in the lot of a fast-food restaurant. My mom could see the car from the line at the counter, and since she had a baby in arms, and I was notoriously hard to tear from my books, she thought it would be okay — for just ten minutes.

    That was one close call. And I didn’t tell anyone until I was sixteen.

    My sister was nearly abducted while walking me to school. We were only three doors down from the crossing point, and my mom watched from the window. In only a few seconds, a man in a car had pulled up to her, and if the elderly crossing guard had not been so observant, and run towards the car screaming her head off, who knows where my sister would be now?

    I know two families with three girls each, all of who have been assaulted by their fathers. I Have two cousins who have been raped. Two best friends who have been raped. I have been stalked twice by men I knew, who just couldn’t seem to take no for an answer. Those went on for years. I have had students confessed to being raped, abused, molested. I can’t count the number of women (and a few men) I know who have had some experience of being chased, stalked, threatened, and frightened *nearly* out of their wits. When you tell your story, other people often feel comfortable enough to tell you theirs, and then, wow, what a big picture you get!

    I guess felt compelled to list (just) the tip of the iceberg above, because although I’ve been somewhat fortunate up until now, at thirty-seven, I still think that I’m just waiting my turn. I get the sense that I’ve been the exception to the rule of violence so far, not the norm. And the possibility for violence will never be a closed door. There’s not one moment in my adult life that I haven’t been watching over my shoulder. So I thank everyone here again for having courage. I take heed of your words, I feel compassion for us all, I try to educate people on the subject. Whatever strength I have, I’ve gotten from people who tell their stories.

    Thank you….

  75. Elle
    October 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I was raped over a number of years by a family friend, ending when I was eight. Like many survivors, I didn’t really start to deal with it until years later. For a long time I cast a very jaundiced eye over my younger self and thought that none of this would have happened to me had I not been such a dirty whore. Those feelings are gone now, the result of the long, hard work that Lauren talked about so eloquently, but they stirred a tiny bit when I read some of what the multitude of rape apologists are saying about Polanski and the child he raped.

    The first time that I read something describing women and children as ‘the sex class’, I thought that was somewhat of an overstatement. How else, though, are we to explain the willingness of legions of men and women to use their power and influence to try and exonerate a child rapist, on the grounds that he’s made a few movies and had some rain fall into his own life? How cheap is the misery of women and children that it can be offset so glibly in the public accounting? How black and white must circumstances be before women and children are not blamed for their own suffering?

    I take some comfort from the fact that there is resistance. I’ve been reading the quotes from celebrities who disagree with their colleagues who signed that odious petition. I can still remember the first time I heard a male comedian tell a joke that was at the expense of a rapist and not a rape victim, and it blew my mind. There were fewer men then than there are now willing to stand up in a public space and say that rape isn’t ok, and that other men should knock it off. I’ve been searching for that solidarity all day, and I’m pleased that Jay Smooth and Joshua Malina and Chris Rock and Kevin Smith think that rape isn’t ok. But how pathetic is that, to be so grateful for some public expression that women and men have shared humanity? We are so far from ending rape culture, but I’m so glad to see it eloquently undermined in this place.

  76. matey
    October 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been going through it this week too. I was gang raped over a period of about a year, startng at age 12 – my parents were, and still are liberals with arty pretensions, and one of my attackers a rising literary and media star (now a star). They were usually on drugs when they attacked me – so this story resonates with me.

    I can remember my mum telling me about the first Polanski case a couple of years before I was raped; she took the Whoopi view, ‘it wasn’t proper rape and, the poor man had just made a mistake, there were drugs around so mistakes happen.’

    I took responsibility for what happened to me, almost sympathising with my attacker. It has taken me 28 years to come to an understaning, about what happened, and about who I really am, not who my attackers told me I am with their actions. And my life, which was torn apart, is only now starting to take some shape although relationships still seem like an impossibility. I’m certain the excusing of Polanski will damage little girls being raped right now – telling them that the big wigs of this world don’t think their torture matters, and their abusers are sympathy cases.

    It’s so rare for a peadophile to be tried and convicted, it’s horrendous that some people are gunning for the release of one. I wonder how they would feel if he raped one of their children – or them.

  77. jemand
    October 3, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I also wonder how it is different to be raped by someone successful, someone looked up to, someone society admires. I think I would have felt that much more thrown away. I never talked about my uncle molesting me when I was five, but I think part of what helps me psychologically deal now, is that *I* have been successful, society values me and my gifts and my intelligence, and he has mainly been a failure.

    When… the psychological damage reverses that system, and when the attacker was already well established as “valuable” in the community… I just think there’s an additional level of hurt.

  78. matey
    October 3, 2009 at 6:46 pm


    I do think I’m not likely to get a conviction, or even get him to court because of his position; and when I see him on TV, or in the paper, it makes me feel sick that he’s still at large, and probably still raping children. I think his succes made me feel more powerless at the time, and I’ve resented like hell that my school work and education went down the pan – I went from top grades to remedial in two years, while he has a good career. Hey, who cares if talented survivors can get to Hollywood to direct films? But! He’s still a drug addict, and a low life, and I remember how desperate he was at the time, and I’m sure he still is. I’m not, I’m happy with who I am, and with my actions in life, I may still be struggling financially, and feel relationships are out of reach, but I’ll get there – I’ve finally got round to the career which is right for me, I love my work, it is meaningful and creative, and I’m on track for the higher reaches of my profession – not in the entertainment industry! I don’t think my attacker ever has peace of mind, and not just because of the damage he’s done to others.

    I get a big sense of superiority knowing that I would absolutely never do what he did to me, and that he is pathetic because of his actions.

