Long Island Lolita

A couple of years ago, I saw the movie Long Island Lolita: The Amy Fisher Story, starring Drew Barrymore. The treatment meted out to Fisher for largely being the victim of sexual predators all her life enraged me so much that I couldn’t forget it. I’ve done some research to see how well the events of the movie correspond with real life, and sad to say, they more or less do.

To recap: Fisher was sexually abused from early childhood by a family member, then raped by a hired hand at thirteen. She was a promiscuous teenager, and ended up having an affair, at sixteen, with thirty-five-year-old Joey Buttafuoco, who was married with two children. They continued their affair for several months, with Joey manipulating Fisher emotionally, both refusing to commit to her or let her leave him.

It’s largely believed Buttafuoco let Fisher to believe if his wife Mary Jo, who he was unhappily married to, were gone, he would be free to commit to Fisher. Fisher took this to mean if Mary Jo were dead, and took it upon herself to kill the woman.

Mary Jo survived, and Fisher was charged with her attempted murder. Buttafuoco denied all knowledge of the affair, claiming Fisher was delusional and had made it up. Mary Jo stood by her husband and his claims, although they later divorced. This could mean the marriage ran its course, collapsed under the strain of the trial, or Mary Jo knew all along that he was guilty and would rather see Fisher hang for it than have anything to do with it.

The District Attorney went to great lengths to portray Fisher as a promiscuous, manipulative young woman, by rounding up a couple of her other older, manipulative lovers and offering them immunity from statutory rape/paedophilia charges for sleeping with Fisher in exchange for their testimony about how promiscuous and manipulative she was.

And it never occurred to them that maybe Fisher was promiscuous and manipulative because she’d been taken advantage of such men all her life? Did a light bulb never go off: shit, we have to offer these men immunity because they’ve committed heinous crimes against a teenage girl”¦ maybe we should put her own actions into context of theirs? Or was the public outcry against a promiscuous, manipulative teenager attempted to kill an upstanding, Christian woman that the DA thought they had to look like they were doing something?

I don’t condone Fisher’s attempt on Mary Jo’s life, but I do understand why she felt driven to do it. She was infatuated and unstable, being taken advantage of by a man old enough to be her father. She believed, because he told her as much, that if his wife wasn’t around, he would be free to be with her. In my opinions at least, the actions of a paedophile and sexual predator are much more heinous in rational intent then the actions of a mentally unstable teenager under the influence of the paedophile and sexual predator.

Fisher went to jail for fifteen years, where she claims she was regularly raped. Buttafuoco got six months for statutory rape, getting out of charged of charges of rape, sodomy, and endangering the welfare of a minor. He has since been charged with another sex crime, and he and Mary Jo have divorced.

Does this seem just a little unfair to you? Victim of society who lashes out and commits a heinous crime, fifteen years. Main perpetrator of her victimisation, six months. Other perpetrators, off scott free. It would have been acceptable to me if Buttafuoco had gotten a similar sentence to Fisher. It would have been acceptable if Fisher’s other lovers had been given jail terms – and listed as sex offenders. In short, it would have been fair if Fisher’s jail term was relative to that of the men who were largely responsible for the state of mind that led her to shoot Mary-Jo.

What does it say about the DA’s office that they were quite happy to ignore a lifetime of abuse that made Fisher what she was, ignore her abuser’s contribution to her state of mind, in order to secure a conviction against her? That they gave immunity to men guilty of statutory rape/paedophilia in order to convict her? Apparently it was much more important to prove her guilt than anyone else’s. Apparently we live in a society where bringing to justice a victim of society is much more important then bringing to justice the predators of teenage girls. Apparently promiscuous, manipulative teenage brats are much more of a menace to society then the adult men who abuse them.

At least it seems that Fisher got the last laugh. After her release, she married, had a child, and wrote a book called If I Knew Then”¦ She’s an award-winning journalist, reported to be a happy and devoted wife and mother and a spokesperson for abused teenage girls. She has healed and moved on as much as anyone can having been given such a crappy start in life. Buttafuoco, meanwhile, is fifty, divorced and a failed actor.

Sometimes, people get exactly what they deserve.


  1. Mecha says

    I’m gonna make a quick stab at a third option for the DA set, although god knows the entire situation is still pretty miserable and biased against one party. That third option, though, is that there is pretty much no way in hell the DAs could have convicted all those people without giving Amy Fischer a reduction of her sentence, and even then it would have been the standard near-unworkable rape trial, especially with the murder hanging over it, plus her other actions. The chicken and the egg effect alone would have made it pretty much impossible to convict. For this sort of situation, the justice system sucks, really really, REALLY hard, as I’m sure everyone’s aware of. But that doesn’t mean the individual people in it couldn’t have seen it. And it doesn’t mean they were happy about it. Maybe they just made the convictions they could with the cases they had. The unfortunate part of that choice, besides the convictions themself not being made, is that it perpetuates the idea that such convictions are impossible. Ultimately, I don’t think anyone on the outside will honestly ever know.

    And as to your uncertainty about Joey’s wife, it appears that she helped get Amy Fischer a reduced sentence (well, as much as you believe the Wikipedia article on it,) reducing 5-15 to 3-10, and ending up having her released at 7 years on parole. My money’s on (When you said 15 I was curious and had to look, because I _remember_ the case, vaguely, and I’m not quite old enough to have been alive for 15 years since she was convicted.)

    (Also… morosely interestingly, Buttafuco’s father was apparently convicted of child molestation and died in prison. They do say abuse begets abuse…)

    I do wonder what the moral the _movie_ put forward, though, as I’ve never seen it. Because I just can’t see the world’s best balanced treatment of a salacious sex tale being done on a Made for TV movie. And that’s probably how most people will remember it.


  2. Mecha says

    … yeah, my thought train jumped the tracks there in the middle. When I said ‘My money’s on’, I tried to look up when the year of divoce was and found nothing. My mental instinct, though, is that his wife figured out that he was a crappy manipulative human being, and maybe extended Amy Fisher a bit of forgiveness. Maybe.


  3. scarlett says

    Yeah, that’s why I googled it to see how well the facts added up, and sadly enough, it was fairly on the money, albeit in a tawdy, made-for-tv way. The site I got my info off http://crime.about.com/od/female_offenders/p/amyfisher.htm (forgot to link it!) said 15 years, although she only served seven years.
    Now that you mention it, I recall Mary Jo being quite Christian about it, although I still think it says something about her that they stayed together for a few years after the event.
    I realise the DA was in a crappy position with what they could convict but it burned me to know end that she was such a victim in the whole sorry mess, almost as much as Mary Jo was, and the men who made her a victim got off virtually scott-free while she rotted in hail.

  4. Mecha says

    Amen to that last part. As much as not being able to punish the circumstances happens in any crime, be it abuse or murder or what have you, it’s still crap that when the circumstances involve people that they often aren’t, or can’t, be held accountable. In a horrible, cold way, the justice system only seems to get to deal with the crimes, and really never gets to try to fix the problems that cause them.


  5. scarlett says

    They divorced in 2003, ten years after the event. Quite a long time to be married to a crappy manipulative human being.

  6. scarlett says

    Now that I’ve looked it up, I’m interested in her motives. Was it because of the kids? It took her ten years to talk herself into leaving? Ten years is a long time to stay married to someone like that; I would have thought it happens immediately or not at all. I wonder how much other crap was going on in their marriage? (And how many pesky journalists like me have hounded her…)

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