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Roman Polanski Rape Victim Samantha Geimer on Tarantino, Polanski, and Why Apologies Matter [EXCLUSIVE]

Geimer has dealt with the aftermath of sexual assault for decades. A day after hearing Tarantino express his remorse, she spoke to IndieWire in an exclusive interview about the experience.

Samantha GeimerRoman Polanki court hearing, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Jun 2017Samantha Geimer answers question from the media after reading a statement in Filmmaker Roman Polanski's hearing in Superior Court in Los Angeles, California, USA 09 June 2017. Polanski is a fugitive in connection with his 1977 guilty plea to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, was in the court to address the judge and asked him to end the case.

Samantha Geimer

PAUL BUCK/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

How might you relate your experience to people who have been sexually harassed by public figures, but haven’t committed crimes?

Well, I think if you’re going to apologize, you apologize to the person individually who you upset. I don’t think you have to apologize to the whole world, or everyone who you think might hire you. An apology is only for the person who you feel you’ve hurt and wants an apology. I’m not sure if that has a greater effect on a wider group of people but Quentin and Roman’s apologies were written straight to me. They weren’t like, “I’m sorry for all the people I’ve offended.” They were real apologies. When you have people trying to write apologies for you or help you take care of things like that, maybe you’re missing the point. Unless you’re not sorry. When Tarantino called, he was really just saying that was lame of him, and he felt like a jerk. I said, “I don’t need a public apology, but if you were to make one, I’d understand that.” When you’re in that business and so scrutinized, it’s hard to figure out.

Part of the challenge here is tone. Many people say things under the guise of jokes that can be seen as crossing the line, and sometimes they spiral out of control.

I am one of those people who thinks that you can have humor about anything. I have a good sense of humor, and when people make jokes about me, I laugh. I think that people should just take their indignation and not watch people they find offensive. If you don’t think it’s funny, you don’t think it’s funny. You don’t have to apologize for making a joke unless you really screw it up. Apologies should be sincere. I don’t think we should apologize for stuff we don’t feel sorry for. All this nitpicking and attacking people is missing the point. It’s like, hey, could we have some equal rights over here? How about equal pay? Perhaps stop sexually harassing people at work? Instead, it’s all, “Quentin Tarantino made shitty jokes!” No, women, focus. It’s not all about celebrities and taking people down. Let’s be positive and move forward.

LEANZA/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

I think being spiteful and taking people down you don’t like them isn’t helping anybody. We all see what’s happening. If you’re not doing something positive, if you’re not making a difference, stop pretending you are. Just be like, “I hate that guy.” [laughs] I’m in a weird spot. I’ve been in this weird spot my whole life. People are like, “We hate Roman because of what he did to you.” I’m fine, I don’t want anybody to hate anybody, and you actually don’t give a shit about me. What bothers me is that people are attacking somebody else at your expense. Let’s throw your rape out there to attack Quentin Tarantino. That hypocrisy bothers me because I’m in that spot where that happens to me. This is just the way it goes, in my life anyway, and we all say stupid things.

The #MeToo movement has been based around women coming forward to share their stories of sexual assault and abuse. Where does that leave silent survivors? You were one for years.

The #MeToo movement has done a lot of awesome things and made a lot of conversations happen, but if this gets turned into this weapon to take down Al Franken, or some Republican, or some Hollywood person, or Hollywood in general — that’s not what it’s for. It’s supposed to get people to rise up, not push people down. Things will always get misused like that, but we shouldn’t forget we’re here to make things better and demand change. I think if you’re a victim of sexual assault or a crime, do what you decide to do. Come forward, don’t come forward. Speak out about it, don’t speak out about it. It’s individual and nobody should be pressured or forced to be quiet or talk. You have to understand the consequences of your choices. If you keep quiet, then maybe that person does something else that’s bad. That’s not your fault. You don’t have to come forward to save somebody else. It’s the person doing the bad thing, it’s their fault.

If you don’t come forward, then it’s 40 years later, and you want people to believe you — people aren’t going to believe you. You have to understand that people aren’t going to believe what you’re saying is true when you decided not to talk about it when years later it could never be proved and charges could never be brought. So do whatever you want, but understand, there are consequences. Weigh all the potential costs and do what you want. Nobody should tell you did the wrong thing.

The climate surrounding these issues has become especially charged after the Harvey Weinstein story broke. What was your reaction to that piece when it came out, and how do you feel about the reverberations it has had over the last few months? 

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein

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I think I was as shocked as anyone that such terrible behavior was still going on in 2018. I guess I thought things had changed since the ‘70s and ‘80s. But I have been sad to see #MeToo being reduced to a tool to harm celebrities and politicians. Women deserve better than that and we should stand up and demand real change, not salacious headlines.

How do you think the aftermath of your experience with Polanski would have played out around the world if you were experiencing it today?

Oh my God! I don’t want to even think about it. If our phone rang off the hook, we had photographers parked outside our house and had to leave town in 1977, I can only imagine what a nightmare it would be today. Perhaps more people would “side with me,” but I don’t think that would make it any better. It never made any difference to me what strangers thought. I knew what happened. Actually, I don’t think it would happen today. Teenage girls were very sexualized in the late ‘70s. Things are so different now.

In the past, you have spoken up about the danger of passing judgement on Woody Allen for a case in which he wasn’t convicted. Now, it seems unlikely that his new movie will get much of a release because the backlash has been so powerful.

I think that our justice system and being innocent until proven guilty are more important than any one crime. It is not fair to try something in the court of public opinion. It’s not fair to demand the belief of people or ask them to hate, shame, and vilify others. Sometimes we don’t get justice, sometimes we don’t want it. To imply that your recovery lies in the hands of strangers who must act on your behalf is a very detrimental thing. We can all recover and heal no matter the circumstances and that comes from within. It is important to listen to everyone. Verdicts and consequences do not come on the front of a tabloid.

Polanski’s latest movie, “Based on a True Story,” has yet to be released. It’s hard to imagine that it would be welcomed by many moviegoers at this particular moment. What do you make of that shift in our culture? 

I think that we need to work on making the world a safer place for women and the vulnerable now. Putting energy into being angry about things that happened decades ago does not serve a positive purpose. I resent those who use my case to draw attention to themselves, and make stands I do not agree with. It is another type of violation. This glorification of victimhood and pain, rather than recovery and reconciliation, is just an ugly way to use those who have been already been harmed. I think we need to look just as closely at the media when considering whether or not we are being abused. Are you getting the truth out or are you getting an attorney some air time?

Based on a True Story

“Based on a True Story”

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Anyway, I don’t think someone who has committed a crime should be forever banned for gainful employment or creating art. That’s just stupid. We are all free to make own decisions about what we see and purchase, we don’t need others forcing what they call their morals down our throats and making demands of us.

In the midst of the Tarantino backlash, some people fixated on his movies, and the way his female characters are often treated in brutal ways. How much do you think people should be concerned with more positive depictions of women and gender relations in the movies?

If you think someone’s movies are sexist, violent, or if you don’t like that person, that’s your choice. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. The bottom line is that we’re free people, we live in America, we can say or do what you want. If you don’t like something, you are not obligated to pay attention to it. Having said that, it’s nice when you see that there are more women directors and people trying to make a difference by giving women more empowered roles. That’s terrific and I’d love to see more of it. But in the end, nothing is for everybody, and that’s OK. It’s OK to say, “I don’t like that,” but you can’t be censoring people and blaming people for things that aren’t their fault because of the violence in their movies.

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