France: Woman Claims She Was Raped by 20 Firefighters in Her Teens

Published February 9th, 2021 - 11:52 GMT
A Femen activist, with "not guilty" written on the chest, lights flares during a protest against sexism in the French judicial system at the Vendôme square in Paris on February 6, 2021. Alain JOCARD / AFP
A Femen activist, with "not guilty" written on the chest, lights flares during a protest against sexism in the French judicial system at the Vendôme square in Paris on February 6, 2021. Alain JOCARD / AFP
Highlights
It is an offence for someone in a position of authority to have sex with a person under the age of 18. 

A woman in France has claimed that she was raped by 20 firefighters over a period of two years from the age of 13 to 15. 

The woman, now aged 25, said she was groomed by a firefighter who assisted her during an anxiety seizure in 2008. 

Ten years on from the alleged abuse, three men have been charged with sexual violation and the country's highest court is set to rule on the case on Wednesday. 

The case of the alleged victim, who has been dubbed 'Julie' by French media, has sparked protests in France, with campaigners demanding an age of sexual consent should be enshrined in law. 

In French law, there is an 'age of sexual majority' at 15, but there is no age below which a minor cannot be deemed to consent, meaning a child is not necessarily considered a rape victim. 

It is an offence for someone in a position of authority to have sex with a person under the age of 18. 

In comparison, in the UK, sex with under-13s is statutory rape.   

Protests broke out across France  at the weekend in support of the woman. 

Julie claims that one firefighter named Pierre began grooming her at age 13 before she was raped by him and 19 of his colleagues over a period of two years. 

In January 2009, Pierre allegedly visited Julie's home and raped her while her mother was out for a dog walk.  

Julie told investigators that in November 2009, Pierre, while wearing full uniform, allegedly took Julie to his apartment where two colleagues came over and proceeded to gang-rape her. 

At least three of the firefighters have admitted to having intercourse with the then-teenager, although they maintain that the sex was consensual.  

Julie says she was 'terrified and paralysed with fear' at the time.  

The men visited her home 130 times over two years, according to a report in The Guardian

The girl's mother told investigators she had no idea what was going on. 'I even made cake for the firemen,' she said. 

Of Pierre, she said: 'I thought he was the last person to do such a thing because he had helped her so many times and saw how vulnerable she was.' 

Julie's mental and physical health deteriorated following the alleged assaults, and she was prescribed anti-anxiety medication. 

After being taken off medication in July 2010, Julie disclosed the abuse to her mother, who filed a police report.  

Her case has been taken to the country's supreme court of appeal and will reach its conclusion on Wednesday. 

Currently three men are charged with 'sexual violation' although prosecutors will argue that all 20 men should be convicted of rape. 

In France, the maximum sentence for sexual violation is seven years, compared with 20 for rape. 

In order to bring rape charges in France, the complainant must prove she was forced or violently coerced. 

The victim's legal advocate, Marjolaine Vignola, said: 'Every stereotype about rape is in this case: The judges and the psychiatrist say Julie is a liar, that she consented to sex with all those men and that she is lying about being raped because she is ashamed.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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