Some of the industry’s most prominent women said they believe Polanski, who faces a sentence as low as probation and as high as 16 months in prison for pleading guilty to having sex with a minor, should be freed. “My personal thoughts are let the guy go,” said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “It’s bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It’s crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things.”–The Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2009
Of all the things I’ve heard about Roman Polanski, this is the most infuriating and saddening. Feminists disagree on many things, but the importance of prosecuting rapists and fighting rape culture is not one of them. If the founder and chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation–which refers victims to sexual assault hotlines and survivors resources–makes a statement like that, she has betrayed one of the fundamental missions of her own organization, and of feminism itself.
Just in case it’s not obvious why, let’s parse her statement:
“It’s bad that a person was raped.” Yes. Even non-feminists would agree.
“But…” There should never a “but” after that sentence.
“…it was so many years ago.” Crimes do not become less criminal with the passing of time. Avoiding punishment doesn’t make a rapist less accountable for the attack.
“The guy has been through so much in his life.” If personal tragedy meant that criminals weren’t accountable for their crimes, we’d have to release much of our prison population. Personal tragedy doesn’t give Roman Polanski a free pass to rape. Would Peg Yorkin counsel a rape victim not to prosecute because her attacker “has been through so much.”?
“It’s crazy to arrest him now.” Why? Skipping town didn’t automatically void his sentence.
“Let it go.” I don’t think that’s an appropriate response to child rape. Why do you?
“The government could spend its money on other things.” Rest assured, the government did not halt all spending activity in order to catch one French-Polish child-rapist. Besides, putting rapists away is an excellent use of government funds.
Peg Yorkin, you’re so phenomenally wrong here, and your statement is so incredibly offensive to rape victims– and to all women–that you must issue a complete and public retraction, and condemn sexual predator Roman Polanski and the rape-apologists who want to protect him.
Until you do, no woman can in good conscience donate to or support the Feminist Majority Foundation.
(I left my cell number and my real name with people at your California and Virginia offices).