[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/09/29/hollywood.embraces.polanski/art.polanski.gi.jpg caption="Peers of Roman Polanski have praised him for his talent and lamented his arrest."]
Leslie Morgan Steiner
Special to CNN
Historically, women's rights and status in America have been viewed by both men and women as "soft" issues - worthy but marginal.
Real problems are the serious ones - financial crises, international confrontations, nuclear arms, trade disputes, Mafia murders, the Steelers/Ravens game (if it looks close). But ills that plague the daily lives of women like rape, incest, prostitution and domestic violence - not so much.
However, with Hillary Clinton perched atop the State Department, Michelle Obama in the White House, Oprah, Katie and Diane dominating television, and Arianna Huffington running the blogosphere, so-called "women's issues" may finally get the attention they deserve.
Which perhaps explains why a 76-year-old French man who pleaded guilty to "unlawful intercourse with a minor" 30 years ago is a front page news story and one of California's prosecutorial priorities despite the financial and international crises crippling various segments of our country and the world today.
Maybe you've not heard of Roman Polanski, the 76-year-old French-born filmmaker who directed "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "The Pianist," for which he won an Oscar in 2002.
In 1943 he survived the Nazis in Krakow, Poland; in 1969 he survived the trauma left by the Charles Manson family, which murdered his wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child; in 1977 he also survived the American criminal justice system when he fled the United States before being sentenced after he was accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.
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