French cinema has its #MeToo moment, sparking growing need for intimacy coordinators

A cascade of sexual violence allegations has rocked the French film industry in recent months, with actor Judith Godrèche leading the charge for a reckoning about gender-based abuse. Calls to safeguard actors on set are growing, as is the need for intimacy coordinators – a job that is yet to be officially recognised in France.

For the first time in history, an actor spoke to MPs in the French upper house of parliament about sexual violence and gender-based abuse in the film industry last week.

Addressing the Senate’s women’s rights committee, actor Judith Godrèche called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into gender-based violence and reprehended the “incestuous family” that is French cinema.

The actor-turned-filmmaker has become a bellwether for France’s #MeToo movement. She recently accused two filmmakers, Benoît Jacquot and Jacques Doillon, of sexually assaulting her as a teenager. Both men have denied the allegations.

In her speech, Godrèche also urged for a “more effective system of control” that would include a “neutral advisor” in shoots involving minors and an intimacy coordinator for sex scenes.

Her words have all the more clout given that there are only four intimacy coordinators currently working in the whole of France.

Breaking power dynamics

Ten years ago, intimacy coordinators were practically unheard of. Although theatre productions have used “intimacy choreographers” in the past, the job of “coordinator” got its first big break in the US in 2017, when a catalogue of sexual violence cases in the film industry were brought to light by the #MeToo movement.

Actors began demanding professional safeguards for their well-being on set and pushed for better regulation of intimate scenes, not only to ensure full consent but also to provide accountability in cases of gender-based violence.

Read more‘Wind of revolt’ sweeps French cinema in belated #MeToo reckoning

“In a 2017 TV series called The Deuce, one of the actors decided she needed more help discussing her boundaries and wanted more support when shooting intimate scenes. So on season two, HBO hired an intimacy coordinator,” says Paloma Garcia Martens, one of the few intimacy coordinators working in France. “And then it kind of spread.”

For scenes involving nudity, simulated sexual acts, sexual violence or assault, or any other form of sexual activity from kissing to fondling – intimacy coordinators act as mediators between the actors and the director.

Much like stunt coordinators, their role is to make sure actors are safe throughout the filming process and that scenes look believable. They act as “neutral advisors”, to use Godrèche’s words, and find a middle ground between in a relationship that is often fraught with power dynamics.

“Filmmakers sometimes have a way of directing actors that is a little violent,” says Pedro Labaig, a first assistant director based in Paris. He says that since intimacy coordinators are so uncommon in French film productions, it is often up to assistant directors to ensure the well-being of everyone on set.

“There have been times I’ve had to intervene and reassure the actors that I’m here, that they’re allowed to speak to the director and that it’s OK to tell them they need to do things differently,” he says. “It’s complicated though. The director is the artist and nobody wants to boss the artist around. But I can, to a certain extent.”

Once intimacy coordinators receive a script, they begin by clarifying the details of intimate scenes with the director. “Screenplays can often have vague phrases like ‘they make love passionately’,” says Marine Longuet, an assistant director and member of the feminist collective 50/50, which combats sexism in French cinema.

“Intimacy coordinators will ask the director what they mean by that phrase. Will the actor be naked? Will they be under a duvet? Do they kiss? Are their bodies covered in sweat? They help directors be more precise … And ensure that actors know exactly what they’ve signed up for,” says Longuet.  

They also work with the cast to define boundaries before scenes are rehearsed, carefully creating a safe space and open dialogue to ensure consent is given throughout the filming process.

“There is such a prevalence of trauma around sex … Most actors I’ve worked with have told me horror stories of intimate things that went wrong on set at some point in their lives,” Martens explains. “Very often, they are put in positions where they have to improvise or they haven’t had the time to go over [what their] boundaries [are]. They never even thought that they could actually consider their own boundaries. And they end up in situations that, although most people are well-meaning, lead to harm.”

Read moreGender-based violence in French universities: ‘I decided something had to change’

While filming, intimacy coordinators stay on set. If an actor changes their mind about a detail in a scene or begins to feel uncomfortable, they can flag this to the coordinator. And if a director wants to change something previously agreed upon, they must go through the coordinator and get approval from the actors before doing so.

“Mostly, it’s all about communication … If at one point the director’s idea isn’t aligned with someone’s boundaries, then we workshop solutions,” says Martens. “We connect with all the different departments [to inform them of boundaries], including costume and make-up to find ways of hiding specific body parts for example, and create closed set protocols to define which essential personnel is allowed during intimate scenes and who is allowed access to monitors, these kinds of things.”  

In the US and the UK, intimacy coordinators are much more prevalent than in France. The profession is widely recognised and regulated. US TV network HBO has required their presence on all of their productions with intimate scenes since 2018, a decision which helped popularise the job.

The US Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) published guidelines for intimacy coordinators in January 2020. And Directors UK, an organisation representing UK screen directors, published a quick guide in 2019.

To date, there are no official guidelines for intimacy coordinators in France. Nor is there an official training course for people to become certified intimacy coordinators.

A budding profession in France

According to a study published by the French National Joint Employment and Training Committee (CPNEF) in December 2023, there are only four intimacy coordinators in the whole of France, compared to 80 in the US.

All intimacy coordinators in France are women, but male intimacy coordinators do exist. David Thackeray from the UK worked on the fourth season of the TV series Sex Education, for example. 

The CPNEF recommends those interested in working as intimacy coordinators to go through SAG-AFTRA for vetted training courses, which all take place in English. The committee says it is currently working on creating a certified training course to encourage more people to take up the profession.

“I’m seeing more and more people who claim to be intimacy coordinators,” says Longuet worriedly. She fears that without proper training, self-defined intimacy coordinators could make matters worse. “We shouldn’t be adding to the risk.”

As of January 2025, the CPNEF plans on training six people a year to become intimacy coordinators.

“This job does not yet exist in France and is currently being defined in order to determine appropriate training,” the French organisation for assistant directors in fiction AFAR wrote on its website in 2020. “The director’s team is currently responsible for ensuring that ‘intimate’ scenes run smoothly.”

Although Martens works on French film productions, she was trained abroad. “I did several training courses in the US and Canada, and right now I’m in the process of updating my certification with Principal Intimacy Professionals,” Martens explains.

There is no requirement for intimacy coordinators on French film sets. Directors or production companies decide for themselves whether or not scenes in a film warrant their presence.

“Sometimes stunt coordinators are called on set for no reason. But I have never come across an intimacy coordinator,” says Labaig.

In the absence of regulations, it is up to the employer to protect the health and well-being of workers. Since producers or a production company are usually considered the employer on film sets, they must implement the appropriate prevention, information and training measures and see that what happens during working hours is in line with the French Labour Code.

Film actors and crews can also turn to “harassment officers” in cases of sexual assault.

“Harassment officers” are in charge of taking on and handling cases of gender-based violence.

According to the French Labour Code, it is mandatory for French companies with more than 250 employers to have a harassment officer, and each officer has to undergo mandatory training.

“Harassment officers are crew members who, on top of their job on set, are there to provide resources in case something happens. But until recently, they have rarely been mentioned, because productions often didn’t have human resources managers,” says Longuet. “Their role is to flag whenever a labour law has been breached and if they see any violence on set, they have a duty to report it.”

“But unlike intimacy coordinators, they are responsible for the entire team. Intimacy coordinators have a very specific role minding the relationship between directors and actors,” she says.

The tide is turning

Longuet explains the lack of intimacy coordinators in France as being twofold. Directors are afraid of losing autonomy, and France has a vision of cinema as a sacred artform rather than an industry.

“Directors often imagine intimacy coordinators to be some kind of moral police,” says Longuet. “And since it can take four, five, six years to make a film … it is so precious to them – they can be afraid that an intimacy coordinator will rob them of something.”

But for Longuet, this is simply a misconception of what the job actually entails. “When we see intimacy coordinators at work, it is clear that they don’t direct scenes. They prepare them.”

Then there is a broader cultural understanding of what cinema is. Longuet explains that in the US, cinema has always been seen as an industry. And where there is an industry, there are protocols. “In France, we have a different model. Since the New Wave, we have prioritised auteur cinema. The auteur is the director, and the director always has the final say, which is not always the case in the US or UK. The auteur writes, directs and generally isn’t asked to share their thoughts on the mise en scène (production),” she says.

