This is a photo of Samantha Geimer at age 13, staring at the man who would drug, rape, sodomize, and eventually swallow her identity in the following weeks.
Almost 35 years after Roman Polanksi took this picture, Geimer is using it as the cover of her memoir, "The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski." Now 50, Geimer has spent her life inextricably tied to her abuser, an Oscar-winning director who escaped imprisonment for his sex crime by fleeing the U.S. in the late 1970s. In recent years, Geimer has spoken out about the molestation and offered forgiveness to Polanski. She even pressed a California court to drop the case after Polanski's re-arrest in Switzerland in 2009.
High-profile Polanski sympathizers clashed with those who rallied against his release, as photos and profiles of the director were plastered all over newspapers around the world. By the end of it all, Geimer became a bit-player in the director's biography, frozen in public memory in the 13th year of her life.
Her memoir, set for release on September 17, is an attempt to tell her own story — the extended version. "I am more than a 'Sex Victim Girl,'" wrote Geimer in the 2012 press release announcing her deal with Atria Books. "I offer my story now without rage, but with purpose -- to share a tale that will reclaim my identity." The cover photo, which the Hollywood Reporter released on Wednesday, is the first step.
"Since the incident, the media has always illustrated the story with a picture of Polanski," wrote the Reporter's Andy Lewis. "Geimer finally wanted to put her own face on the story, and this picture reflected the starting point for her."
Before she was known in court documents as "Sex Victim Girl," Geimer (then Gailey) was a San Fernando Valley teenager who wanted be just like her mom, a TV actress and model. "I wanted to be famous—a movie star," she told People in 1997. "But I was really just on the edge of ceasing to be a tomboy and trying to act more like a young lady. I had a 17-year-old boyfriend who drove a Camaro, but my room was knee-deep in clothes; I had a Spider-Man poster on the wall and I kept pet rats."
The cover photo of Geimer's memoir was taken during the first of two photo shoots by Polanski. It was February in Southern California when she posed on a hillside just a few blocks from her house. "We shot a roll of film; then he asked me to take off my shirt and took topless photos while I changed," she told People in a candid interview two decades after the incident. "I let him do it, but I felt self-conscious. I was thinking, 'I shouldn't be doing this,' but I was a kid."
She kept it a secret from her mom so she could accept Polanski's offer to pose a second time a few weeks later. It was March. They went to Jack Nicholson's house. She had seen "Chinatown," was star-struck, accepted a glass of Champagne, a third of a Quaalude. She was instructed into a hot tub, then onto a bed. "I'm intoxicated and afraid and don't know what to do," she recalled.
Her mom found out about the rape and contacted the police. Then came more abuse, this time from the media when the news broke of the allegations. Geimer was called a "Little Lolita" in headlines, and in court her sexuality was on trial as much as Polanski himself.
Geimer's teenage years went missing. She dropped out of high school, had a baby and a short-lived marriage all before she turned 20. Eventually, she met her second husband, Dave Geimer, whom she now lives with in Hawaii. Together for the past 23 years, they have raised two sons. They live by the ocean, near Geimer's mother and sister. She's worked as a secretary and a personal assistant, occasionally giving interviews to news outlets about her past.
In time she's found the strength to forgive her abuser, and to fight him. In 1988, Geimer filed a civil suit against Polanski and won the rights to the photos he had taken of her. To tell her unabridged life story she chose a photo of herself with heavy eyelids, her face halved by a shadow.