Allegations of incest against one of France’s most prominent intellectuals have triggered a wave of social media testimonies amid a moment of national reckoning over child abuse.
Olivier Duhamel, a political scientist and former Socialist MEP, is facing a criminal investigation after being accused by his stepdaughter of sexually abusing her twin brother.
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Duhamel this week quit his academic and media roles over the claims, which date back three decades and about which he has declined to comment.
The row surrounding the abuse claims is “shedding light on what campaigners say is a major problem” in France, The New York Times (NYT) reports.
Thousands of people are sharing stories of abuse on Twitter with the hashtag #Metooinceste. “Hundreds of the posts were wrenching accounts from people who said they had been sexually abused as children by adult family members,” the paper adds.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron is facing growing calls from campaigners including his own wife to toughen up laws relating to child abuse.
The president formed a commission last year to tackle incest and abuse, “under pressure from feminists and children’s welfare groups”, The Times reports.
But commission chair Elisabeth Guigou resigned in the wake of the publication of Kouchner’s book, after being named as one of the individuals who “protected” Duhamel when allegations first surfaced against him a decade ago.
Calling for further action, Macron’s wife, Brigitte, said during a television interview this week that “it’s brave to speak out. Victims’ silence ‘kills off the act’. So these acts absolutely must be reported and not be stifled.”
Under current French laws, a child is only deemed to be the victim of rape if the act is the consequence of “violence, threat, constraint or surprise”. Campaigners want that law tightened, along with an end to a 30-year statute of limitations on rape.
Last year, French prosecutors launched an investigation into Gabriel Matzneff, an author who “wrote openly of his pedophilia”, but was “protected by powerful people in publishing, journalism, politics and business”, according to NYT journalist Norimitsu Onishi.
And earlier this month, philosopher Alain Finkielkraut was fired by French television network LCI after defending Duhamel. Finkielkraut asked on air whether there had been “consent” and “reciprocity” between Duhamel and his stepson, and suggested that sexual contact with a 14-year-old was “not the same thing” as paedophilia.
Responding to the comments, Children and Families Minister Adrien Taquet tweeted: “In what world do you live Alain Finkielkraut?
“Are you really talking about consent between a teenager and a family member? You maintain the silence and the feelings of guilt of the child by suggesting that some form of reciprocity is possible.”
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