“It’s as though directors have some kind of exclusive territory.”

Martens also mentions the fact that the US, Canada and the UK have very powerful actor’s unions. In France, “actors don’t have a lot of power, and a lot of times their agents don’t even support them because they are just chasing the next check”, she explains.

Although intimacy coordinators have yet to become an integral part of French film productions, the industry is seeing a monumental shift in behaviour. More and more women like Godrèche are speaking out about the inherent sexism and abuse they face working in cinema, paving the road for some light at the end of the tunnel.

“Of course, gender-based violence is still rampant, but both in my work with 50/50 and as an assistant director, I try to work from a perspective of solidarity and sisterhood. To me, that’s eminently precious,” says Longuet.

“When I meet colleagues on set, I feel a newfound sense of solidarity. Even if everything seems to be exploding around us, I am seeing change. I see kindness and goodwill around me. And that’s something to celebrate.”

The tide is turning for France’s handful of intimacy coordinators as well. “I’m getting a lot more calls from production companies,” Martens beams.

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‘Wind of revolt’ sweeps French cinema in belated #MeToo reckoning

French cinema has been rocked by a new wave of allegations of child rape and sexual assault targeting household names in the industry, bolstering talk of a long-awaited breakthrough for the #MeToo movement in France following a nationwide controversy over Gérard Depardieu. The latest accusations shine a stark light on the culture of impunity that prevailed in a country where auteur worship has long served as a cover for abuse.

French cinema’s #MeToo breakthrough has been heralded, and pushed back, often enough to warrant caution – but there are signs the ground is finally shifting, more than six years after cinema’s feminist revolution kicked off across the Atlantic. 

In 2017, at the dawn of the #MeToo era, French actor Judith Godrèche was among the first to speak out against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, telling the New York Times that the film producer assaulted her in a hotel at the Cannes Film Festival two decades earlier, when she was 24. 

Years later, the actor-turned-filmmaker is at the heart of bombshell allegations that are writing a new chapter in France’s troubled reckoning with sex abuse in the film industry. 

French prosecutors opened an investigation last week after Godrèche, now 51, said she was groomed and raped by filmmaker Benoît Jacquot during a “predatory” relationship that started when she was 14 and he was 39.  

Godrèche, who recently delivered the semi-autobiographical series “Icon of French cinema”, was a child actor when she met Jacquot at a casting call for his movie “Les Mendiants” (The Beggars). She told French daily Le Monde she remained “in his grip” for the following six years, in full sight of the film industry and the media. 

“It’s a story similar to those of children who are kidnapped and grow up without seeing the world, and who cannot think ill of their captor,” Godrèche wrote in a statement for the police juvenile protection unit, quoted by the newspaper.  

Judith Godrèche pictured in 1992, the year she broke off her six-year relationship with Benoît Jacquot. © Bertrand Guay, AFP

Paris prosecutors said they were investigating several potential offences including rape of a minor committed by a person in authority, domestic violence and sexual assault. They said they would also investigate a complaint she filed against another prominent filmmaker, Jacques Doillon, whom she accused of sexually abusing her when she was 15. 

Jacquot, one of France’s best known independent directors, told Le Monde he denied all allegations. The 77-year-old said: “It was me, without irony, who was under her spell for six years.” 

Doillon, whose partner at the time of the alleged abuse was the late Jane Birkin, also denied the accusations against him – including claims of sexual assault voiced in the media by actors Isild Le Besco and Anna Mouglalis in the wake of Godrèche’s allegations. “That Judith Godrèche and other women through her have wish to denounce a system, an era, a society, is courageous, commendable and necessary,” Doillon, 79, wrote in a statement to AFP. He added: “But the justness of the cause does not authorise arbitrary denunciations, false accusations and lies.” 

The allegations levelled at two household names in French film have further rattled an industry already under fire for having shrugged off sexism and sexual abuse for decades. Godrèche’s accusations relate to the period 1986-1992, meaning they are unlikely to lead to prosecution because the statute of limitations has expired. The authorities’ decision to investigate them nonetheless suggests a new willingness to shed light on sexual abuse in the arts. 

Two days after Godrèche filed her complaints, prosecutors said they had requested a trial for 59-year-old film director Christophe Ruggia, who has been charged with sexually assaulting actor Adèle Haenel when she was a minor. It will be up to magistrates to decide whether to press ahead with a trial. 

Haenel, now 34, lodged a complaint against Ruggia in 2020, accusing him of subjecting her to “constant sexual harassment” from the age of 12 to 15. Later that year, she stormed out of the César Awards ceremony, the French equivalent of the Oscars, when the Best Director award was handed to veteran filmmaker Roman Polanski, the target of multiple allegations of sexual abuse of minors. 

The walkout made her an early champion of the #MeToo movement in France. But her decision three years later, at the height of her fame, to quit the industry over its enduring “complacency” towards sex abuse was seen by many feminist campaigners as evidence of French resistance to change. 

A ‘cover’ for abuse 

French cinema’s troubled relationship with the #MeToo movement stems from traits specific to the film industry and to France itself, said Bérénice Hamidi, a sociologist of gender and the arts at the Université Lumière in Lyon. 

“The arts, and film in particular, are overexposed to sexist and sexual violence, because they are professions that feel apart from society and its rules, in which selection and seduction are very closely intertwined, and in which job insecurity puts many young women in a position of vulnerability,” she said. 

“But there is also a culture that is very French in its veneration of artists and the creative process, which excuses all behaviour,” Hamidi added. “There’s this idea that in order to create you have to be in a transgressive relationship with social norms. In this scale of values, women’s lives count for nothing compared to genius and talent. Excusing the behaviour of aggressive artists is specific to France.” 

French critics of the #MeToo movement have often come from cinema itself, inspired by an entrenched suspicion of American puritanical campaigns and witch-hunts. Some have accused the movement of being fuelled by a contempt for men and the art of seduction. 

In 2018, film icon Catherine Deneuve was among 100 French women who signed a newspaper column accusing the #MeToo campaign of going too far. “We defend a right to pester, which is vital to sexual freedom,” they said. 

It’s a theme Jacquot picked up in his defence last week, lamenting the importation from the US of a “frightening neo-Puritanism”. He suggested his relationship with Godrèche carried an interest for both parties, telling Le Monde: “She wanted to be an actress, she had a filmmaker on hand.” 

The newspaper has exhumed a host of past quotes by Jacquot that, in hindsight, appear to capture much of what the #MeToo movement has denounced. 

In a 2006 interview with arts weekly Les Inrockuptibles, he spoke of a tacit “pact” underpinning his collaboration with Godrèche in his 1990 movie “La Désenchantée” (The Disenchanted), saying: “If I give her the film, she gives herself completely in return. Which can be understood in any sense you like.” 

Nine years later, he told the left-leaning newspaper Libération: “My work as a filmmaker consists of pushing an actress to cross a threshold. Meeting her, talking to her, directing her, separating from her and then finding her again: the best way to do all that is to be in the same bed.” 

In an Instagram post in early January, Godrèche said she decided to name Jacquot after coming across a 2011 documentary in which he described cinema as a “sort of cover” for illicit behaviour. He spoke of his relationship with the then child actress as a form of “transgression” that brought him “a degree of admiration” in the “small world of cinema”. 

Jacquot told Le Monde last week he regretted those words, describing them as arrogant banter. 

French actor Judith Godrèche has accused director Benoit Jacquot of raping her when she was 14 years old.
French actor Judith Godrèche has accused director Benoît Jacquot of raping her when she was 14. He says theirs was a “loving relationship”. © FRANCE 24 screengrab

Godrèche recently moved back to France after a 10-year stint in New York, motivated in part by her desire to get away from the “small world” of French film. Her hit series “Icon of French cinema” tells the story of a French film star’s return to Paris after a decade in Hollywood. Through flashbacks, it revisits the abuse she endured as a 14-year-old child actress groomed by a leading French director. 

Its streaming release in late December came on the heels of the hugely successful theatrical launch of Vanessa Filho’s “Le Consentement”, based on the eponymous 2019 book by Vanessa Springora, a memoir of having been sexually abused from the age of 14 by a celebrated writer who was more than three times her age. Gabriel Matzneff, the accused writer who made no secret of his preference for minors, including preteens, is being investigated for rape, now aged 87. 

