My Message Is Heard

October 1, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

In yesterday’s post about the Polanski case, I predicted that some people would make an argument that his prosecution would deter child rape.
No doubt, some people will argue that the case, especially because Polanski is famous, will “send a message”
The Times must have been listening. Here’s a letter from this morning’s paper.
Robert Harris asks who benefits from the arrest of Roman Polanski, more than three decades after his admission of having had sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. The answer is society and all children at risk of becoming victims in the future.

Even if Mr. Polanski succeeds in negotiating his immediate freedom, the fact of his being made to answer before a court would be salutary.

It would send a message about the seriousness of such crimes, rather than the “who cares” message that Mr. Harris sends (and that the three French presidents, who, Mr. Harris reports, have dined with Mr. Polanski, also send).
I’ve already voiced my skepticism about these messages (here). I suspect that while the court’s action may have some effect on the feelings of the partisans on both sides of this debate, its impact on sexual crimes against children will be nil.

1 comment:

PCM said...

Well said. I can't imagine that it's only the long arm of the law that keeps most men from raping children.

And to think, I was just about to do it... but then last month I suddenly thought about the criminal reprecusions.

Get real.

Of course the flip side would be, if criminal sanctions don't matter, why even criminalize it?

I mean, I'm pretty liberal, but I still think child rape should be illegal. I mean, there must be *some* deterrent effect, right? Or is it all just our Durkheimian labeling of deviant others so we can feel more solidarity?