Nev. — In 2009, Samantha Geimer was watching the
daytime talk show "The View" from her
then-home in Hawaii when the panel took up the topic of
her encounter at age 13 with director Roman Polanski.
Polanski had just been arrested in Switzerland, more
than three decades after the day in 1977 that changed
both their lives.
wasn’t rape-rape," co-host Whoopi Goldberg said,
setting off a firestorm of criticism. In fact, it was
"rape-rape" by nearly any definition except
the charge to which Polanski pleaded guilty (unlawful
sexual intercourse with a minor) — the underage Geimer
was drugged and verbally resistant, according to court
after years of hearing other people’s theories about
that day, she was amused, more than anything, by
Goldberg’s choice of words. "I laughed so
hard," Geimer said. "I thought, ‘Oh, my God,
she did not just say that.’ These days, you can’t
say that. Everyone’s gonna be all over you."
50 and a mother of three grown sons, has decided to tell
her story herself in a memoir titled "The Girl: A
Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski." Her version
of events may surprise those expecting a
to-hell-and-back-again victim’s account. The portions
of the book describing the crime are restrained; she
recalls that Polanski wore ankle boots and too much
cologne, that he was arrogant but not violent. She feels
more wounded by what she calls the "victim
industry," the lawyers, judge and journalists who
she feels sensationalized her case for their own
shouldn’t be able to make what happened to me worse so
it’s more interesting," Geimer said. "You’re
put upon to feel bad and be a victim so other people can
use you as they see fit."
month near her Nevada home, Geimer was candid but shy, a
demeanor shaped perhaps by seeing her underwear held
aloft in a courtroom when she was 14. She has long held
a nuanced view of what happened to her, preferring not
to see herself as a tragic figure but as a woman who
lived through an alarmingly common crime that happened
to be committed by a famous man.
green-eyed, with a warm smile, she goes by
"Sam." When her husband, Dave, teased that she
should lift her shirt during a photo shoot to promote
the book, she smirked. "I think you can joke about
anything," she said later. "I’m all right. I
was not all right the year after it happened ... but I’m
OK now. And when you start talking about 1977, there’s
a lot of things that are funny."
reason she thinks she is OK today is her nonjudgmental
attitude toward sex, fostered in a 1970s, pre-AIDS
Southern California. She said she first realized this
when she learned about the case of Elizabeth Smart, a
Mormon girl who was abducted in 2002 at age 14 and
was taught that if you’re raped, you’re devalued as
a person, that it’s shameful and wrong," Geimer
said. "Nobody ever taught me that. Everyone’s
like, ‘Don’t you feel guilt or shame or used or
dirty?’ I was like, ‘No, I don’t.’ I didn’t do
anything wrong. Why should I feel bad?"
was in March 1977 that the then Samantha Gailey climbed
into Polanski’s rented Mercedes for what she and her
mother thought would be a magazine photo shoot. Her
mother, an actress, had met Polanski at a party.
thought, ‘Man, I’m gonna be famous now,’"
Geimer said. "We’ll get me in Vogue Paris and
then maybe I’ll get a good part. One step and you’re
on your way. That’s what we thought it was, a chance,
my big shot."
Polanski drove her to his friend Jack Nicholson’s
Hollywood Hills home, gave her Champagne and a piece of
Quaalude and, after learning that she was not on birth
control, anally raped her, according to court records.
who worked with an uncredited co-author, describes how
she emotionally departed the scene during the encounter,
silently wishing for Polanski to stop talking. "He
holds my arms at my sides and kisses me," she
writes. "And I say, ‘No, come on,’ but between
the pill and the champagne it’s like my own voice is
very far away." Later that night, after Geimer’s
sister overheard her talking to an ex-boyfriend about
what had happened, Geimer’s mother called the police.
said she doesn’t remember most of the next year of her
life, which involved retelling the story countless times
for doctors, police officers, attorneys and a grand
jury. In writing that section of the book, she relied
heavily on the recollections of her lawyer, Lawrence
Silver, family, friends and her diaries.
conduct of Judge Laurence Rittenband, now deceased, has
long been controversial. Polanski, who in a deal pleaded
guilty to only one of the six counts he was charged
with, spent 42 days at Chino State Prison. When the
judge backed out of a sentencing deal that he and the
attorneys had agreed upon, the director fled the
then, he has lived mostly in France, avoiding countries
that might extradite him. He has married and had two
children and has directed 12 additional feature films,
including the Oscar-winning "The Pianist."
has complained about his treatment, as recently as this
month in Vanity Fair, where he called the legal case
teen years were a series of boyfriends and casual drug
use. At age 18, she got pregnant, married and quit
partying. The marriage didn’t last, but the impulse to
clean up her life did. She ran a home day-care center
and went to legal secretary school.
1988, a European magazine published pictures of her
driving, going to work and kissing Dave, then her
boyfriend. To escape the intrusions, she and Dave moved
to Kauai, where her mother lived.
is a great place to be when you have something weird
like this in your life," she said. "You would
be really hard-pressed to find someone who knows who
Roman Polanski is. It was nice to have that ocean
barrier and be around a bunch of people who couldn’t
1988, she filed a civil suit against Polanski, alleging
sexual assault; it ultimately was settled for a
six-figure sum. It took years to collect on but when she
finally got the money, Geimer said, it helped with the
raising of her three children, since her work as a
secretary and Dave’s as a property manager were not
the years, Geimer has often defended Polanski’s right
to move on with his life.
he was nominated for an Oscar for "The
Pianist," she wrote an op-ed piece for the Los
Angeles Times arguing that his movie should be judged on
also participated in Marina Zenovich’s 2008
documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and
Desired," which highlighted the legal peculiarities
in the case and the way the judge courted publicity,
often asking reporters how they thought he should rule,
for maximum public-relations benefit.
wish somebody would step up and say, ‘Time served,
case dismissed’ and investigate the misconduct,"
watching the documentary, Polanski wrote Geimer a
letter, which appears in the book. "I wanted you to
know how sorry I am for having so affected your
life," he wrote.
in 2009, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s
office arranged for the director to be arrested as he
arrived at the Zurich Film Festival. Geimer saw the
arrest as politically motivated and a continuation of
the legal maneuvering that had caused Polanski to flee
in the first place. The Swiss later released him.
the time, more than 100 artists and entertainers signed
a petition calling for Polanski’s release.
crime pundits, meanwhile, focused on Geimer; legal
commentator Nancy Grace called her a "weak
victim" and talk show host Phil McGraw said she had
chief complaint seemed to be that Geimer was not angry
enough at Polanski.
don’t like it when people try to sensationalize what
happened for their TV shows and talk about it with words
like ‘gruesome’ or ‘horrific,’" Geimer
said. "How can you make a living doing that to
the book, Geimer said, was a way to reclaim her own
story. Most of it is about the Polanski case and Geimer’s
perspective on how she and others at the center of
highly public crimes are exploited. She will be making
talk show appearances and speaking at the Saban Theatre
in Beverly Hills, Calif., this month.
personally tired of everybody telling lies about me and
about what happened," she said. "So now I’m
saying my truth.... It’s interesting to be able to do
it on my own terms. My whole life has been reacting to
what’s happening to me. This is a different thing for
me, to just be trying to tell the story."