In an interview with the Guardian last month, Godrèche stressed the importance of speaking out about the grooming of teenagers by older men in positions of authority. 

“These people usually come to you as protectors. They become a parental figure,” she said, noting that the French film industry was still protecting powerful men and that a form of omerta remained prevalent. She added: “I’m not here to carry out a witch-hunt, but you might expect a little compassion.” 

Fall of the Ogre 

Talk of powerful men turning a blind eye to allegations of abuse, or even siding with purported aggressors, became the subject of a nationwide controversy in late December when French President Emmanuel Macron condemned a “manhunt” targeting French film icon Gérard Depardieu

The world-famous actor has been under formal investigation for rape since 2020 and has been accused of rape or sexual assault by a dozen other women – allegations he denies. His reputation took a further hit in December when public broadcaster France Télévision ran a documentary detailing his history of sexual abuse allegations and featuring interviews with several of his accusers. Entitled “Fall of the Ogre”, the documentary featured a segment filmed in North Korea in which the 75-year-old actor is seen making crude, sexual and misogynistic jokes, including one referring to a child riding a pony. 

In the weeks that followed, Depardieu’s wax statue was removed from the Musée Grevin in Paris, Canada’s Quebec region stripped him of its top honour, and Swiss public broadcaster RTS said it was halting the broadcast of films in which he plays a leading role.  The backlash sparked concern in France that the star of “Cyrano de Bergerac” and some 200 other titles was being cancelled outright. 

Appearing on a television talk show on December 20, Macron rebuked his then Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak – who has since been fired – for suggesting Depardieu might be stripped of his Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration. 

“He’s an immense actor, a genius of his art,” Macron said in defence of Depardieu, stressing that the Légion d’honneur was not a “moral” order. He added: “I say it as president and as a citizen, he makes France proud.” 

In his remarks, Macron also suggested the documentary’s North Korea segment might have been edited in a misleading way, though France Télévisions later said it was authenticated by a bailiff who viewed the raw footage.  

The president’s words drew outrage from film workers, rights groups and opposition politicians. Generation.s Feministe, a feminist collective, said they were “an insult” to all women who had suffered sexual violence. Macron’s remarks were “not just scandalous but also dangerous”, added the #NousToutes feminist group.  

Stepping into the fray, his predecessor François Hollande said he was “not proud of Gérard Depardieu”. He also berated the president over his failure to spare a word for the film star’s alleged victims. 

Cult of the auteur 

According to Geneviève Sellier, a professor of film studies at the Université Montaigne in Bordeaux, Macron’s words were indicative of a French “cult of the auteur” that has long been used to excuse or cover up reprehensible behaviour. 

“The cult of the auteur places artistic genius – regarded as necessarily male – above the law,” she explains. “This French tradition explains in part why the country remains largely blind to the realities of male domination and abuse.”

Sellier said auteur veneration underpinned a controversial petition that was published on Christmas Day in the right-wing daily Le Figaro, denouncing a “lynching of Depardieu”, signed by dozens of friends and colleagues of the actor. They included former French first lady and singer Carla Bruni, British actor Charlotte Rampling and Depardieu’s former partner, actor Carole Bouquet.  

“When Gérard Depardieu is targeted this way, it is the art (of cinema) that is being attacked,” read the text, warning against a campaign to “erase” Depardieu. “Depriving ourselves of this immense actor would be a tragedy, a defeat. The death of the art. Our art.” 

Hamidi said the petition reflected a “form of blurring between reality and fiction” that is used to shield artists from scrutiny of their behaviour. “There’s a form of transfiguration at play,” she said. “It’s as if punishing Depardieu meant depriving us of the Cyrano he played.” She added: “You often hear people say of Depardieu that he is larger than life, in the sense that he is also too big for the rules that apply to common mortals, and that those rules therefore should not apply to him.” 

French actor Gérard Depardieu, pictured at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, has faced a string of allegations of rape and sexual assault in recent years.
French actor Gérard Depardieu, pictured at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, has faced a string of allegations of rape and sexual assault in recent years. © Axel Schmidt, AP

The text in support of Depardieu swiftly triggered a flurry of counter-petitions, whose signatories were markedly younger of age.  

The Figaro petition “is a sinister and perfect illustration of an old world that refuses to let things change”, read an open letter signed by more than 600 artists, arguing that the text in support of Depardieu “spat in the face” of his accusers. 

“Art is not a totem of impunity,” read another letter published by Libération. “We are not attacking the art we hold dear: on the contrary, we want to protect it, firmly refusing to use it as a pretext for abuse of power, harassment or sexual violence.” 

As the backlash intensified, several signatories of the original petition scrambled to distance themselves from the text, particularly once it emerged it had been written by a little-known actor and writer for the ultra-conservative magazine Causeur, described as close to far-right pundit and former presidential candidate Éric Zemmour.  

Patrice Leconte, who directed Depardieu in the recent “Maigret” (2022), said he had been a “fool” to sign the petition without checking who wrote it, while reiterating his dismay at the “media lynching” the film star was being subjected to. Roberto Alagna, the operatic tenor, suggested in an Instagram post that he had been “tricked” into signing a petition he “hadn’t even read”.  

Others, like actor and stage director Jacques Weber, expressed greater contrition.  

“Yes, I did sign, forgetting the victims and the fate of thousands of women around the world who are suffering from a state of affairs that has been accepted for too long,” Weber wrote in an article published by Mediapart, under the headline, “Guilty”. He added: “My signature was another rape.” 

France’s rayonnement 

The age gap exposed by the competing petitions has revived talk of a generational divide in attitudes towards sexual misconduct in the arts – a divide previously highlighted by the controversial open letter published in 2018 by Deneuve and her peers.  

“There’s a generation that still doesn’t understand this societal evolution,” Muriel Reus, vice president of #MeTooMedia, which campaigns against sexism and sexual misconduct in the media, told France Info radio at the height of the Depardieu controversy.  

This generational divide conceals mechanisms of social domination that are particularly pervasive in the arts, argued Sellier. 

“In film, powerful men tend to be older, while female victims are younger, poorer and in more vulnerable jobs,” she said. Those women who did speak out, including among older generations, were simply ignored in the past, she added. 

Sophie Marceau, one of France’s best-known actors, told Paris Match weekly magazine in December that Depardieu was “rude and inappropriate” when they worked together on the set of “Police” in 1985. Marceau, 57, said she publicly denounced his behaviour at the time, which she described as “unbearable”, adding: “many people turned on me, trying to make it look like I was being a nuisance”.   

Marceau said part of the reason he got away with it was that he targeted women with low-level jobs on set, not the stars.  

Days later, fellow actress Isabelle Carré denounced a culture of impunity in French cinema and of sexualising young girls in an op-ed piece in women’s magazine Elle. A prominent actress with dozens of films to her name, Carré, 52, said she had been the object of unwanted sexual attention since she was 11. Regarding Depardieu, she wrote: “Isn’t it astounding that it took 50 years to point out to an actor that his behaviour towards female assistants, dressers and co-actors is not acceptable?”  

Protesters hold a placard reading
Protesters hold a placard reading “No producers for rapists” during a demonstration outside a theatre in Bordeaux where Gérard Depardieu is due to perform on May 24, 2023. © Romain Perrocheau, AFP

On Monday, members of the Société des réalisatrices et réalisateurs de films (SRF), an organisation representing French filmmakers, issued a statement in support of Godrèche and others who have spoken out in recent days – and expressing dismay at the industry’s habit of turning a blind eye to abuse.  

“We firmly denounce the confusion between creative desire and sexual enslavement, which has been ideologically encouraged by a large part of our professional environment for decades,” they wrote. “We are also struck by the silence of those who witnessed it then and now.”   

The next day, the writer and film critic Hélène Frappat hailed a “wind of revolt blowing across France”, praising Godrèche for having “broken the spell” that holds young girls in silence. In an op-ed in Le Monde, Frappat wrote: “The girls are rising up! It seems our culturally reactionary country, this time, will not be able to muzzle them.”  

Welcoming the onset of a “French #MeToo” in an interview with France Inter radio last month, actor Laure Calamy praised her colleagues who dared to take on powerful men. She said their courage contrasted with Macron’s support for Depardieu, which she likened to a “slap in their face”.   

