Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Whoopi Goldberg on drugs again? “Rape-rape.”

I have zero interest in the practice of criminal law and so originally had no intention of discussing the Roman Polanski matter here. But then The View and Whoopi Goldberg popped-up on the radar. Goldberg’s participation in the program’s Polanski discussion yesterday included:

“I know it wasn’t rape-rape … All I’m trying to get you to understand, is when we’re talking about what someone did, and what they were charged with, we have to say what it actually was not what we think it was … Initially he was charged with rape, and then he plead guilty to having sex with a minor, okay … We’re a different kind of society. We see things differently. The world sees thirteen year olds and fourteen year olds in the rest of Europe … not everybody agrees with the way we see things.”

A video and transcript of the show is available here. The transcript of the victim's grand jury testimony is available here. Summarized briefly, the incident involved: a 44 year-old man, a 13 year-old girl, lots of “no(s),” alcohol, drugs, and sex including oral, vaginal, and anal.

I think the characterization of “rape-rape” is tremendously irresponsible and dangerously flippant. I do not think Goldberg was referencing various degrees of rape (ie., rape with a weapon might be considered first degree rape in some jurisdictions). Her comments suggests to me a rape that is actionable and rape that is not. In light of some of the frightening statistics of our modern society – one in four college women report surviving a rape or attempted rape - I am frustrated and disappointed by such a cavalier reference. Wth? WTH???!!

Let’s be real on two points. First: Polanski was charged, inter alia, with rape, but ultimately plead-out to engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. He was under psychiatric evaluation at a California state prison for 42 days, but was granted a 90 day stay to complete a work project. It was after his evaluation but during this stay period that Polanski fled the jurisdiction. Second (and from someone who has lived in Europe a number of different times and in a number of different locations): Europeans do have a healthier perspective on teenage sex, but Europeans do not condone the drugging and forcible rape of a teenager.

Also allow me to point out that I can appreciate people’s hesitance at accelerating the Polanski matter: it has been over three decades since the crime, the California budget is strained as it is, and significant political chips will be spent to successfully extradite the fugitive from Switzerland. This is what I also appreciate: there was a law, it was broken, a plea was agreed to that included a sentencing hearing, and anticipating a sentence he did not have the courage to face, Polanski fled the jurisdiction.

Just so that I can keep pace with my more liberal and apparently enlightened West Coast peers: smoking is bad, meat is bad, fur is bad, but non-consensual sex with an intoxicated child is okay?

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