Every Form of Power Can be Used Well or Misused: Sexuality

“Every form of power can be used well or misused.
The law has been used to manipulate as well as to serve justice.
Parenthood has been used as a means of captivity, and it has been used to nourish a soul, helping it grow into fullness.
Sexuality has been used as a weapon to rape and dominate, as a substitute for unmet childhood bonding and physical touch, and as an exquisite sacred expression of love and union.”

The recent events related to film director Roman Polanski bring up a lot of questions for us to examine as individuals and as a world culture.

The events in summary:
Thirty-two years ago Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year old girl. In the midst of the legal process that unfolded from that event, Polanski fled the United States and went to live in Europe. Last month, on September 26, he was arrested in Switzerland when he went to receive his award at the Zurich Film Festival. Switzerland has an extradition agreement with the United States.

The legal system in Los Angeles County wants to hold Polanski accountable. Many people, especially people in high places, want to let him off the hook, including the foreign ministers of both France and Poland, French minister of Culture and Communication, a number of celebrities, many of them French, and many in the film industry, including Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Darren Aronofsky, David Lynch, Whoopi Goldberg and Debra Winger.** Many signed a petition for his release.*** Even his victim wants him let off the hook now.

The events related to ‘the Polanski situation” (including all the responses) remind me of my very first Power Abused, Power Healed Newsletter, January 2008. (You can read the article in my Archived Newsletters – January 2008, How People Use and Misuse Their Power.)

In the article, I talked about having discovered that one of my colleagues was in prison as a result of his having been sexual with one of his clients. I wrote . . .

“If we are going to heal the misuse and abuse of power in our world, each of us is going to need to do our own healing with our own relationship with power.”

And then I went on to say:

“This brings up an important point. Just because someone is a leader, just because someone is active in doing wonderful things for his profession, community, world, that doesn’t mean he (or she) doesn’t also have an aspect of self that is distorted, wounded, unhealed and creating harm in the world around him.”

And that doesn’t mean he isn’t to be held accountable for that wounded aspect . . . accountable to heal the wound and accountable for any damage he does as a result of his wound. In the case of my colleague, he was held accountable by law, thank goodness! One of the things that distressed me, though . . . there was no educational or healing process within the professional organization.

That situation brought many questions to my mind and heart. Questions that were both earnest questions needing answers, and questions that were also statements. The same is true today with all that has emerged about Roman Polanski.

Why would a man get away with his crime – drugging and raping a 13-year old girl – just because he’s famous?
Hasn’t he committed a crime . . . even if he is famous?
Hasn’t he violated and harmed a 13-year old girl . . . even if he is famous?
Hasn’t he changed her life forever . . . even if he is famous?

Why would we let him get away with his crime because he has lots of creative talent he’s been able to bring into the world?
Are his creative “masterpieces” of more value than the mind, body, heart, and soul of that 13-year old girl?
And if you think so, how can that be?

Why on earth would we look at the childhood and sad adulthood of a famous director who drugged and raped a 13 year old girl – his mother killed in Auschwitz, his wife and baby murdered**** – but not look at the childhood and sad adulthood of a middle class or working class man (or woman), no matter his (or her) color?
Is the violent, tragic childhood of a famous director a greater tragedy than the violent, tragic childhood of a middle class or working class citizen?
Are the lives of the mother, wife, baby of a famous director of more worth than the lives of the mother, wife, baby of a non-celebrity?
And if you think so, how can that be?

Why do we look at the individual, but not our culture – a culture that would stand for this?
Why do we focus our attention on the single man, the famous director, and ignore what the entire situation – from the rape through to today – says about our culture?

Why do we ignore our culture’s tolerance for rape? The implicit support of rape and other forms of sexual abuse that are woven into the fabric of our society? Even just in the movies – Polanski’s own medium. The sexual violation in his own film, “Rosemary’s Baby,” is excused under the guise of a rape by a demonic presence. And the recent movie, “The Reader,” nominated for an Oscar, tells, among other things, the story of an older woman having an affair with a 15-year old boy. But few (that I know of, except a therapist I supervise) expressed concern that there was barely a peep in the film industry or the media (save an entry in the Huffington Post blog*****) about the sexual abuse of a young adolescent boy at perhaps his most susceptible state. And what about the new Seth Rogan film, “Observe and Report,” in which date rape is considered okay. . . okay as an action and okay as a topic for comedy.

Rape isn’t funny . . . it never was funny, isn’t funny now, it never will be funny!

I know there are very delicate issues here. But related to Polanski and situations like this . . . perhaps in our movement away from being prudish toward really learning about our sexual selves, we have gone too far in the other direction, making too much acceptable that is truly damaging.

Why do we look at the individual who committed the rape and maybe the culture that would feed this, but not at our individual selves?
It is easy to point our finger at the individual – what he did or didn’t do, what should or shouldn’t become of him. That is us looking outside ourselves at that other person. There’s distance to protect us.

It’s somewhat more difficult, but still not too challenging, to look at the culture all around us and see how it created, fed, participated in, or condoned the rape. We can either see the culture as everyone else but us, or the majority but not us, or everyone including us (with us as one of many). Still the opportunity for distance to protect us.

But what happens when we look at ourselves? When we see that there is a Roman Polanski within each of us? And a 13-year old girl who has been raped? ******
And a member of the rich and famous who wants to let the Polanski in us off the hook? As well as a member of the citizenry within us that thinks he should be held accountable?
How do we deal with all that lives within us that is mirrored to us in the outer world? And how can we willingly own the aspects of us that are nice, kind, good, and self responsible, but refuse to look at the aspects within that are cruel, violent, and irresponsible? Even if we never act on the cruel, violent, and irresponsible parts. Even if they exist in us in thought and feeling only.