At stake in this tussle is the very credibility of France and its film industry, Hamidi argued, highlighting a French “backwardness” on the issue. She said: “Statements such as Macron’s project a catastrophic image abroad, giving the impression that we are still in Ancien Régime France, in which the powerful can take advantage of women.”  

Far from preserving France’s cherished cultural rayonnement (influence), the president’s words achieved the very opposite, Sellier added: “It is precisely this blindness to sexist violence that is undermining France’s cultural influence.” 

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Donald Trump briefly testifies in defamation trial in New York

He testified for under three minutes. But former President Donald Trump still broke a judge’s rules on what he could tell a jury about writer E Jean Carroll’s sexual assault and defamation allegations, and he left the courtroom Thursday bristling to the spectators: “This is not America.”


Testifying in his own defence in the defamation trial, Trump did not look at the jury during his short, heavily negotiated stint on the witness stand. Because of the complex legal context of the case, the judge limited his lawyers to asking a handful of short questions, each of which could be answered yes or no — such as whether he had made his negative statements in response to an accusation and didn’t intend anyone to harm Carroll.

But Trump nudged past those limits.

“She said something that I considered to be a false accusation,” he said, later adding: “I just wanted to defend myself, my family and, frankly, the presidency.”

After Judge Lewis A Kaplan told jurors to disregard those remarks, Trump rolled his eyes as he stepped down from the witness stand. The former president and current Republican front-runner left the courtroom during a break soon after, shaking his head and declaring to spectators — three times — that “this is not America.”

Carroll looked on throughout from the plaintiff’s table. The longtime advice columnist alleges that Trump attacked her in 1996, then defamed her by calling her a liar when she went public with her story in a 2019 memoir.

While Trump has said a lot about her to the court of public opinion, Thursday marked the first time he has directly addressed a jury about her claims.

But jurors also heard parts of a 2022 deposition — a term for out-of-court questioning under oath — in which Trump vehemently denied Carroll’s allegations, calling her “sick” and a “whack job.” Trump told jurors Thursday that he stood by that deposition, “100%.”

Trump didn’t attend a related trial last spring, when a different jury found that he did sexually abuse Carroll and that some of his comments were defamatory, awarding her $5 million. This trial concerns only how much more he may have to pay her for certain remarks he made in 2019, while president. She’s seeking at least $10 million.

Because of the prior jury’s findings, Kaplan said Trump now couldn’t offer any testimony “disputing or attempting to undermine” the sexual abuse allegations. The law doesn’t allow for “do-overs by disappointed litigants,” the judge said.

Even before taking the stand, Trump chafed at those limitations as the judge and lawyers for both sides discussed what he could be asked.

“I never met the woman. I don’t know who the woman is. I wasn’t at the trial,” he cut in from his seat at the defense table without jurors in the room. Kaplan told Trump he wasn’t allowed to interrupt the proceedings.

Trump was the last witness, and closing arguments are set for Friday.

Carroll, 80, claims Trump, 77, ruined her reputation after she publicly aired her account of a chance meeting that spiraled into a sexual assault in spring 1996. At the time, he was a prominent real estate developer, and she was an Elle magazine advice columnist who’d had a TV show.

She says they ran into each other at Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store close to Trump Tower, bantered and ended up in a dressing room, teasing each other about trying on lingerie. She has testified that she thought it would just be a funny story to tell but then he roughly forced himself on her before she eventually fought him off and fled.

The earlier jury found that she was sexually abused but rejected her allegation that she was raped.

Besides Trump, his defence called only one other witness, a friend of Carroll’s. The friend, retired TV journalist Carol Martin, was among two people the writer told about her encounter with Trump shortly after it happened, according to testimony at the first trial.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba confronted Martin on Tuesday with text messages in which she called Carroll a “narcissist” who seemed to be reveling in the attention she got from accusing and suing Trump. Martin said she regretted her word choices and doesn’t believe that Carroll loved the attention she has been getting.

Carroll has testified that she has gotten death threats that worried her enough to buy bullets for a gun she inherited from her father, install an electronic fence, warn her neighbors and unleash her pit bull to roam freely on the property of her small cabin in the mountains of upstate New York.

Trump’s attorneys have tried to show the jury through their cross-examination of various witnesses that by taking on Trump, Carroll has gained a measure of fame and financial rewards that outweigh the threats and other venom slung at her through social media.

After Carroll’s lawyers rested Thursday, Habba asked for a directed verdict in Trump’s favor, saying Carroll’s side hadn’t proven its case. Kaplan denied the request.

Even before testifying, Trump had already tested the judge’s patience. After he complained to his lawyers last week about a “witch hunt” and a “con job” within earshot of jurors, Kaplan threatened to eject him from the courtroom if it happened again. “I would love it,” Trump said. Later that day, Trump told a news conference Kaplan was a “nasty judge” and that Carroll’s allegation was “a made-up, fabricated story.”

While attending the trial last week, Trump made it clear — through muttered comments and gestures like shaking his head — that he was disgusted with the case. When a video clip from a Trump campaign rally last week was shown in court Thursday, he appeared to lip-synch himself saying the trial was rigged.

The trial had been suspended since early Monday because of a juror’s illness. When it resumed Thursday, the judge said two jurors were being “socially distanced” from the others.

Trump attended the trial fresh off big victories in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday and the Iowa caucuses last week. Meanwhile, he also faces four criminal cases. He has been juggling court and campaign appearances, using both to argue that he’s being persecuted by Democrats terrified of his possible election.

The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.


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Judge threatens to kick Trump out of NY courtroom during defamation trial

Donald Trump was threatened with expulsion from his Manhattan civil trial Wednesday after he repeatedly ignored a warning to keep quiet while writer E. Jean Carroll testified that he shattered her reputation after she accused him of sexual abuse.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told the former president that his right to be present at the trial will be revoked if he remains disruptive. After an initial warning, Carroll’s lawyer said Trump could still be heard making remarks to his lawyers, including “it is a witch hunt” and “it really is a con job.”

“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” Kaplan said in an exchange after the jury was excused for lunch, adding: “I understand you’re probably very eager for me to do that.”

“I would love it,” the Republican presidential front-runner shot back, shrugging as he sat between lawyers Alina Habba and Michael Madaio at the defense table.

“I know you would. You just can’t control yourself in these circumstances, apparently,” Kaplan responded.

“You can’t either,” Trump muttered.

Afterward, Trump ripped the judge in brief remarks to reporters at an office building he owns near the courthouse. He called the Bill Clinton appointee “a nasty judge” and a “Trump-hating guy,” echoing his own social media posts that Kaplan was “seething and hostile,” and “abusive, rude, and obviously not impartial.”

Trump has made similar comments about the judge in another case: a state of New York lawsuit accusing him of inflating his property values to get better rates on insurance and loans.

On Wednesday, Judge Kaplan denied a request from Trump’s lawyers that he step aside from the case involving Carroll, a longtime Elle magazine advice columnist.

Kaplan cracked down after Carroll lawyer Shawn Crowley complained for a second time that Trump could be heard “loudly saying things” throughout her testimony as he sat at the defense table, frequently tilting back and leaning over to speak with his lawyers.

Crowley suggested that if Carroll’s lawyers could hear Trump from where they were sitting, about 12 feet (3.7 meters) from him, jurors might’ve been able to hear him, too. Some appeared to split their focus between Trump and the witness stand.

“I’m just going to ask that Mr. Trump take special care to keep his voice down when conferring with counsel to make sure the jury does not hear it,” Kaplan said before jurors returned to the courtroom after a morning break.

Earlier, without the jury in the courtroom, Trump could be seen slamming his hand on the defense table and uttering the word “man” when the judge again refused his lawyer’s request that the trial be suspended on Thursday so he could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral in Florida.

Trump, fresh from a win Monday in the Iowa caucuses, has made his various legal fights part of his campaign. He sat in on jury selection Tuesday, then jetted to a New Hampshire rally before returning to court Wednesday and repeating the cycle with another Granite State event Wednesday night.

Carroll was the first witness in a Manhattan federal court trial to determine damages, if any, that Trump owes her for remarks he made while he was president in June 2019 as he vehemently denied ever attacking her or knowing her. A jury last year already found that Trump sexually abused her and defamed her in a round of denials in October 2022.

