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ABUSE

‘Hundreds of thousands of women’ in France molested on public transport

At least 267,000 people, mostly women, were sexually abused on public transport over a two-year period in France, a new study has revealed, highlighting just how serious the problem has become.

'Hundreds of thousands of women' in France molested on public transport
Photo: AFP
The shocking figures add yet more weight to the wave of revelations seen in recent months which expose the sexual abuse and harassment women face everyday in France.
 
The study by France's official crime data agency ONDRP also shows that 44 percent of these people suffered “several acts of the same nature” including forced caresses, sexual exhibition and intimate touching and this is considered to be a “low estimate” of the situation.
 
The statistics serve to remind us that despite the wave of revelations seen in 2017 across France following the allegations of the sexually predatory behaviour by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, there's still a lot more to be done.
 
The ONDRP calculated the figure of 267,000, which cover the years 2014 and 2015, by using a survey by France's national statistic office Insee for which between 11,000 and 14,000 individuals have been interviewed each year since 2008, as well as statistical information from the transport department of the Paris police headquarters, revealed Le Figaro.
 
“Nearly 160,000 people were subjected to unwanted gestures including forced kisses or stroking and more than 110,000 experienced someone exposing themselves,” wrote Le Figaro quoting the study due to be published on Wednesday.
 
On top of that, more than 160,000 have suffered other acts such as sexual touching, someone trying to have sex with them against their will and rape. 
 
READ ALSO:
'Half of French women' alter clothes to avoid harassment
Photo: Alexandre Moreau/Flickr
 
Unsurprisingly, 85 percent of the victims were women and those living in the Paris region were at greater risk, with 7.6 percent of women aged 18-21 living in the area saying they had been sexually abused on public transport. 
 
“Young women are significantly more at risk than their older counterparts, with 2.3 percent of women aged 18-21 living in cities experiencing this behaviour,” said the study.
 
“Once over 30 years-old, the rate steadily declines, reaching 0.3 percent for women over 45.”
 
 
While for women the majority of the incidents include physical contact with the perpetrator, for male victims they usually involve exposure.  
 
As a result, these attacks influence the behavior of women who develop “strategies of avoidance”, the study said. 
 
The Metro
 
In October, The Local spoke to women in Paris about their experiences of harassment in public areas, with many highlighting the Metro as a problem area. 
 
“During one packed Metro journey a man pressed up against me and placed his erect penis between my buttocks,” Madeleine La Salle, a 30-year-old Parisian woman told The Local. 
 
“I was so scared, I was shaking. I didn't know what to do,” she said. 
 
Another woman we spoke to, Emeline Augris had also experienced problems on the Metro. 
 
“I think the biggest problems are on the Metro. It always happens that when the train gets busy, men will seize the moment to touch you. 
 
“That's happened to me several times and when it's happening you can't tell who it is. It's so cowardly,” she added.
 
Photo: AFP 
 
Rosalie Comier, who did not want to give her age, agreed that the Metro was a big problem. “I've been called names by men on the Metro and 'complimented' in that way that doesn't really feel like a compliment because it comes across in an intimidating way. 
 
“They sometimes tailor what they say to me too because I'm black which embarrasses me in public.”
 
 
In recent months Parisian women and indeed women across France have been speaking up about sexual harassment and the spotlight on feminism in 2017 has shone brightly thanks in no small part to the women who exposed Harvey Weinstein.
 
Many took to Twitter to “Squeal on the Pig” (#BalanceTonPorc) and say #MeToo to tell their stories of sexual harassment at work as the floodgates open on a subject that has traditionally been kept hush hush. 
 
READ ALSO:
OPINION: In the year of #MeToo it's time for the French to switch off Miss France
Photo: AFP

LAW

French President Macron says France’s laws on child sex abuse must change

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday January 23rd that the law had to change to better protect victims of child sexual abuse, after thousands shared their stories in response to a newly published book.

French President Macron says France's laws on child sex abuse must change
Yoan VALAT / POOL / AFP

“Today shame is switching sides” from victims to perpetrators, Macron said in a video posted to Twitter, welcoming the fact that “people feel free to speak everywhere in France”.

The flood of testimony under the social media hashtag #Metooinceste followed the early January publication of a book, “La familia grande”, by Camille Kouchner.

In it she accused her step-father, prominent political commentator Olivier Duhamel, of having abused her twin brother. Macron did not directly address that case.

But in a short video posted to Twitter, he promised those speaking out online: “We are here. We're listening to you. We believe you. And you will never be alone again.”

And he added: “We have to adapt our laws to better protect child victims of incest and sexual violence.”

Promising to “punish criminals for their acts in the past and prevent them ever reoffending”, Macron said the law would be updated.

In 2018, France already pushed back the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against minors to 30 years.

But some people have argued such acts should never fall beyond the reach of the justice system.

“No-one can ignore these experiences any longer,” Macron said. “We have to hear and gather victims' testimonies even years, decades afterwards.”

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