Thursday, December 2, 2021

Victims of sexual assault in France condemn police brutality

One rape victim was asked by the Paris police what she was wearing that day and why she hadn’t resisted anymore. Another woman was forced to fondle herself in order to demonstrate sexual assault to a skeptical police officer.

They are among thousands of French women who, in a new online campaign, denounced the shocking reaction of police officers accusing them or mishandling their complaints when they reported sexual assault.

The hashtag #DoublePeine (#DoubleSentencing) was launched last month by Anna Tumazoff after she learned that a 19-year-old woman who filed a rape complaint in the southern city of Montpellier was asked graphically by police if she had enjoyed the attack.

The hashtag quickly went viral, with women describing similar experiences in Montpellier and other police stations across France. French women’s rights group NousToutes counted at least 30,000 messages of abuse in tweets and other messages posted on social media and a specific website.

Despite recent training programs for the French police and growing awareness of violence against women, activists say the authorities must do more to tackle the severity of sex crimes and eliminate discrimination against victims.

Addressing the national issue last week, Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin said, “There are questions that should not be asked to women when they come with a complaint.”

“It’s not the policeman who has to say whether there has been domestic violence or not, it’s up to the judge,” he added.

He also announced an internal investigation at the Montpellier police station.

The prefect of the Montpellier region earlier in a statement condemned what he called “slanderous comments” against the officers. He exposed “false information” and “lies” in order to discredit the actions of the police.

Tumazoff denied launching an anti-police force, saying the hashtag was intended to spur the government into action.

“By allowing incompetent and dangerous officers to work in police stations, (the authorities) dishonor their entire profession,” she told The Associated Press. She said that the victim mentioned in her initial tweet is unwilling to speak publicly while her rape complaint is under investigation.

The regional branch of the influential Alliance police union in Montpellier argued that the officers were just doing their job. “While the police understand the suffering of the victims, it is imperative that we ask ‘awkward’ questions to establish the truth,” the report said.

The 37-year-old Parisian woman told AP about her experience at the police station after she was attacked this year by a man living near her home who had previously harassed her on the street.

Once he blocked her path and pushed her against the wall, touching her belly and chest and threatening to kill her, she recalls.

The woman said that frightened and crying, she arrived at the police station, where the police greeted her “very kindly.”

But then, she said, the officer in charge of filing the complaint did not write down his description of the attack, so she refused to sign the document.

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“I had to repeat it all,” she said. The officer asked if she was sure that the abuser wanted to touch her chest.

“I had to make a gesture to make him see that it was not another part of the body,” she said. “Forcing me to repeat and … make a gesture in front of a wall is humiliating. I found this very humiliating. I felt like a puppet. ”

The case is still ongoing. According to her, the police offered to change the apartment to get away from the rapist.

Another Parisian, 25, said she was “traumatized” by police after being raped by an ex-boyfriend in 2016.

When she filed her initial complaint, a specially trained police officer “explained to me why he asked all these questions, he was in a spirit of kindness,” she recalls. “I felt safer and he believed me.”

A few months later, she was summoned to another police station, located on the same street where the attacker lived. Feeling intense anxiety at the thought of a possible meeting with him, she said that she was spoken to as if she were “stupid” and “a liar.”

The police asked what she was wearing that day, why this was different from when she had consensual sex with him, how she could claim she was surprised if he was wearing a condom, she recalls. The officer told her, “I don’t understand why you didn’t fight anymore.”

The complaint was closed without examination due to lack of evidence. The young woman described the police reaction as very difficult to live with, having a “huge impact” on her personal life and almost causing her to drop out of school.

The Associated Press does not usually name people who say they have been victims of sexual assault.

Speaking to lawmakers in the National Assembly, the interior minister acknowledged that in France “there is still room for improvement.”

The government has set a goal to have at least one specially trained officer in every police station to combat domestic and sexual violence. An annual survey conducted by the national statistical institute INSEE shows that currently only 10% of victims in these cases file formal complaints.

The #doublepeine movement emerged after the shocking murder of a woman earlier this year, who was shot and set on fire in the street by her separated husband. One of the police officers who took her domestic violence complaint a few months ago was recently convicted of domestic violence.

Darmanin promised that officers who were finally convicted of such actions would no longer be allowed to contact the public.

Tumazoff said women have been sounding the alarm for years, denouncing statements by politicians that were not followed by any action.

“When urgent situations arise, such as terrorist attacks, they can do something because it’s urgent,” she said. “It’s the same here. The lives of women are at stake. It’s urgent every day. ”

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