Carroll’s testimony was somewhat of a tightrope walk because of limitations the judge has posed on the trial in light of the previous verdict and prior rulings he’s made restricting the infusion of political talk. Habba lobbed multiple objections seeking to prevent the jury from hearing details of Carroll’s allegations.

“I’m here because Donald Trump assaulted me and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened. He lied and he shattered my reputation,” Carroll testified.

“He has continued to lie. He lied last month. He lied on Sunday. He lied yesterday. And I am here to get my reputation back and to stop him from telling lies about me,” Carroll said.

Once a respected columnist, Carroll lamented: “Now, I’m known as the liar, the fraud and the whack job.” She became emotional as she read through some of hundreds of hateful messages she’s received from strangers, apologising at one point to the jury for reading the nasty language aloud.

Carroll said Trump’s smears “ended the world” she knew, costing her millions of readers and her “Ask E. Jean” advice column, which ran in Elle for more than 25 years. The magazine has said her contract ended for unrelated reasons.

Carroll said her worries about her personal safety after a stream of death threats led her to buy bullets for a gun she inherited from her father, install an electronic fence, warn her neighbors of threats and unleash her pit bull to roam freely on the property of the small cabin in the mountains of upstate New York where she lives alone.

She also brought security along for the trial this week and last May and said she’d thought often about hiring security more often to accompany her.

“Why don’t you?” her attorney, Roberta Kaplan — no relation to the judge — asked.

“Can’t afford it,” Carroll answered.

She took the stand after a hostile encounter between Habba and the judge — culminating in Trump’s desk slam — over his refusal to adjourn the trial on Thursday so Trump could attend the funeral for former first lady Melania Trump’s mother, Amalija Knavs, who died last week.

Habba called Judge Kaplan’s ruling “insanely prejudicial” and the judge soon afterward cut her off, saying he would “hear no further argument on it.”

Habba told the judge: “I don’t like to be spoken to that way, your honor.” When she mentioned the funeral again, the judge responded: “It’s denied. Sit down.”

Carroll’s testimony came nine months after she was in the same chair convincing a jury in the hopes that Trump could be held accountable in a way that would stop him from frequent verbal attacks against her.

Because the first jury found that Trump sexually abused Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her in 2022, the new trial concerns only how much more — if anything — he’ll be ordered to pay her for other remarks he made in 2019 while he was president.

Carroll accused Trump of forcing himself on her in a luxury department store dressing room in 1996. Then, she alleges, he publicly impugned her honesty, her motives and even her sanity after she told the story publicly in a 2019 memoir.

Trump, 77, asserts that nothing ever happened between him and Carroll, 80, and that he never met her. He says a 1987 party photo of them and their then-spouses “doesn’t count” because it was a momentary greeting.

Trump did not attend the previous trial in the case last May, when a jury found he had sexually abused and defamed Carroll and awarded her $5 million in damages. The jury said, however, that Carroll hadn’t proven her claim that Trump raped her.

Carroll is now seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and millions more in punitive damages.


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French actors come to Depardieu’s defence amid new rape and sexual assault allegations

Fifty figures from the French entertainment world signed an open letter published Monday defending actor Gérard Depardieu as he faces more than a dozen rape and sexual assault allegations spanning two decades. Most of the accusations have come from those he worked with, with one actress saying his reputation in the film industry is well known and well-deserved. “Anyone who has ever worked with him knows he assaults women,” she said.

Calling Depardieu the “last sacred monster of cinema”, the letter says its signatories “can no longer remain silent in the face of a lynching” and calls on judicial authorities to grant Depardieu the “presumption of innocence that he would enjoy, like everyone else, if he were not the giant of cinema that he is”.

French singer and former first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and English actress Charlotte Rampling were among the signatories to the open letter, which was published in Le Figaro on Christmas Day, along with French Bond girl Carole Bouquet, who was in a relationship with Depardieu for almost a decade starting in 1996.     

The letter comes almost a week after French President Emmanuel Macron sparked outrage by saying he thought Depardieu, 75, was the victim of a “manhunt” amid new assault allegations that emerged this month. 

Years of allegations

Depardieu’s legal troubles began in earnest in February 2021, when he was charged with rape and sexual assault allegedly committed in 2018 against actress Charlotte Arnould at his home in Paris. According to a source close to the case, Depardieu was a friend of the actress’s family.

She filed a complaint in the summer of 2018 when she was 22, saying she had been raped twice by Depardieu at his Paris mansion a few days earlier. Depardieu, who was placed under formal investigation in December 2020, denies the accusations.  

More than a dozen more women came forward in April 2023 with allegations of sexual assault spanning two decades. The French investigative website Mediapart found that 13 additional women had come forward to accuse Depardieu of molesting them on the set of 11 films or series, or in other locations off set, between 2004 and 2022. 

The accusations ranged from “a hand in underwear, on the crotch, on the buttocks or on the breasts” to “obscene sexual remarks” and “insistent grunts”, Mediapart reported.

Even when the alleged abuse happened on set and in front of witnesses, film crews often laughed it off when the women complained, saying it was just the actor’s way, the site’s investigation found.

None of the 13 women have filed official complaints, Mediapart said, but three have given testimony to judicial authorities.

Depardieu has denied the allegations.   

The actor came under renewed fire early this month after a documentary aired on France 2 television showing him making lewd comments about a small girl on horseback and openly discussing his penis on a 2018 trip to North Korea.

Indignation and disgust over video of Gérard Depardieu spouting lewd comments


That same week, French actress Hélène Darras accused Depardieu of assaulting her while filming a movie in 2007. She told France 2 that Depardieu groped and propositioned her when she was an extra in the film “Disco”:

He “ran his hand over my thighs and my buttocks” before asking, “‘Do you want to come to my dressing room?’,” Darras recounted. Even after rejecting his advances, she said, “He kept groping me between takes.”

In mid-December, a Spanish journalist said Depardieu had raped her nearly 30 years ago in Paris, telling AFP she filed a criminal complaint with Spanish police. She said the rape happened when she interviewed the actor in 1995 for Cinemania magazine.

High-level protectors

Allegations – or perhaps admissions – of Depardieu’s role in raping women have been circulating for more than 40 years.

In a 1978 interview in Film Comment magazine, Depardieu described his difficult childhood and was quoted as saying, “I had plenty of rapes, too many to count.” 

Time magazine asked Depardieu whether he had participated in these rapes in a 1991 feature story and Depardieu said he had. “But it was absolutely normal in those circumstances,” he added.  

The Time coverage sparked outrage in the United States but did not seem to dim Depardieu’s star in his homeland, with several French political figures turning out to voice support for the actor. Then minister of culture Jack Lang called it a “low blow” targeting one of France’s “great actors”. Some said it was part of a conspiracy to undermine Depardieu’s chance at an Oscar – despite his chances at an Oscar being slim to none at the time.    

“In France, where sex is treated more casually and public figures are protected more carefully by the press, the brouhaha was seen as another example of American prudishness,” Time wrote.

Depardieu later denied making the remarks and threatened to sue the magazine, but Time refused to retract its reporting, saying the comments had been tape recorded.   

Actress Anouk Grinberg, who has known Depardieu for decades, spoke out for the first time in October, saying his proclivities were an open secret in the industry.

“Anyone who has ever worked with him knows he assaults women,” Grinberg, 60, told Elle magazine, adding that people refrained from denouncing him for fear it would hurt their careers. 

Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak said in mid-December that the actor’s behaviour “shames France”, noting that Depardieu is at risk of being stripped of his Legion of Honour, the country’s top civilian award. 

But asked about the controversy last week, French President Emmanuel Macron became the latest high-level official to come to Depardieu’s defence. Asked in a wide-ranging interview whether the actor should be stripped of his Légion d’Honneur, Macron said he thought Depardieu was the victim of a “manhunt”.   

 “You will never see me take part in a manhunt. I hate that kind of thing,” he said, adding: “The presumption of innocence is part of our values.”   

One French feminist collective said Macron’s comments were “an insult” to all women who had suffered sexual violence but “first and foremost, [to] those who accused Depardieu”. Another called the president’s remarks “not just scandalous, but also dangerous”.

Green party MP Sandrine Rousseau remarked that “Macron has picked his side – that of the aggressors.” 

Escape into acting

Depardieu became a star in France starting in the 1970s and ’80s with roles in “The Last Metro” and “Jean de Florette” followed by “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Green Card”, which made him a Hollywood celebrity after he won the Golden Globe best actor award for the role. He later appeared in other international productions, including Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” and Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi”.