This fragments us, splitting us off from ourselves. Because then we are not whole. And it fragments our society, too. Because then we are the good ones and some other folks are the bad ones. (We’ve had recent experience of this where we were considered the axis of good and other countries, the axis of evil.)

Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year old girl.
This man is a mirror of each of us.
So many people are trying to get him off the hook.
These people are a mirror of each of us.
And some want to hold him accountable.
These also are a mirror of each of us.

They say there are two things couples find most difficult to deal with: money and sex.
Actually, there are two things we all find difficult to deal with: money and sex.
Both are great teachers for us of our own inner selves.
Both have come out into the light of day in our world for us to deal with and resolve.
All that is related to the recession.
And all that is related to sex scandals for ages.

We have the opportunity to utilize this for healing . . . both individually and culturally.
To look at ourselves in the mirror.
To heal what needs healing.
And to celebrate what is already healthy and strong and simply needs living.

*Power Abused, Power Healed, p.iii
** “Hollywoodans Support Polanski, Push For His Release”
*** “Naming Names: The ‘Free Roman Poloanski’ Petition”
**** Wikipedia.org, Roman Polanski
***** “Reading Between the Lines in The Reader: When is Abuse not Abuse?”
****** As quoted in the prologue of Power Abused, Power Healed (pp. ix – x) in his poem “Please Call Me by My True Names,” spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates that we are each every side of the problem:
“I am the twelve-year-old girl,
Refugee on a small boat,
Who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.”

© Copyright 2009 by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • John Lee LMHC

    October 22nd, 2009 at 7:02 PM

    Your article is very powerful! I am in total agreement! I was a 15 year old boy who was sexually assaulted two times. Once by a person who was supposed to be my “father role model” and one was by an “ordained Minister”. Both instances left me suffering for many years!

    To let someone off the hook is I can only think of incorrigible, an outrage, horrendous! Yes! The victim may agree. But what is she really feeling and how has she suffered! I know I suffered! I know I still hurt 35 years later! However my hurt and anger I took in a positive way by helping others! Again! It is an absolute outrage! If he is guilty he needs to pay the price! I don’t care what else in his life he did! The fact remains he negatively affected a childs life! He needs to pay his debt to both the victim and to society. I am sick and tired of “Celebs” getting off the hook! Justice needs to prevail!
    My hat is off to you for your very powerful article!

    John Lee LMHC

  • Francis W.

    October 22nd, 2009 at 8:08 PM

    Bravo, Judith! I felt like I wanted to stand up and applaud. I am appalled that celebrities are supporting Polanski. Fame doesn’t grant you immunity from prosecution for a crime. To say oh but look what he’s done for the arts would be laughable if it wasn’t so horrific.

    He was already found guilty and admitted it. There’s no “did he/didn’t he” question in anyone’s mind. He drugged and raped a 13 year old. That is unacceptable, period. He should go to jail and serve out the sentence that was already handed down to him before he fled to Europe. If he doesn’t, what kind of message does that send to other pedophiles? Because that’s what he is.

  • Craig H

    October 22nd, 2009 at 8:21 PM

    I agree they should lock him up and throw away the key. I can understand the girl not wanting thrust into the limelight after so many years nor wanting to relive it all. So be it. Put a press embargo on all the information related to her identity and the case from this day forward. She deserves to be left in peace. Polanski deserves to rot in jail. He needs help? He can get it there. He should not be free to walk the streets.

    What sickens me are these celebrity supporters. They are looked up to by the very kids that they are telling hey, it’s okay for a grown man to rape a child, so long as he’s famous. I don’t know how they can justify that in their minds or if they would even see it from that perspective. The public should boycott their movies and his in protest for what they represent – glamorizing and condoning the activities of sickos.

    I would include The Reader in that boycott too.


    October 23rd, 2009 at 2:45 AM

    The “show me the person, and I will tell you the law” attitude needs to be kicked out of people’s minds forever… If a crime has been committed, if a law has been broken, appropriate action SHOULD be taken, no matter who the offender or violator is… no matter how good he is in his field or work…

  • Judith Barr

    October 27th, 2009 at 6:47 AM

    Thank you all for your comments on this sensitive topic.

    Yes, letting this man “off the hook” because of his fame or talent would be a horrendous miscarriage of justice. And he must take responsibility for what he has done. But there is an even deeper lesson here. We can, if we take the opportunity, use this scandal as a mirror to our own inner selves…to see within ourselves aspects of both Polanski and of his victim. To look at our reactions to the scandal as signposts to our own wounds, calling out to be healed … calling out for us to invest ourselves and our precious time and energy on healing ourselves within.

    This tragic event, and the events before and after, can, if we utilize it well, help us in our own healing…In doing so, we can gain clarity in responding to tragedies such as this and other abuses perpetrated by those who both are and are not in the public eye, and will help to heal the abuse of sexuality in our communities and our world.

  • Yacub

    November 7th, 2009 at 3:50 AM

    Bias is something that we need to get rid of. Gender, colour, status etc. It is so easy to send a man from a lower economic status to death row for a crime of passion. Not so when it is someone famous and well recognized. We seem to instill a certain benevolence upon their character.

  • Robert

    November 7th, 2009 at 4:00 AM

    Scary! Looks like most people are masquerading behind a mask. There is no excuse for a man of his reknown!!

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