Charlotte Lewis alleges Polanski assaulted her, too

British actress Charlotte Lewis has alleged that at the age of sixteen, twenty-eight years ago, she too was sexually assaulted by Roman Polanski. Commenters on sites I won’t link to are quick to doubt her: why’d she wait to report it, huh? She needs publicity for her failed career! For answers to this question, I refer you to Angry Black Woman’s recent post on why women don’t report rapes.

But you know, it’s very simple: women don’t report rapes because our society doesn’t really consider rape wrong in the same way we consider most felonies wrong. Reporting sexual assault is less like reporting a murder than it’s like an employee blowing the whistle on a major corporation that’s force-feeding nuclear waste to endangered animals: you’re the one making the allegation, so you’d better have proof on a silver platter, or else you will be crucified and lose your job.

Speaking of jobs, some articles cite the fact that Lewis went on to make a movie with Polanski after the alleged assault as reason to disbelieve her allegations. That’s not how it works in Hollywood, especially in the early 80s. You want to work in film? You don’t “allege” accounting fraud against important movers and shakers like Polanski or, I dunno, certain governors of California, let alone felonies. Even outside Hollywood, sexual assaults frequently get buried when the man they’re made against is more important to his town or profession than is his victim. But as evidenced by Polanski’s Hollywood defenders (and, oh, Woody Allen, I don’t think you’re the right person to defend someone on his treatment of a young girl entrusted to his care), Hollywood is an especially festering environment for people who think rape is something women ought to accept as normal and try to enjoy.

Ah, well. If you can’t understand why her not reporting it until now isn’t a solid reason to doubt her word, please surf along to another site immediately because you’re not my target audience. I also don’t think my inner Spock can take hearing the “hiring Gloria Allred automatically means you made it up” rationalization anymore without wanting to do that Vulcan nerve-pinch thing on you. I’m not suggesting you must believe this women you don’t personally know. I’m saying nothing has come to light to cast doubt on her word, so the assumption she’s lying says more about the person assuming it than it says about her.

Now let’s talk about how this changes the picture for the Polanski now. Legally, it might not make any difference. This case can’t be tried because it’s beyond the statute of limitations, and Lewis’ allegations might be ruled inadmissible in the Geimer case. But as I said back in October:

But one point Geimer has made in recent years keeps coming back to me: that no one else has ever alleged sexual misconduct by Polanski, and therefore it would seem he’s not a danger to society. She’s got a point. I find it very hard to imagine Polanski only pulled a stunt like this once, because I believe rapists who report that committing sexual assaults is a sort of high, and once you’ve done it nothing else in life compares, and so you have to do it again. But that’s just my belief. If no one else comes forward, it’s hard for Geimer to argue that justice for her would be justice for all.

Check out some conclusions from the best currently available studies about sexual assault:

  • Rapists start young and keep going until something forces them to stop. And it’s not conscience.
  • Rapists develop elaborate strategies for getting victims alone, for establishing and maintaining control over victims, etc.

Therefore, if Geimer’s allegations are true, and Polanski’s provided us every reason to believe them, she almost assuredly wasn’t the only one he hurt. The level of planning that went into Geimer’s assault also suggests a well-rehearsed routine.


  1. says

    On the subject of “Why’d she wait to report it, huh?”:
    I read a big heavy book on child molestation several years ago (unfortunately I don’t recall the title or author). It said that victims almost always wait decades to report the assault: most allegations of childhood molestation are made by people in their thirties, forties, or fifties. The book said that this was because when you’re assaulted too young to have developed your own approach to sexuality, it’s only after you’ve had a chance to develop your own sexuality that you fully realize how much harm the molestation did you. I personally suspect that people tend not to report the molestation until middle adulthood because that’s how long it takes them to feel safe: their own home (maybe in a different town), employed, respected… child molesters usually have some position of power over the child, and I think many victims just don’t feel safe reporting the assault until they’re well away from childhood.
    This helps to explain why, by the time some adult victim comes forward, the abuser has such a long train of victims-since who haven’t yet spoken about it. It also has troublesome implications for statutes of limitations. Statutes setting even a five- or ten-year limit—based on the assumption that molestation will be reported right away—will block the vast majority of victims from ever getting justice.

  2. Sara says

    Midway through my sixth grade year, my sixth grade teacher was kicked out of the district because of child molestation accusations. After the first accusation came, several more stories poured in from different people. It turns out that most people who are molested or raped are too afraid to report these things, or they think it’s their fault. Many times, they feel worthless and alone. But generally, when the first stone is cast, a great deal of victims who had been hiding come forward, knowing that they aren’t alone anymore. Unfortunately, the accusations against my teacher only detailed abuses that had happened more than twenty years previously, so he couldn’t be prosecuted. He had been one older sister’s sixth grade teacher and another older sister’s soccer coach. He was barred from teaching or coaching, but he couldn’t get jail time. We got a new teacher.

  3. jennygadget says

    “I read a big heavy book on child molestation several years ago (unfortunately I don’t recall the title or author).”

    *sad face*

    I don’t suppose you remember anything identifying about it

    *readies bookseller/librarian book search skills*


    Sara! we went to the same school?!?!

    oh, no. it’s just that stories like that are depressingly common.

  4. Scarlett says

    I read a book recently about teh Christian brothers in WA, which address the sexual abuse issues that they were dogged with in the 70’s and 80’s, and the author’s argument was basically that, since they didn’t come forward until decades later, usually after they alleged abuser was dead and not able to defend themselves, clearly, they were just seeking attention. ‘Cos no sexual abuse victim ever felt safe only AFTER their abuser was dead, no, clearly, they just wanted attention and waited until the guy was dead and not able to call them teh liars that they were.

  5. says

    Jenny Gadget, unfortunately most of what I remember is from the inside of the book. It was a paperback, but a big thick one, about the general size and shape of How to Cook Everything. I read it no later than 2007. And I read it in the U.S.
    I remember it took a sort of clinical approach to the psychology and sociology of child sexual abuse; this was not one of those ‘how to protect your children’ manuals. Now and then I remember direct quotations from criminals or victims, but most of it was abstract/overview; not a collection of interviews either. I think it may have been written by a psychologist.
    Examples of the sort of thing it covered: It talked about how at one time investigators believed that there were some men who molested only their own children, and some who molested only other people’s children, so when investigators first found some men doing both, they called that ‘crossover’ abuse. But the more cases they investigated, the less they found any consistent distinctions: molesters will molest any victim they can get at. And it talked about how even when adolescent victims took some satisfaction in the sexual aspect, they ran into problems when they were old enough to develop their own sex lives and be attracted to people—their abuser parents tried to prevent them from dating anyone. And how because this is a crime wherein adults impose their own sexual desires on people whose own sexuality has not yet developed, the ways in which it warps your responses are hard to identify until much later, after all the statutes of limitations have gone by.
    And it talked some about law enforcement’s efforts to track down the crimes; it said that personal ads used to use ‘family fun’ as a code phrase for molestation, but that that had been superseded by other codes once the law caught on. And that pediatricians should be suspicious if very young children were unnaturally docile when grownups undress them and put them in different positions for a physical exam.

  6. SunlessNick says

    If you can’t understand why her not reporting it until now isn’t a solid reason to doubt her word

    In the intervening years, how many turns of event would have given her the slightest hope that she might be believed? Now may well be the first time she’s had any; so it’s especially galling to see it used as a reason to doubt her.

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