Depardieu grew up in extreme poverty as the third of six children, the son of an illiterate and alcoholic metal worker father. By his own account he mixed with bad company, hanging out with prostitutes before working as a rent boy and committing various crimes. At 16 he landed in jail for stealing a car.

Acting proved his salvation, with money as the main motivating factor. He started on stage in Paris in 1965 and his breakout film came nearly a decade later when he played a ruffian in the erotic comedy “Going Places”.

Despite his successes, Depardieu’s private life ran the gamut from drunk driving offences to one particularly notorious episode involving urinating in the aisle of a plane.

Depardieu has also come under fire in the past for his support of Russia. He left France in 2013 and received Russian citizenship to protest against a tax hike on the rich being proposed at the time. Depardieu has often praised Russia, calling it a “great democracy”, and lauded President Vladimir Putin, whom he has compared to late pope John Paul II. Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, however, he denounced Putin’s “crazy, unacceptable excesses” in his prosecution of the war.

Depardieu has had four children with three different partners, the longest relationship being with Élisabeth, an actress whom he married in 1970 and divorced in 2006. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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Gender-based violence in French universities: ‘I decided something had to change’

The most prestigious universities and business schools in France such as Sciences Po and HEC train the country’s future executives and politicians. But due to the prevalence of gender-based violence that takes place on campus, for many students, they are also spaces that don’t feel safe.

On November 15, Nantes University published the results of a report and found that 4 of every 10 of its students have been victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The majority of victims identified as women or non-binary. 

A few months earlier, the French Observatory on Gender-Based Violence in Higher Education published its own report based on 10,000 student testimonials, which found that more than half of students don’t feel safe in their institutions, with 4 in 10 saying their school doesn’t do enough to combat gender-based violence. 71% of respondents identified as women.  

Run by student associations across France, the Observatory helps academic institutions track the gender-based violence and draw up preventative action plans, maps existing student initiatives and holds student conferences on the topic. 

In an October 2023 editorial published by French daily Libération, the Observatory and other student groups called for “an urgent increase in the [financial] resources dedicated to combating gender-based violence in higher education and research institutions”. A year earlier, in October 2022, Minister of Higher Education Sylvie Retailleau announced the budget to combat gender-based violence in French universities would be doubled. While student groups called this “a step in the right direction”, they said the €3.5 million allocated was “far from enough to cover” more than a few workshops and campaigns to raise awareness.    

“Establishments must set up the necessary tools to help prevent, report and support victims of gender-based violence,” the groups wrote in the editorial.  

That is where Safe Campus comes in. Though other French collectives combatting gender-based violence in higher education like CLASCHES exist, providing tools for victims and raising awareness on campuses, Safe Campus is the first organisation aimed at implementing preventative tools specifically in higher education institutions across France.  

Its founder, the 30-year-old Marine Dupriez, decided to set up the organisation after having studied at a top French business school, where she witnessed countless cases of gender-based violence and sexism.

FRANCE 24: What prompted you to take up the challenge of combatting gender-based violence in French universities?  

Marine Dupriez: What I experienced at business school was a deeply sexist, racist and homophobic culture. When I was a student, there was a school newspaper that would come out with a “whore of the month” for each edition. At the time, it’s not like the administration actively supported the newspaper, but it wasn’t strictly prohibited. Now practices like this have been banned.  

There is also a specific way in which prestigious universities in France are structured. Student associations are a key part of student life in these schools, and many students join these groups because it’s important for their education – it’s vital for networking. But at what cost? The recruitment process into these associations bring about group dynamics and integration rituals that are often violent. There are very little “positive” integration rituals.  

I eventually began volunteering for a number of associations that taught secondary school students about sex and emotional life while I was still in university. The more time passed, the more I realised how important it would be for these things to be taught in higher education institutions. 

After graduating, I joined an organisation focussed on the prevention of domestic and sexual violence. I would talk to my former classmates about the work I was doing and they would say how wonderful it was, but nobody would talk about what happened while we were at university. 

It’s as if my work and our shared experience of gender-based violence were two completely separate things. I decided that something had to change and took matters into my own hands.  

Can you briefly explain when you started Safe Campus and what it is you do?  

When I started Safe Campus in September 2019 and began contacting universities, all I got were refusals. Institutions would tell me that gender-based violence didn’t exist on their campuses, and if it did, that they had it under control. They closed the doors in my face. I almost gave up, but in January 2020, an investigation published by French online newspaper Mediapart found that gender-based violence was running rampant in these elite business schools. Universities started contacting me and we began working together the way we do today.  

We use a three-step approach. First, we work on improving or setting up reporting protocols. What that means is, if I’m a student and I’m experiencing gender-based violence, I’ll know exactly who to turn to and how. I will also know exactly how my report will be filed and the measures taken to treat it. We work on ensuring there is a clear protocol, staff at hand to deal with reports and that everybody knows this protocol exists.  

Marine Dupriez speaks to students about gender-based violence in order to raise awareness on the issue. © Marine Dupriez, Safe Campus

Then we train people according to their role in the protocol. We’ll work on how staff can support a victim, for example, in particular on what we call the “first listening session”, the first interview that allows a victim to speak out. We also provide training on investigations, because it’s up to universities to carry out disciplinary hearings to get to the bottom of a case.  

The last thing we do is raise awareness among students. And I use the term “raise awareness” intentionally. It’s not the student’s responsibility to get training on gender-based violence, it’s the administrations. We talk to students about how to prevent gender-based violence, consent, the legal framework and stereotypes, for example.  

It’s very important that this is the last step because very often when we intervene in an institution, people end up identifying situations they experienced as violent and turn to the administration to report what happened. If those taking in a victim’s report are not properly trained, it’s can be even more disappointing or hurtful.     

Does your work change depending on which university you intervene in?  

Gender-based violence is not the same across all universities in France. In prestigious establishments (“grandes écoles” in French) like business schools or engineering schools, there are more cases of violence between students, particularly during ritual parties or integration events. In bigger universities where campus life and student associations aren’t as present, there tends to be much more violence between professors and students. Often between a thesis director and their student, for example.  

There are also differences between private and public universities. In public institutions, there is no choosing sanctions or penalties, they are already detailed in French law. For example, the law stipulates that any civil servant who has knowledge of a crime or misdemeanour must report it. Private establishments on the other hand are more or less free to choose how to sanction gender-based violence.  

What is your biggest challenge?  

My challenges have changed with time. But there is one that persists, and that is the financial challenge. Unfortunately, these days, higher education institutions still don’t have enough time nor enough money to allocate to the prevention of gender-bases violence. So we’re obliged to do short interventions with large audiences, which inevitably will have less of an impact than long interventions with small groups.  

There are laws in France stating that each university should have an advisor or specialist to help victims of gender-based violence. But there is no obligation for these universities to open new jobs, or even to increase the salaries of staff who become advisors. It’s so important to relate the legal framework to the reality on the ground.  

What about when you speak to students? What are the biggest sticking points?   

It changes a lot depending on what year the students are in and what kind of university they’re attending. First year students are at an age where they are questioning their identity, their sexuality. They’re adults but they’re still discovering themselves. So things can get a bit tricky when we try to raise awareness, there can be frictions, because they’re still figuring things out and getting to know one another.  

But debates and frictions take place regardless of what year students are in. We sometimes get students who aren’t happy at all with what we’re saying, who find our presence extremely disturbing. That happens. We’re talking about difficult topics like sexual violence, but we’re also talking about consent and linking it to their everyday lives. For example, is it OK to get your mate to drink when they don’t want to? How does inebriation affect consent? 

The use of alcohol is actually a very big sticking point. And the notion of consent can really call into question habits that some students don’t want to lose.  

What makes you hopeful?  

When I work with universities today, especially prestigious grandes écoles, the majority of female-led student associations are being taken seriously. They speak out. They aren’t afraid of escalating issues to the administration. They’re being listened to. That would have been unimaginable four years ago.  

There is one university in particular where a female-led student association pushed so hard to prevent gender-based violence that now any student group leader has to go through mandatory training before being recruited.  

As someone who could only do this kind of work after graduating, I find it extremely moving. 

