Polanski Rape Case 'I Don't Feel I Was a Victim'
Part 2: 'It Horrifies Everyone'
SPIEGEL: Did Polanski believe you?
Geimer: Yes. The only problem was that now he wanted me to lie down and relax. He took me into a dark room, and then I knew: "Okay, the guy wants to have sex with you." I was surprised, because he didn't really seem to like me much. But I didn't know how to stop him. I had told him that I didn't want to go into that room. When he touched me, I said no. But when "no" didn't work, I didn't know what to do anymore. "Let him do it," I thought, "and then I'll go home." I knew what sex was. I had a boyfriend, and yes, we had had sex. At the time, I thought I was an adult.
SPIEGEL: Pretty early.
Geimer: I didn't think so. I definitely wasn't the only one at the time. Roman was constantly asking me whether I liked it. I didn't reply. He was the movie director, so he could write his own dialogue. He asked me when I had had my last period. But I was too confused and too high to remember. Then he asked me: "Would you want me to go through your back?" I had no idea what he was talking about, but to be on the safe side, I said "no." When it did happen, I thought to myself: "Wait a minute, was that my butt?"
SPIEGEL: It sounds horrible. It's hard to listen to.
Geimer: It horrifies everyone. At the time, it wasn't clear to me that what was called sodomy was such a big deal. It wasn't as bad as everyone thought. It didn't hurt. I was high. All I cared about was that he would get it over with quickly so I could go home. I know that that too sounds odd today.
SPIEGEL: It sounds succinct.
Geimer: I didn't feel good just after that. But I know people who have had worse things done to them.
SPIEGEL: There are people whose lives are destroyed after an experience like that.
Geimer: I wasn't like that. I wasn't raised with that strange sense of shame. Sex wasn't evil. I knew what sex was. No one had ever drummed it into my head that sex was dirty or shameful. Besides, I wasn't afraid for my life. I wasn't afraid that he would hurt me.
SPIEGEL: Not even emotionally?
Geimer: I don't think I had time for that. When it was over, it took less than an hour before "Oh, I can't believe what just happened" turned into a whole world of problems.
SPIEGEL: Actually, you didn't even want to tell your parents about what had happened.
Geimer: Oh no! But I had to talk to someone about it, so I called my ex-boyfriend Steve, who was a few years older than me. My sister overheard me and told my mother. And then all hell broke loose: the police, the hospital, the district attorney's office, Polanski being arrested, the paparazzi, telephones that wouldn't stop ringing. There was no time to reflect.
SPIEGEL: Did you wish that they hadn't called the police?
Geimer: I thought so at the time and repeatedly over the years. But what else should my mother have done? She couldn't simply let it go. Did we know what we were in for? No. Maybe it would be more obvious nowadays. If it had been my daughter, I would also have called the police.
SPIEGEL: Does your mother share any of the blame?
Geimer: No. But she blames herself because she let me go. We were all naïve. We all made mistakes.
SPIEGEL: Would you call it rape?
Geimer: I was 13. Under the law, it was rape.
SPIEGEL: And morally?
Geimer: I didn't want it. I tried to say no. That makes it rape. Did I think it was rape at the time? No. I thought rape meant physical violence or kidnapping. Then I got home and everyone was shouting: "You're 13. It's rape!" I was really surprised.
SPIEGEL: After he had dropped you off at home, Polanski went to his friend Robert De Niro's house. Apparently he didn't feel guilty at all.
Geimer: Polanski didn't think he had done anything wrong. He hadn't intended to hurt me. He wanted me to enjoy it. I was stunned when I heard the next day that Polanski had been arrested. And then Anjelica Huston was also arrested. She was Nicholson's girlfriend at the time and had walked in on us during the sex in Nicholson's house. When the police searched Nicholson's house for evidence, they found cocaine in Huston's purse. So there I was: Polanski was arrested, Huston was arrested and Nicholson certainly wasn't happy that all of this had happened in his house. Great start to my acting career. I knew that it wasn't my fault. But I felt bad.
SPIEGEL: Isn't it odd that Polanski, but you too, apparently, didn't think having sex with a 13-year-old was such a big deal?
Geimer: Today it's hard to imagine what the mood was like in the late '70's, especially in Hollywood. Elvis Presley had married Priscilla in the '60's. She was 14 when Elvis met her. Woody Allen's "Manhattan" was an homage to a middle-aged man in love with a teenager. I saw a photo of Don Johnson with his later wife Melanie Griffith sitting on his lap. She was 14 when they met. The girl who becomes a woman was no taboo. The term child abuse didn't exist. Or at least no one talked about it.
SPIEGEL: Do you accept that as justification?
Geimer: There is no justification. Roman should have known better. But you have to recognize that people behaved somewhat differently at the time when it came to sexual matters. Roman believed, as he said later on, that his actions had been based on warmth and affection. And you know what? I believe him. Condemning it from today's perspective is ignoring the historical context. Nevertheless, it was shitty of him to do it, no matter what he thought at the time, and no matter how he feels today.
SPIEGEL: We are experiencing a similar debate in Germany at the moment. Members of the Green Party, a liberal, leftist environmental party, stand accused of having supported and downplayed sexuality with children in the 1980s, for ideological or pedagogical reasons, but apparently without malicious intentions.
Geimer: Anyone who was somewhere between 13 and 45 in the '70's knows that both Roman and your Greens in Germany probably felt exactly that way. There was no calculation or malicious intent involved. Erotic experiences were seen as beneficial. People also believed that emotional growth was fostered by a more expanded -- or early - sexuality. And it applied to both sides, to those with power, like Roman, and to the relatively powerless, like me. Roman didn't see me as a victim.
SPIEGEL: So sexual morality was better in the '70's, even though it may have contributed to what happened to you with Polanski?
Geimer: I thought it was better at the time. Maybe it was just because that was how I grew up. I think it's wrong to establish rules about when sex is okay for an individual and when it isn't. I want to decide that for myself.
SPIEGEL: But in your case, 43-year-old Polanski made the decision.
Geimer: He decided for me, because he thought it was right. And I would rather relive the evening with Polanski than the court hearing. It was humiliating. Those questions. That's where I was the victim.
SPIEGEL: After that you went through 10 pretty wild years. You did drugs, drank a lot, and had various relationships. Was it a consequence of the Polanski incident?
Geimer: My mother and my sister would tell you that I was never the same person after that. I was terrible. I didn't talk to anyone anymore. I didn't come out of my room anymore. I shut down my life. The press, the court, the judges, the photographers, the fear of the trial, the bad things that were said about my mother and me -- I couldn't stand it. But it had nothing to do with Roman. A year later, after Roman had left the country, all I felt was a sense of relief: "He's gone! No more trials! Party!" I became a stoner. We drank a lot, took LSD, speed, cocaine, Quaaludes, everything.
SPIEGEL: Did you have problems with sex?
Geimer: No. I liked having sex.
SPIEGEL: In 1988 you decided to file a civil suit against Polanski, 11 years later. Why did you do that, all of a sudden? After all, you wanted to be left alone.
Geimer: But I had realized that it would never happen. This issue will never leave me alone. I couldn't go on living like that. We -- my husband and I -- needed money and had a young child. The fact that it was starting up again was Roman's fault, because he had written some unflattering things about my mother and me in his autobiography. In that case, I thought to myself, Roman should help me now. In other words, he should pay for it.
SPIEGEL: Polanski did pay.
Geimer: A six-figure amount.
SPIEGEL: Half a million dollars.