An Open Letter to Roman Polanski:
Dear Mr. Polanski,
I'm sending you this letter, even though you don't know me from Eve. As I write this, we've just received news that you're open to house arrest for your 1977 statutory rape sentence. That's a great idea, but I've got another idea for you: back my documentary about ending violence against women and girls.
Why don't you help me and my colleagues in the personal safety community get the word out about a person's human right to protect themselves from emotional and physical harm? Specifically, how about helping us mainstream the idea of a woman or girl's right to defend herself from an assailant? I'm not kidding. With your notoriety and clout, you could bring women's physical empowerment from the shadows into headline news, theaters and the talk show circuit.
At the risk of coming off as completely self-serving - my status and bank account prove that I'm not - I've been having a heck of a time with my mission of providing self-defense skills as a normal part of physical education. Hey, trying to sell self-defense classes to women and girls is a bit like trying to sell cod-liver sundaes. Healthy idea, but YUCK! Most people are so uncomfortable with the image of a female being attacked that they just want the whole idea to go away. Nonetheless, violence against women is one of the darkest open secrets we have, which you - as a cultural king - could actually help end or at least reduce for us subjects. Do you dare help me at the root level?
As your case is endlessly blogged and blabbed in the media, all I can think about is the waste of money, column inches and air time - resources that could be used to prevent future "Polanski episodes": when a powerful authority figure like a priest, celebrity or film director promises great rewards or consequences, exacting secrecy in exchange for silence. No one is arguing over whether you raped a 13 year old. They bicker over whether it was really that bad, or whether you should be punished or not.
I'm mostly against warehousing human beings, even though the more vengeful side of me would definitely like to see you punished, as in setting you down in a prison somewhere with the words "Casting Couch" embroidered on your pants. I know, I know. Your supporters argue that life has been punitive already. I argue that because you had already suffered so deeply before the "incident," you should have been less cowardly and more willing to own up to the suffering you caused to someone weaker and less powerful than you are. But I digress.
Rather than punishment, I stand for creative sentencing and actions that serve to make inroads in the area involving the damage you caused. I am for the prevention of violence, with an emphasis on teaching people - boys too - what they might do before something violent happens, or more importantly WHILE it is happening.
Your 1977 scenario is almost a cliche, insofar as there is a socially inept girl who has the promise of possible stardom, with Your Highness "dangling" it in front of her. She's not only scared of you physically, but scared of "blowing" her own shot at fame or wealth. I know straight grown men who would have been scared to fight or say an effective "no" to someone like you, especially drunk and drugged. Nasty business, that casting tub.
I've been struggling - and I use this word advisedly - to raise money to complete a documentary which demonstrates the transformative power of teaching girls and women how to set boundaries - physically if they must. It's called "Beauty Bites Beast" which is also the title of my book. If you were sentenced to fund my film, it'd get done in 6 months and get a distribution deal and lots of press! We could actually prevent injury and save lives; not all, but a significant number of them.
I just completed co-teaching a self-defense class for kids with IMPACT Personal Safety, www.impactpersonalsafety.com, a non-profit provider of personal safety training. I thought of you when I was showing the two girls who were almost 13 how to tell a predator to stop being creepy. They practiced over and over. They were so shy, and yet eager to know and "rehearse" what to do if they were in trouble. We then had them exercise eye strikes and groin shots with a padded mock assailant as simple escape maneuvers.
Do not think I blame your victim for not defending herself. She didn't have a clue what to do. So many attacks could be stopped if we only taught enough women and kids simple, brains-not-brawn, easy-to-learn techniques against sexual predators. I assert that the statutory rape in 1977 will plague you until you make some type of sincere public amends. Backing an "end violence against women and girls" film would be an astonishing act of atonement. Consider it. Talk to the lawyers. You can see the trailer to my movie here.
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