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What we know about the French senator accused of drugging an MP in attempted sex assault

French Senator Joël Guerriau is facing preliminary charges of drugging a fellow lawmaker with the intent to commit “rape or sexual assault”, prosecutors confirmed Friday, in a case that has shocked France. Guerriau was suspended from both his Horizons party and his Senate group on Saturday. 

The 66-year-old senator from western France was arrested at his Paris home on Thursday over the alleged attempted assault of Sandrine Josso, 48, a member of the lower-house National Assembly. He is accused of drugging the MP by spiking her drink after he invited her to his home. 

Guerriau was placed under judicial supervision on Friday pending the outcome of the investigation, restricting his freedom of movement. Prosecutors said the two politicians were long-standing acquaintances but were not in a relationship. 

Guerriau’s centre-right party Horizons, which is allied to President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, said on Saturday it had suspended the senator “with immediate effect” and initiated disciplinary proceedings “that could lead to his permanent exclusion”.  

His Senate group Les Indépendants, which includes senators from Horizons and other centre-right parties, announced it was taking the same steps in a statement shortly after.

  • What has Guerriau been charged with?

Guerriau is facing preliminary charges of “administering to a person, without their knowledge, a substance likely to impair their discernment or control over their actions in order to commit rape or sexual assault”, according to the Paris public prosecutor’s office.  

His lawyer Rémi-Pierre Drai said he denies the charge. Guerriau was also charged with possessing drugs, Drai added.

Joël Guerriau, 66, has been a French senator since 2011. © Paul Brounais, Wikimedia Creative Commons

The senator was arrested after Josso filed a legal complaint. He was detained under rules of “flagrancy”, which grant investigators special powers – such as overriding parliamentary immunity – when the suspect is caught in the act or shortly thereafter. Searches were carried out at Guerriau’s office and also at his home, where investigators found ecstasy, a potent drug that causes both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. 

Guerriau and the alleged victim were jointly questioned, in their lawyers’ presence, for nearly two hours on Friday, a common practice in France known as a “confrontation”. After his release from police custody, the senator was placed under judicial supervision and banned from contacting Josso or any witnesses. 

Under French law, preliminary charges mean that the investigating magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing but need more time to determine whether to send a case to trial. Charges levelled at Guerriau carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a €75,000 fine.

  • What do we know about the incident? 

Josso told investigators she felt ill after having a drink on Tuesday night at the senator’s Paris apartment, prosecutors said. According to French broadcaster BFMTV, which cited sources close to the investigation, the MP told police that the two had initially agreed to meet at a restaurant but that Guerriau suggested they dine at his home instead.

Her lawyer, Julia Minkowski, told AFP that her client felt unwell after drinking a glass of champagne and had seen the senator “grabbing a small plastic bag containing something white in a drawer in his kitchen”. Josso then realised that he was trying to drug her without her knowledge, the counsel added. 

“She had to deploy monumental physical and intellectual forces to overcome her terror and extricate herself at the last minute from this ambush,” Minkowski said, adding that her client was “in a state of shock”. 

Josso was admitted to hospital for tests, which revealed the presence of ecstasy in her system. The lawmaker subsequently lodged a complaint. 

Guerriau’s lawyer denied his client intended to assault the lawmaker, claiming it was a “handling error” that caused her to fall ill. The senator “will fight to prove he never intended to administer a substance to his colleague and longstanding friend to abuse her”, Drai said in a statement to the press. 

A former banker, Guerriau has been a member of the Senate, the French parliament’s upper house, since 2011, representing the western Loire-Atlantique region. He currently serves as deputy head of its foreign affairs and defence committee.  

Guerriau joined Horizons, the party created by former prime minister Edouard Philippe, in 2022, having previously been involved with a variety of centre-right parties. He was also deputy head of Les Indépendants, the group he sits with in the French Senate.

Guerriau’s lawyer said his client was “not a predator”, describing him as “an honest man, respected and respectable, who will restore his and his family’s honour”.  

The senator was previously unknown to the general public, though he made waves on social media in December 2016 when a post on the Islamic State (IS) group appeared on his Twitter account with a close-up picture of a penis. Guerriau claimed his account had been hacked and vowed to press charges, but later dropped the matter.  

Josso is a member of the lower-house National Assembly, also from Loire-Atlantique. She was first elected in 2017 under the banner of Macron’s fledgling party La République en Marche (LREM) and is now a member of its centrist ally MoDem. 

Her lawyer said Guerriau “had been a friend for around 10 years in whom she had complete confidence”, stressing her client’s “feeling of betrayal and total incomprehension”.   

  • What has been the response among the political class? 

Several politicians have expressed their shock on social media and called for a swift investigation.  

The allegations, “if proven, are horrific”, Environment Minister Christophe Béchu, a member of Horizons, told France Inter radio on Friday, adding that Guerriau “can obviously no longer remain in the party (…) if there is any element of doubt”.  

Horizons’ political bureau voted unanimously on Saturday to suspend Guerriau “with immediate effect”. Bureau members said they were “deeply shocked by the facts at the root of the accusations” and had initiated a “disciplinary procedure that could lead to (the senator’s) permanent exclusion”. 

The party said it would “never tolerate the slightest complacency toward sexual and sexist violence” and promised to call the plaintiff to express its support and solidarity. 

Guerriau’s Senate group released a statement shortly after, saying it had also suspended the senator and initiated disciplinary proceedings. 

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How the nursing shortage may lead to gaps in sexual assault care | CNN

Missoula, Montana
KFF Health News

Jacqueline Towarnicki got a text as she finished her day shift at a local clinic. She had a new case, a patient covered in bruises who couldn’t remember how the injuries got there.

Towarnicki’s breath caught, a familiar feeling after four years of working night shifts as a sexual assault nurse examiner in this northwestern Montana city.

“You almost want to curse,” Towarnicki, 38, said. “You’re like, ‘Oh, no, it’s happening.’”

These nights on duty are Towarnicki’s second job. She’s on call once a week and a weekend a month. A survivor may need protection against sexually transmitted infections, medicine to avoid getting pregnant, or evidence collected to prosecute their attacker. Or all the above.

When her phone rings, it’s typically in the middle of the night. Towarnicki tiptoes down the stairs of her home to avoid waking her young son, as her half-asleep husband whispers encouragement into the dark.

Her breath is steady by the time she changes into the clothes she laid out close to her back door before going to bed. She grabs her nurse’s badge and drives to First Step Resource Center, a clinic that offers round-the-clock care for people who have been assaulted.

She wants her patients to know they’re out of danger.

“You meet people in some of their most horrifying, darkest, terrifying times,” Towarnicki said. “Being with them and then seeing who they are when they leave, you don’t get that doing any other job in health care.”

A former travel nurse who lived out of a van for years, Towarnicki is OK with the uncertainty that comes with being a sexual assault nurse examiner.

Most examiners work on-call shifts in addition to full-time jobs. They often work alone and at odd hours. They can collect evidence that could be used in court, are trained to recognize and respond to trauma, and provide care to protect their patients’ bodies from lasting effects of sexual assault.

But their numbers are few.

As many as 80% of U.S. hospitals don’t have sexual assault nurse examiners, often because they either can’t find them or can’t afford them. Nurses struggle to find time for shifts, especially when staffing shortages mean covering long hours. Sexual assault survivors may have to leave their town or even their state to see an examiner.

Gaps in sexual assault care can span hundreds of miles in rural areas. A program in Glendive, Montana — a town of nearly 5,000 residents 35 miles from the North Dakota border — stopped taking patients for examinations this spring. It didn’t have enough nurses to respond to cases.

“These are the same nurses working in the ER, where a heart attack patient could come in,” said Teresea Olson, 56, who is the town’s part-time mayor and also picked up on-call shifts. “The staff was exhausted.”

The next closest option is 75 miles away in Miles City, adding at least an hour to the travel time for patients, some of whom already had to travel hours to reach Glendive.

Nationwide, policymakers have been slow to offer training, funding, and support for the work. Some states and health facilities are trying to expand access to sexual assault response programs.

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill to hire a statewide sexual assault coordinator tasked with expanding training and recruiting workers. A Montana law that takes effect July 1 will create a sexual assault response network within the Montana Department of Justice. The new program aims to set standards for that care, provide in-state training, and connect examiners statewide. It will also look at telehealth to fill in gaps, following the example of hospitals in South Dakota and Colorado.

