Paris Firemen Admitted to Sex With Her at 13. France is Actually Debating if It Was Rape


The case of a Parisian woman who says she was groomed for sex and repeatedly raped by 20 firemen over a period of two years from the time she was 13 has divided French society. The case, which has become part of recent uncomfortable conversations among France’s thinking class about age of consent, incest and exploitation will be heard before France’s highest court on Wednesday. On Sunday, hundreds of women took to the streets of Paris to demand justice and an end to what they call the cultural acceptance victim blaming and blatant rape habitually disguised as consent.

The woman, now 25, who the French media have dubbed “Julie” has accused all 20 firemen from various fire stations in Paris of rape after a fireman referred to as “Pierre” assisted her when she suffered a severe anxiety seizure in 2008.

Pierre then allegedly found her contact information in her medical file and started bombarding her with “affectionate messages” that soon turned sexual in nature. She says he convinced her to undress during a video call, which she did. He then started passing her phone number to other firemen who asked her to do the same. She wrote in her diary at the time that she was “terrified and paralyzed with fear” over what was happening.

Three of the firemen accused by the woman have admitted to having sex with her, sometimes in groups and often in their full uniforms. On one occasion in November 2009, she had been taken to one of the firefighters homes when he invited two colleagues over—all three raped her in full uniform. The three have been charged with “sexual violence” which carries a prison term of just seven years. None of the men are charged with rape, which carries 20 year prison sentence.

The firefighters who admit to having sex with the minor insist it was consensual and that the then young teen had instead happily obliged, and even flirted with them. One of the accused said he had sex with her in a small toilet stall in a Parisian hospital, but that he noted “no signs of resistance” or vulnerability from the teen.

Because France does not have an official age of consent, cases such as this often come down to victim shaming as defense attorneys work to prove the victim was somehow dressed seductively or, in this case, acted in such a way that gave consent such as undressing during a video call.

France has debated for years introducing an age of consent for sex and in 2018 nearly passed a law that would make having sex with anyone under the age of 15 considered as rape, but the law did not pass after men’s groups said it would result in “an assumption of guilt” for men who were themselves victims of flirtatious women.

The woman’s mother, who has spoken to the press, said that she was shocked to learn that her daughter had been sexually exploited. She said in an interview that she had even baked desserts for Pierre and the other firemen who had assisted the then teen with her anxiety-driven seizures, which happened with such frequency firefithers were called to her home 130 times in the two year period the alleged rapes took place. “I thought he was the last person to do such a thing because he had helped her so many times and saw how vulnerable she was,” said the victim’s mother said, according to an interview published in the Guardian.

Women’s groups protesting in Paris on Sunday say the case underscores long-held notions in French society that have allowed sexual crimes to go unpunished. “Every stereotype about rape is in this case: the judges and the psychiatrist say Julie is a liar, that she consented to sex with all those men, and that she is lying about being raped because she is ashamed,” victim advocate Marjolaine Vignola said.

On Sunday, Marguerite Stern, from a feminist group l’Amazone took to the streets of Paris. “For 10 years they were fighting alone, now thousands of feminists from all over France are joining them,” she told reporters, referring to the fact that the victim first accused the firemen a decade ago. “We are demanding that the firefighters be tried for rape and not ‘sexual violation’. This culture of misogyny in our courts must end.”



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