Some Hollywood support sparks rape rallies

By SpencerRoush

There were 50 demonstrations across the nation on Oct. 10, including a rally in Chicago, protesting the unexpected support for Roman Polanski from some media, Hollywood filmmakers and actors after the recent arrest of the director in Switzerland. Activists rallied to obtain petition signatures to show that people want perpetrators of rape-related crimes to be held accountable.

For more than three decades, authorities have been trying to catch Polanski, an Oscar-winning filmmaker. After being charged with and pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl in 1978, Polanski fled the country and had been in hiding from U.S. authorities until his arrest on Sept. 26.

During an Oct. 28 showing of “The View,” comedian Whoopi Goldberg tried explaining the case to her co-hosts and the audience by saying he was only convicted of unlawful sex with a minor and it wasn’t considered “rape-rape” in the strictest meaning of the term. Some viewers were outraged by the comments and sent letters to Goldberg saying that these statements showed her support for Polanski.

The victim, Samantha Geimer now 45, also made other claims at the time that Polanski gave her champagne and drugged her before having sexual intercourse, all the while, repeatedly saying “No.” However, he was never convicted of these additional allegations, which is the point Goldberg tried explaining on “The View.”

Angela Rose, executive director of Prevention Awareness Victim Empowerment, said many people at the rallies didn’t accept Goldberg’s explanation, and she said the notion of consent needs to be defined.

“I think that what [the rally] really showed is that people are outraged about comments that are being made,” Rose said. “Even with Whoopi Goldberg saying, ‘Well, it’s not like it was really rape-rape.’ I mean the issue really boils down to, ‘What is rape?’ We really need to think about the notion of consent. Consent is a freely given ‘yes,’ not the absence of a ‘no.’”

Prevention Awareness Victim Empowerment is a nonprofit organization that organized all of the rallies. Rose said their demonstration was in direct response to Goldberg’s comments and also some of Hollywood’s notable actors and filmmakers who support Polanski.

In Chicago, the rally was held outside the AMC River East 21 Theatre, 322 E. Illinois St., during the Chicago International Film Festival.  A small group of people from various organizations collected signatures and held signs that displayed Goldberg’s comments and other phrases opposing Polanski.

Denise Rotheimer, founder of Mothers on a Mission to Stop Violence, an organization that allows victims of violence to tell their story while raising awareness of judicial corruption, said onlookers at the Chicago rally began to ask questions about the Polanski case and some of them signed the petition,  while others walked by and stated their support by shouting, “Rape is rape.”

Rotheimer said they reached a number of people at the rally who weren’t aware of what Goldberg had stated on “The View,” and there were also people who hadn’t heard about the Polanski case.

“As a survivor of incest, molestation, rape and various forms of institutional oppression, I believe we should stop all forms of discrimination [and] abuse in every aspect,” said Kokumọ a Chicago State University student who signed the petition. “You know rape is rape and it shouldn’t be allowed.”

So far,  1,100 petition signatures have been collected on the PAVE Web site,, where people can sign their name electronically. At the Chicago rally, 170 people signed the petition within an hour.

“The signatures are going to be a symbol from the people in this country that [shows] we want Polanski to be held accountable,” Rotheimer said. “And all of those celebrities who were in support of Polanski— the Hollywood community—we want to be able to say to them that rape is rape. All rapists need to be held accountable.”

Rose said the demonstration was very successful because they only had a few days to prepare for the nationwide rally and only a small group of people at each site to collect the petition signatures.

“We were really just trying to create public awareness and make sure that survivors across the county know that they are supported because when we hear rhetoric that is spewed out from these directors and these producers who are very famous and notable people, [it] really sends a dangerous message to all of the victims that they can’t come forward,” Rose said.

According to published reports, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen have signed a petition, along with 100 other people from the filmmaking industry, asking for Polanski’s release from the Swiss jail where he is being held and for the 32-year-old charges to be dropped.

According to a 2008 report from New York Daily News, Geimer said she forgives Polanski and wants to move on with her life. However, Rose said she thinks many celebrities are probably supporting him because he is a notable filmmaker and because the rape happened so long ago.

Rose said because sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, rallies about holding perpetrators accountable are vital and organizations have to speak up for victims that have been silenced by abuse.

“As much as people feel we are moving forward on this issue, we’re not,” Rotheimer said. “A perfect example is when you have Whoopi Goldberg making a comment that it wasn’t ‘rape-rape,’ it just goes to show how ignorant society is in this matter.”