The Roman Polanski ‘Girl’ Speaks Out: Speedreading Samantha Geimer’s Memoir
Samantha Geimer’s new memoir revisits the night when she, then 13, was coaxed into sex with director Roman Polanski.
Before it became a 30-year international legal saga, the Roman Polanski case was a story about a powerful man and a powerless young girl. In her new memoir, The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski, Samantha Geimer, the 50-year-old woman whom Polanski had sex with in 1977, when she was only 13, tells that story, offering an intimate look at one of the biggest scandals in Hollywood history. Polanski, now 80 and living in exile in Europe, recently granted a rare interview about the case with Vanity Fair’s James Fox, in which he discussed his “persecution” by the legal system and the nature of his exile, a term he rejects, saying, “I was moving freely for 32 years.” Though Geimer is as eager as Polanski is to move on, her memoir gives the event an immediacy that the case’s many complications had long ago obscured, as she tries to rescue herself from merely being “the girl.”
“It was rape”
Polanski’s legal defense argued at the time that Geimer and the filmmaker had a consensual sexual encounter. But Geimer tells a very different story, maintaining that it was without consent. She remembers refusing both champagne and a Quaalude, eventually taking both at Polanski’s insistence. Geimer says she repeatedly asked to be brought home, and Polanski repeatedly refused. When he took her to a bedroom, Geimer said, “No, come on,” but was ignored. That night, in her journal, Geimer wrote, “I got my pics taken by Roman Polanski and he raped me, fuck.”
After their encounter, Polanski drove Geimer home. Geimer says that he told her in the car, “Don’t tell your mother. This will be our little secret.” In a bizarre twist, he then showed her family a slideshow of the photos from their session, which included several shots of her in the nude. Her incensed mother contacted a lawyer, hoping to block publication; Polanski had not made her sign a release. However, the initial rage at the pictures became pure disbelief when they overheard Geimer telling her high-school boyfriend about the sexual encounter.
“Punished for being raped”
The ensuing trial and media circus were for Geimer as traumatic as the night itself. “If I had to choose between reliving the rape or the grand jury testimony I would choose the rape.” Geimer’s family and legal team brokered a plea deal in order to spare her from having to testify. She thought at the time—and still thinks—that Polanski should have received probation and nothing more. The prolonged nature of the trial made Geimer feel that she was being “punished for being raped.”
Geimer’s harshest criticisms are reserved for the media. She describes being stalked by reporters and inundated with interview requests both during the initial trial and throughout her adult life. Geimer calls cable personality Nancy Grace, who when Polanski was placed under house arrest in 2009 advocated for his imprisonment, a “blond vampire who eats misery for breakfast.” Though Grace claimed to be a “victim’s advocate,” Geimer urges her to “go victimize someone else.” Similarly, Geimer calls Dr. Phil McGraw a “drama vulture,” dismissing his claims that she has a “classic case of victim guilt.”
“How sorry I am”
In 2009, following the release of Marina Zenovich’s documentary on the trial, Polanski wrote to Geimer, 32 years after the incident. “I want you to know how sorry I am for having so affected your life,” he wrote. Geimer, however, has not wavered in her view of Polanski, and the letter “didn’t change anything.”
Letter to Steubenville victim
Early in 2013, Geimer wrote a letter to the victim of the high-profile Steubenville case, in which two high-school football players were eventually convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party. “I just wanted to you to know that you are not alone,” she wrote. “We survivors are many, and we are strong. Most important, we are all around you and we all understand. I hope that your future brings you many wonderful things; you don't have to let this drag you down. It will get better, and you will be okay.”
The ’70s were different
Geimer’s current view of Polanski is a complex one. She defines his crime as rape, but concedes that the ’70s were a far more permissive time than the one we live in now. “Not everyone will understand this, but I never thought he wanted to hurt me; he wanted me to enjoy it,” she writes. “He was arrogant and horny. But I feel certain he was not looking to take pleasure in my pain.”