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French activists tell stories of sexual abuse and rape at major student union

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French activists tell stories of sexual abuse and rape at major student union
A student waves a flag during a demonstration in 2010 in front of the French Senate in Paris. Photo: AFP
12:44 CET+01:00
Sixteen activists from France's second biggest student union have come forward to tell stories of rape, sexual harassment and abuse that they have suffered within the organisation.
The women spoke of incidences of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape occurring between 2007 and 2015 at UNEF for an article in left-wing French daily Libération
 
The exposé comes just a few months after 83 female members of UNEF signed an open letter in Le Monde denouncing the sexual abuse and violence within the organization. 
 
One of the more shocking testimonies is the story of an activist who accuses a "member of the union leadership who joined the UNEF in the mid-2000s" of raping her in La Courneuve, a working class banlieue to the north of Paris in September 2014 during the annual festival, Fete de l'Humanité. 
 
"I was planning to bunk with another female activist but he invited himself in," she told Libération. 
 
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"He was hoping to be able to have sex with both of us" but the second woman quickly fell asleep, she said. 
 
"He told me that he had the right to a blow job which I refused. He began to push my head down. I refused again. He pushed harder and harder. Again, I pushed back. So he put his hand in my knickers and forced a kiss on me and kept going for several minutes."
 
The man in question, who has since become a journalist, has denied the claim, saying that she went along with it "willingly". 
 
However the same woman said he raped her a second time in June 2016 in Paris. 
 
According to press reports she filed a complaint in January.
 
Another woman, a former girlfriend of this official, also claimed to have been raped by him in July 2014 and "is preparing" to file her own complaint.
 
The article reveals an organization where young women activists were the target of insistent pressure, notably under the presidency of Jean-Baptiste Prévost between 2007 and 2011. 
 
"It is important that the omerta is lifted," the current president of UNEF, Lilâ Le Bas told the French press. "I give my full support to the women who denounce the violence they have suffered in the organization."
 
The further revelations about UNEF come at a time when women around the world, including in France, have been coming forward to denounce the aggressors in their lives as a part of the Me Too movement that continues to spiral after the wave of allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017.
 
 
 
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