By: Cate K.
You don’t treat women very nicely. But that isn’t surprising. All the people still coming to the defense of director Roman Polanski should probably have lunch with Edith Vogelhut and Charlotte Lewis. And they should tread carefully before calling Oksana Grigorieva a nasty gold-digger too.
Magazine editor, Vogelhut (who, in her modeling days, was known as Shelli Paul) claims she was handcuffed, drugged, and brutally raped after a dinner party in Hollywood in 1974. Then 21 years old, Vogelhut admits she was initially attracted to the director: “I kind of knew that we’re going to have sex, but I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary.” How’s this for out-of-the-ordinary? She was drugged, handcuffed and anally penetrated against her will numerous times.
Polanski has been hiding out in Switzerland since he was accused of raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer; in 1977, he pleaded guilty but fled the U.S. before his sentencing. American authorities recently failed to extradite Polanski from Switzerland, where he’d been under house arrest since last year.
Actor Charlotte Lewis, who made her film debut in Polanski’s 1986 film “Pirates”, also recently came forwards to accuse the director of unwelcome sexual conduct. Sixteen years old at the time, she too admits to being interested in the director, but says she was abused “in the worst possible way” at his Paris home in 1982. Read “worst possible way” however you wish. I take it as something super-bad, humiliating, and against her wishes.
Abuse comes in all shapes, sizes and forms. Being spoken to in a way that is disrespectful and creates discomfort/shame/embarrassment is just as much an abuse of sexual power. The case of Mel Gibson’s profoundly disturbing verbal tirades against former lover Oksana Grigorieva is upsetting not just for the violence that’s hinted at, but for the awesome, awful force of its laser-pointed hatred. Wishing rape upon someone you were intimate with is horrible. And it’s abuse.
There are the inevitable accusations against Edith, Samantha, Charlotte, and Oksana, that that they are gold-diggers, and that by desiring a powerful, famous man, they somehow “deserved” the treatment they’ve received. But as Lynn Crosbie astutely points out, “Oksana – whatever she is – is an abused woman.” That applies across the board.
Edith says she kept quiet about her experience “for many reasons. I was humiliated, I had absolutely no one to tell and with this group … at this dinner party that ran Hollywood, they weren’t going to believe me.” Fast-forward to Mel and Oksana: “No one will believe you…” he shouts between gulps of breath.
Of course not. A lot of Hollywood people still don’t believe the charges against Polanski, or don’t think it’s a very big deal. Many Hollywood insiders (including director Oliver Stone) believe Mel Gibson will continue to get work despite his tirades. But as any abused woman anywhere knows, there is a total disconnect between the person’s public persona and their private one; it’s like being with a Jekyll and Hyde. And everyone will excuse the Jekyll (or not believe it exists) because they adore Hyde –who he is, what he does (professionally, for them or otherwise), being within his dirty rainbow-sphere of brilliance. “Mon Dieu, don’t you dare criticize that nice man, he’s had a hard life!”
The burning urge to share, to connect, to tell -however acid-stained it may be -is considerably reduced when it’s a public figure with a lot of powerful (and sometimes impressive) friends. If your trust in him has been broken, chances are your trust in his friends has been, too. When he keeps calling you a “bitch,” (or worse), chances are you’ll be scared the world will say the same thing. When he grabs your wrists, you’re scared to move — for fear of getting a punch in the face. And you’ll totally believe it’s all your fault.
It might take you a while to decide to wear that push-up bra again without feeling vulnerable, exposed, and somehow “asking” for assault. You won’t want to ask men (for anything) out of fear of what the payback could be. It will take you a while to reclaim your body, your bed, and your trust. Forgiving yourself is perhaps hardest of all –after all, you liked him, were attracted to him, his position, wanted to sleep with him. There will be fears you were somehow to blame, that you asked for it, that you have poor judgment, that you’re making too big an issue of it all. You’ll do the “what-if?” two-step and the “if-only” cha-cha. And the only thing you’ll get is sore feet.
I experienced a very ugly incident myself not so long ago, and though my incident wasn’t as serious as what these women allege… it easily could’ve been. More than ever, I completely understand how hard it is to untangle the complicated web of attraction, power, and fear that come into play in the bedroom.
Charlotte’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, attributes her client’s 27-year silence to … well, fear. And who can blame her? Women who’s suffered at the hands of sexually unscrupulous, disrespectful, abusive men don’t look at the world the same -much less themselves -anymore. It takes a mountain of courage and the support of good friends to move forwards, to tell, and to heal.