  79. Bee
    October 3, 2009 at 8:17 pm


  80. Deepa
    October 5, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    you are incredible. a survivor. thank you for your truth-telling.

  81. Erik
    October 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Powerful. Thank you.

    I wanted to comment on the “get over it” part. People who say, “Get over it,” don’t realize that that’s just like giving a big middle finger. I have had what I have now self deduced as chronic prostatitis since I was, well, 13. I have been neglected and overlooked at every doctor. Who ever heard of a teen with THAT? No parental support because the doctors said it wasn’t broke, don’t fix it, and if THEY said that then it HAS to be in my head so I should “get over it.” Those words are so frustrating to hear. This has held me back. Now, not being able to be covered by my parents to go to the doctor, especially after my new lead, I am stuck. They have no idea of the physical torture that takes your mental stability away this causes.

    If “get over it” makes me mad, I can’t imagine what the horrors it brings when someone says that to a rape victim.

    (In no way am I overlooking rape or saying that my story is much more important and worse than any rape victim.)

  82. October 8, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I am 22, I have never told my story to anyone.

    I was molested the first time by my next door neighbor when I was 10 or 11. He was 65 or so. Almost 70 for sure, but he wasn’t weak or frail or anything like that. It continued until I was 16 when we moved away. He started off fondling me, then penetrating me, and then two of my other neighbors got in on the act, one of them anally raping me and the other having sex with me on a pretty consistent basis.

    I have never had a friend, a real friend, i’ve never had an actual boyfriend, and I am so lonely. I’ve never been close to anyone, and that scares me so much. Every interaction i’ve had with a man thus far has been destructive and ugly from that older men who thought I was 18 when I was 16-17 and just wanted someone to tell me i’m pretty, to the last guy who literally kicked me out of his house one day and told me how disgusting and fat and trashy I was and that he was glad to be rid of me.

    I read up on stuff like this all the time, and I cannot say I get pleasure out of knowing this is so many other women’s reality, it is comforting in a way…I hate the way that sounds. Lauren, thank you for writing about how you felt, I always think back to that little girl and who I could have been if that bastard hadn’t taken my childhood from me…maybe not so full of rage, of blind fucking rage, and of sadness, and I hurt for that woman and her rape. Polanski deserves a jail sentence, period.

    And i’m still working on getting my justice, He still lives in the same house.

  83. Laima
    October 10, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I was sexually assaulted 24 years ago, when I was 18. I had a nervous breakdown and developed trauma-onset PTSD, but after years of therapy, I recovered from the PTSD. (Well, I still have chronic PTSD from my childhood.) I’m 43 now, and happily married for 16 years.

    No justice for me, and my family has mostly sided with my attacker, a cousin, so I’m estranged from most of them.

    I would say it gets better, but it’s a metric ton of work, and as you and Melissa McEwan have said, it’s hard-earned. My life pre-attack was utterly destroyed. I’ve built perhaps a better life for myself afterwards, but it would’ve been nice not to *have* to start from scratch, you know?

    I’ve been strangely fascinated by the Polanski coverage in the media. Have never seen any of his movies, except a bit of _Chinatown_ (which I didn’t like at all). People defending him remind me of my parents, and sometimes I wonder what they would say about his case, but I think I know after all.

  84. October 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Lauren- thank you so much for writing your story, here! The Polanski apologists also inspired me to document my own experience. So marvelous to read other stories of women coming to terms with years of confusion, PTSD, and being confronted with having to over and over again apologize for having “gotten ourselves into” situations that then scarred us for years.

    My own story:

    xo! n

  85. Yeshi
    October 12, 2009 at 3:42 am

    I was raped and molested by my father since i was a child. Sometimes i still have problems. I am now 32. My boyfriend is a really nice guy and a virigin(Tibetan Monk) He is the safest guy in the world with absolutely no sexual experience and he is very motherly in the way he is in the world.

    I have not gotten over being raped and molested but I am waaaay stronger and wiser. i am a mom and fierce. My daughter at 6 knows about sex and men and women and what is okay and what’s not. We live in India. This place is very weird about sex so we are extra careful.

    Thanks for the great blog.

    Here is to healing. It’s never the victim’s fault for being raped. Its the abuser.

    My dad never got thrown in Jail. I wish he was tortured then killed. He is worthy of the torture denizens of Drapache prison in Lhasa….. Someone aught to hang and quarter him while a vulture eats his dick


  86. October 15, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I too was raped at 13 by a friend of the family. I was babysitting for his son. He raped me that night while his pregnant wife slept in the next room. Everything you said has gone through my mind these past weeks after the Polanski arrest. I too have been triggered. You are so right, there is a before and an after. It is like the difference between night and day.

    Thank you for writing this. I too wrote about my reaction to Polanski and to rape in general. I am making it a point to speak out, to educate. I am taking a stand against violence and champion anyone ese who does the same!

  87. LaurenO
    October 20, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I can’t lie, when I saw your name was Lauren, I think I cried harder then I would’ve normally.

    When I was 14 years old I was raped. I still blame myself for it. I’m 18 now and I never brought him to justice. I told my closest friends and it leaked out to the whole school. I could handle that, it was when they started telling everyone that it wasn’t rape that I couldn’t handle.
    This article really helped me out, because now I know that I’m not the only one with these thoughts. I never told the cops, and it took me months before I could tell my parents. The year after the rape I spiraled out of control and felt completely worthless. I dated a guy I didn’t like because I felt like it was what I deserved. I deserved to be used and not treated like an actual person. I felt like it was all my fault and that if I wasn’t such a slut and a tease it wouldn’t have happened. Self-destructing seemed like the only thing that gave me comfort, even though it was all temporary.

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