Cover of Roman Polanski rape victim's memoir generates mixed reaction

(CBS News) Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski left the United States 35 years ago to avoid a possible prison sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The victim is now putting out a book, telling her story. But the cover photo of that book is now the subject of a new controversy.

The close-up of a 13-year-old Samantha Geimer on the cover of her memoir is an image of youth and innocence. The year was 1977. Geimer dreamed of becoming a movie star. The man who took the photo, and other photos of her, was Polanski.

Andy Lewis, book editor for the Hollywood Reporter, said, "This photograph was taken at her first session with Roman Polanski, so for her it's the start of her story, and that seemed like the natural image for her to use as the cover."

At the time, Polanski was basking in the success of his latest film, "Chinatown," starring Jack Nicholson. He arranged a second photo shoot with Geimer at Nicholson's house. Geimer shared photos from the shoot, and explained what happened next to CBS News back in 2003.

"What made me uncomfortable was is that he asked me to change my blouse in front of him. The last photos were taken in the jacuzzi, but then he got in the jacuzzi, and then that's when I started realizing that I might be in trouble," Geimer recalled then.

Geimer later told police how she was drugged then raped. In 1978, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, but fled the country when the judge tried to dismiss a plea bargain. Polanski continues to live as a free man in his native France.

When Geimer's book cover was posted on the Hollywood Reporter's web site, it quickly generated polarizing comments.

Lewis said, "On the one hand, people are wondering how she ended up at an older man's house in this situation, and on the other, people are extremely angry that a rapist has escaped punishment for 35 years."

Reached by phone, Geimer told "CBS This Morning" she'd been following online posts, saying, "I was surprised by some of the things I read. I didn't expect that the cover would be controversial. ... It seemed like the obvious choice to me."

"The Girl - A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski" comes out in September.

Watch Ben Tracy's full report above.