There’s no national tally of where nurses have been trained to respond to sexual assaults, meaning a survivor may not know they have to travel for treatment until they’re sitting in an emergency room or police department.

Sarah Wangerin, a nursing instructor with Montana State University and former examiner, said patients reeling from an attack may instead just go home. For some, leaving town isn’t an option.

This spring, Wangerin called county hospitals and sheriff’s offices to map where sexual assault nurse examiners operate in Montana. She found only 55. More than half of the 45 counties that responded didn’t have any examiners. Just seven counties reported they had nurses trained to respond to cases that involve children.

“We’re failing people,” Wangerin said. “We’re re-traumatizing them by not knowing what to do.”

First Step, in Missoula, is one of the few full-time sexual assault response programs in the state. It’s operated by Providence St. Patrick Hospital but is separate from the main building.

The clinic’s walls are adorned with drawings by kids and mountain landscapes. The staff doesn’t turn on the harsh overhead fluorescent lights, choosing instead to light the space with softer lamps. The lobby includes couches and a rocking chair. There are always heated blankets and snacks on hand.

Kate Harrison turns on her pager at the start of her night shift as a sexual assualt nurse examiner.

First Step stands out for having nurses who stay. Kate Harrison waited roughly a year to join the clinic and is still there three years later, in part because of the staff support.

The specially trained team works together so no one carries too heavy a load. While being on night shift means opening the clinic alone, staffers can debrief tough cases together. They attend group therapy for secondhand trauma.

Harrison is a cardiac hospital nurse during the day, a job that sometimes feels a little too stuck to a clock.

At First Step, she can shift into whatever role her patient needs for as long as they need. Once, that meant sitting for hours on a floor in the lobby of the clinic as a patient cried and talked. Another time, Harrison doubled as a DJ for a nervous patient during an exam, picking music off her cellphone.

“It’s in the middle of the night, she just had this sexual assault happen, and we were just laughing and singing to Shaggy,” Harrison said. “You have this freedom and grace to do that.”

When the solo work is overwhelming or she’s had back-to-back cases and needs a break, she knows a co-worker would be willing to help.

“This work can take you to the undercurrents and the underbelly of society sometimes,” Harrison said. “It takes a team.”

That includes co-workers like Towarnicki, who dropped her work hours at her day job after having her son to keep working as a sexual assault nurse examiner. That meant adding three years to her student loan repayment schedule. Now, pregnant with her second child, the work still feels worth it, she said.

On a recent night, Towarnicki was alone in the clinic, clicking through photos she took of her last patient. The patient opted against filing a police report but asked Towarnicki to log all the evidence just in case.

Towarnicki quietly counted out loud the number of bruises, their sizes and locations, as she took notes. She tells patients who have gaps in their memories that she can’t speculate how each mark got there or give them all the answers they deserve.

But as she sat in the blue light of her computer screen long after her patient left, it was hard to keep from ruminating.

“Totally looks like a hand mark,” Towarnicki said, suddenly loud, as she shook her head.

All the evidence and her patient’s story were sealed and locked away, just feet from a wall of thank-you cards from patients and sticky notes of encouragement among nurses.

On the harder evenings, Towarnicki takes a moment to unwind with a pudding cup from the clinic’s snacks. Most often, she can let go of her patient’s story as she closes the clinic. Part of her healing is “seeing the light returned to people’s eyes, seeing them be able to breathe deeper,” which she said happens 19 out of 20 times.

“There is that one out of 20 where I go home and I am spinning,” Towarnicki said. In those cases, it takes hearing her son’s voice, and time to process, to pull her back. “I feel like if it’s not hard sometimes, maybe you shouldn’t be doing this work.”

It was a little after 11 p.m. as Towarnicki headed home, an early night. She knew her phone could go off again.

Eight more hours on call.

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Jury finds Trump sexually abused, defamed writer E. Jean Carroll, awards her $5 million

Donald Trump sexually abused magazine writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her by branding her a liar, jurors decided on Tuesday, dealing the former U.S. president a legal setback as he campaigns to retake office in 2024.

The nine-member jury in Manhattan federal court awarded $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Although the finding of sexual abuse was enough to establish his liability for battery, the jury did not find that Trump raped her.

The jury deliberated for just under three hours before rejecting Trump’s denial that he assaulted Carroll. To find him liable, the jury of six men and three women was required to reach a unanimous verdict.

Carroll held hands with her lawyers as the verdict was read. Trump was absent throughout the trial which began on April 25.

Carroll, 79, testified during the civil trial that Trump, 76, raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan in either 1995 or 1996, then harmed her reputation by writing in an October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform that her claims were a “complete con job,” “a hoax” and “a lie.”

President from 2017 to 2021, Trump is the front-runner in opinion polls for the Republican presidential nomination and has shown an uncanny ability to weather controversies that might sink other politicians.

It seems unlikely in America’s polarized political climate that the civil verdict will have an impact on Trump’s core supporters, who view his legal woes as part of a concerted effort by opponents to undermine him.

“The folks that are anti-Trump are going to remain that way, the core pro-Trump voters are not going to change, and the ambivalent ones I just don’t think are going to be moved by this type of thing,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania.

Any negative impact is likely to be small and limited to suburban women and moderate Republicans, he said.

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Trump raped, sexually abused or forcibly touched Carroll, any one of which would satisfy her claim of battery. They were separately asked if Trump defamed Carroll.

Because this was a civil case, Trump faces no criminal consequences. Carroll was seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Trump’s legal team opted not to present a defense, gambling that jurors would find that Carroll had failed to make a persuasive case.

Trump had said Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist and a registered Democrat, made up the allegations to try to increase sales of her 2019 memoir and to hurt him politically.

Because the case was in civil court, Carroll was required to establish her rape claim by “a preponderance of the evidence” – meaning more likely than not – rather than the higher standard used in criminal cases of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Carroll had to show “clear and convincing evidence” to prove her defamation claim.

The trial featured testimony from two women who said Trump sexually assaulted them decades ago.

Former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff told jurors that Trump cornered her at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2005 and forcibly kissed her for a “few minutes” until a butler interrupted the alleged assault. Another woman, Jessica Leeds, testified that Trump kissed her, groped her and put his hand up her skirt on a flight in 1979.

Jurors also heard excerpts from a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump says women let him “grab ’em by the pussy.”

“Historically, that’s true, with stars … if you look over the last million years,” Trump said in an October 2022 video deposition played in court. He has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, told jurors during closing arguments on Monday that the 2005 video was proof that Trump had assaulted Carroll and other women.

The federal trial, presided over by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is not related to Carroll’s lawyer, began on April 25. Citing the uniqueness of a civil case against a former president, the judge decided that the names, addresses and places of employment of the jurors would be kept secret.

Carroll testified that she bumped into Trump at Bergdorf’s while he was shopping for a gift for another woman. Carroll said she agreed to help Trump pick out a gift and the two looked at lingerie before he coaxed her into a dressing room, slammed her head into a wall and raped her. Carroll testified she could not remember the precise date or year the alleged rape occurred.

Carroll faced questions from Trump’s legal team attacking the plausibility of her account including why she had never reported the matter to police or screamed during the alleged incident.

Two of Carroll’s friends said that she told them about the alleged rape at the time but swore them to secrecy because she feared that Trump would use his fame and wealth to retaliate against her if she came forward.

Carroll told jurors she decided to break her silence in 2017 after rape allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein prompted scores of women to come forward with accounts of sexual violence by powerful men. She went public with her account while Trump was still president.

She said Trump’s public denials wrecked her career and instigated a campaign of vicious online harassment by his supporters including various threatening messages and social media posts.

While Trump did not testify at the trial, a video clip from the October 2022 deposition showed him mistaking Carroll for one of his former wives in a black-and-white photo among several people at an event.

“It’s Marla,” Trump said in the deposition, referring to his second wife Marla Maples. Previously Trump had said he could not have raped Carroll because she was not “his type.”

Trump has cited the Carroll trial in campaign fundraising emails as evidence of what he portrays as a Democratic plot to damage him politically.

His poll numbers improved after he was charged in New York in March with falsifying business records over a hush money payment to a porn star before his victory in the 2016 presidential election.

That indictment, filed in New York state court, made him the first U.S. president past or present to be criminally charged. Trump has pleaded not guilty and said the charges are politically motivated.


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