National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill said today that attempts to trivialize or dismiss criminal charges against film director Roman Polanski would undermine the message that sexual abuse is “Never OK.”
“Powerful friends of Polanski and a scandal-hungry media are attempting to portray this as a ‘Hollywood versus Middle America’ story, to quote a headline from the L.A. Times,” O’Neill said. “But this is an example of celebrity culture gone haywire. Polanski is a convicted criminal pedophile who raped a 13-year old girl, and fled the country to avoid serving his sentence. Making excuses for Roman Polanski is dangerous talk. What message does this send to victims and potential victims of sexual abuse today?”
O’Neill points to the cuts in domestic violence programs being leveled in states like California to deal with the recession as connected to negative and erroneous messages in the media.
“News reports suggest that the economy is contributing to the rise in family violence, but the recession is drying up funding for countless social services programs,” says O’Neill.
California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed $20 million from the state budget which would have funded 94 domestic violence (DV) shelters and centers. In Hawaii, nine DV shelters will have their contracts limited by the state and advocates fear that these shelters could lose all their funding by November.
Raising awareness on issues such as sexual violence is more important to feminism than ever before, O’Neill says.
“When a prominent celebrity such as Roman Polanski is given a pass on rape, people start to wonder who else can be let off the hook,” O’Neill says.
“They see daylight where there should be no debate — rape is a crime. No excuses, no ambiguity, no get-out-of-jail-free pass.”