Complaints of sexual violence rocket in France after Weinstein scandal

Allegations of sexual violence in France have exploded since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke new figures reveal, with victims feeling empowered to report their attackers.

Complaints of sexual violence rocket in France after Weinstein scandal
Photo: AFP

The number of allegations for sexual violence, abuse and harassment have soared by around one third, police figures reveal.

The hike is believed to be linked to the much publicized Harvey Weinstein affair, which saw the Hollywood producer accused of sexual violence by a string of actresses.

Since then women in France have been encouraged to speak out about their own experiences, notably via viral Twitter hashtags #MeToo and #Balancetonporc (squeal on your pig) in which some named and shamed their attackers.

But many women in France have not just spoken out on Twitter. Some have named their alleged attackers in the media, notably two women who accused Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan of rape.

Other women in France have also accused politicians and TV presenters of sexual assaults dating back many years.

And the figures released by police and the gendarmes military police which cover rural areas and small towns show that it's not just high profile victims who are feeling confident to come forward.

In October the number of allegations for sexual violence made to the police rose by 23 percent and the number made to gendarmes by 30 percent, compared to the same month last year.

“It's obvious that this is not a rise in crimes but allegations. Women feel free to speak out, it is undeniable,” said Maryse Jaspard, who coordinated the first National Survey on Violence against Women in France (Enveff). 

The rise in reported sexual crimes has put a strain on police forces in France but the interior minister insists authorities can cope.

But despite the rise other statistics reveal that the total number of allegations made is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual violence and harassment.

According to the High Council of Equality only 10 percent of rape victims report the crime and only one percent of attackers are convicted.

The French government is preparing a new law to try to cut down on sexual harassment and violence including a plan to fine those caught harassing women in the street.



New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment

An app to help protect women against sexual harassment in the streets is now being rolled out across France after a successful trial in Marseille.

New app aims to protect women in France against sexual harassment
Photo: AFP

The Garde Ton Corps (protect your body) app was developed by yoga teacher Pauline Vanderquand in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence after she and her friends experienced harassment and assaults on the streets.

She told French newspaper Le Parisien: “It all started with a personal story. I was followed in the street, I asked for help at an institution and they wouldn't let me in. A little later, a friend was assaulted. I got really fed up, the next day I started the app project, too many stories of harassment were coming back to me.”

After help from the police and mairie (town hall) in Aix she then expanded the app to Marseille, where 20,000 people downloaded it in in the week of its launch in March.

Lockdown then delayed her plans, but the app is now available across France to download on Android, and will be available for iPhones later in August.

READ ALSO The 8 smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier


The app has several functions.

The first 'I'm going home' allows users to transmit the geolocation of your route home to trusted people in your contacts book, using the phone's location services.

The second 'help me' is for use in an emergency situation, if there is a problem a pre-loaded alert message is sent via test-message to selected contacts in your address book, giving your location and the amount of battery left on your phone.

For those in selected locations there is also the 'safe places' option, which gives a list of establishments, usually bars, that have partnered with the app offering themselves as a safe space where women can go if they are being followed or harassed in the street.

Pauline has already partnered with several establishments in Aix and Marseille and is now working on getting Paris bars signed up to the app, helped her by ambassador in the area Anita Mas.

Bars or other establishments register themselves with the app as a 'safe space' and users can then find the nearest safe space to them in case of problems.

The app is free to download but bars and other partners pay a fee to register themselves, which goes towards helping the development of the app.

Amokrane Messous, manager of the Le Mondial bar in the 10th arrondissement, is one of those who has signed up.

He said: “The concept is interesting because in this neighborhood, after a certain time, there are security problems. Some people may feel uncomfortable. For women, it's a real plus to know that they can find a safe place.”

READ ALSO Is France the home of romance or a place of rampant sexual harassment?


Street harassment is a long-standing problem in France, with public transport a particular problem.

A study in 2017 showed that at least 267,000 people, mostly women, were sexually abused on public transport in France over a two-year period.

In 2018 France brought it a new law that punishes sexual harassment in public spaces.

The new law allows for on-the-spot fines for behaviour including comments on a woman's looks or clothing, catcalling, intrusive questions, unwanted following and “upskirting” – taking pictures under a woman's dress without her knowing.