Evan Touillon is native French presently is studying at Sciences Po in Reims.
How does France treat sexual assault accusations?
On a purely personal and individual level, I have never been a victim of any type of sexual violence. On the other hand, I know many people – mostly women – who have been victims.
Many of my friends are actually subjected to street harassment on a daily basis. This type of aggression has almost been trivialized and it is unbearable.
One of my best friends was also sexually molested as a child. This trauma almost drove her to suicide in high school. I was the first person she told about what happened to her but now she speaks up because she feels more secure.
silence doesn’t pay
From an institutional point of view, my friend did not receive any help and never wanted to lodge a complain. Today, her aggressor lives a peaceful life and has never been judged.
Have movements such as #metoo and #BalanceTonPorc in France triggered the same shock and wave of consequential action as in the States?
Obviously, the #metoo and #balancetonporc movements have had a huge social and institutional impact in France. As people usually say to describe this shift in paradigm, « la parole se libère » and many victims have been able to use their voice to denounce the excesses of an oppressive system.
nothing is perfect
The repercussions are still tangible as for example with the #metoogay movement which appeared on twitter last month. Of course, nothing is perfect and there is still a long way to go.
The system has not completely changed from A to Z and the struggle for justice and equality is not over. For example, I think that many men don’t fully understand these movements or at least don’t feel concerned. Others sometimes see this liberation of speech as a threat to their position and power.
Given this, do you think the conversation surrounding sexual assault is unique to France (culture + society) or there are not specific distinctions to be drawn in comparison to other “Western” countries?
Comparisons are always useful and relevant. They just need to be put into context and the specific details of each need to be highlighted.
Comparing the debates that take place in different European countries or in the Western world can teach us a lot about the way in which victims’ voices are treated and considered by public and judicial authorities and, eventually, the rest of society.
In France, there is also a kind of culture of romance and love which means that many people are sometimes not shocked by a sexual assault and can even minimize it.
An unwanted kiss doesn’t shock everyone, and this example can raise many questions in the way our culture tackles the issue of violence and sexual assault.
Do you believe consequences in the French legal system severe enough for the varieties of sexual assault accusations that’ve recently come up (incest, rape)?
The French legal system is already quite severe on rape cases. But it can be improved on many points.
Efforts have been made, as recently following the revelations of Camille Kouchner, which allowed the French Senate to ponder upon the notion of consent and the protection of incest victims.
SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS
Overall, victims are not sufficiently supported in the administrative and judicial procedures. It is still very difficult for them to talk about their experiences. Also, there is a strong mistrust between victims (even more so if they belong to minorities) and the police, which makes things harder.
Do these increasing testimonies over the past couple years/ months reflect a reality of victims’ voices getting louder? Could we say there is an evident change in how France goes about the conversation?
There is obviously a post-#balancetonporc France. But, as I said before, the process is only just beginning.
a dynamic of change
Social networks have had the effect of a bomb that has allowed the media coverage of the victims and given the strength to speak for many people. The finish line is still a long way off but at least a dynamic of change has been set in motion to transform society into a safer space than it was before.
How do you envision a change if there need be in how the country navigates the conversation? (both in personal level as well as legally speaking).
I would like to see real action from the government. Macron had announced that gender equality would be the great cause of his five-year term. Honestly, I feel sorry for the associations, feminists and victims who had to work with this government.
The conversation about sexual violence must be treated with more consideration since it affects all spheres and social classes of society.
STOP TRIVIALIZING SILENCE
The trivialization of silence and the guilt of the victims must disappear. Too many lives are destroyed by sexual assaults.
About the Article
A French university student reflects on current attitudes toward victims of sexual abuse.