In 1998, investigative journalist Bernard Lefkowitz published Our Guys (which later went on to be A New York Times Notable Book of the Year).
Lefkowitz conducted hundreds of interviews to tell the story of a 17-year-old mentally challenged young woman and a group of high school boys in Glen Ridge, NJ, an affluent, idyllic suburb. She had been lured into the basement by one of the teens she had a crush on. Four of the young men gang raped her while a number of others watched.
They were all popular athletes who came from good families – the kind of young men who could do no wrong in the eyes of the community. When rumors of the sexual assault started circulating, the town rallied to the defense of their “guys” and further ostracized the young woman.
Part of the point of this book is that Glen Ridge is no atypical town. And apparently Hollywood is not so atypical when it comes to the likes of sexual assault and Roman Polanski. They are claiming him as one of their “guys.” Stars of all stripes are rallying around him, from the likes of Harvey Weinstein to Whoopi Goldberg to Woody Allen to Harrison Ford. Of course, a significant difference from the citizens of Glen Ridge is that these artists are supporting someone already known to have committed rape. It’s common knowledge that after giving a 13-year-old girl Quaaludes, Polanski proceeded to rape her vaginally and anally. The girl pleaded for him to stop and he did not. While on bail, he fled the country to France. These facts are indisputable.
Granted, the violence took place in 1977. So should we let bygones be bygones? What’s the point of putting him in prison for something that happened 32 years ago?
How about this: What message do we want to send young men now?...That accountability fades with time, especially when you’ve made some highly acclaimed movies? That if you have enough friends in high places who make enough noise, you’ll be freed from any responsibility for your actions?
What does it mean to be a friend? Do you have to excuse someone’s harmful actions and stand by him no matter what? Or can you be a friend to someone by holding him accountable for his behavior? The answer is clear for us at Men Can Stop Rape.
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