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How an elite household’s decades-old secret sparked a reckoning about sexual abuse in France

A 30-year-old household secret has shaken the elite of France.

And it has nothing to do with the same old cash scandals that rock the French institution.

That is about alleged sexual abuse of a minor and the highly effective folks accused of staying silent.

The allegation, which was detailed in a bestselling e book and is now below investigation by Paris prosecutors, includes an influential political scientist sexually abusing his teenage stepson.

An individual holds the e book La Familia Grande by Camille Kouchner in a Paris bookstore. The writer is the stepdaughter of outstanding French political professional Olivier Duhamel, whom she accuses of sexually abusing her twin brother throughout the late Nineteen Eighties, when the siblings had been youngsters. (Francois Mori/The Related Press)

Investigators have but to complete their work, however the case has already touched off an enormous nationwide debate on the extent of incest and sexual crimes in households, and the tradition of silence that has helped to cover the issue.

The controversy is so intense, French President Emmanuel Macron felt obliged to leap in on Jan. 23. He issued a video, telling victims, “We’re there, we hear you, we consider you. You’ll by no means be alone.”  

He promised more durable legal guidelines on sexual crimes. The French parliament is already debating them.

E book reveals darkish secret

This started, and stayed for years, a household story. However not simply any household. Olivier Duhamel, 70, was a high-flyer within the tight French elite, not a politician in public view however an adviser, a political scientist and constitutional professional. And good friend to French presidents.

When the scandal erupted, he was the president of the highly effective Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, which runs one in every of France’s most influential universities, the Paris Institute of Political Research.

He was additionally the president of Le Siècle, a membership of France’s political and mental elite. For good measure, he appeared weekly on radio and tv.

That fastidiously constructed world collapsed in early January with the publication of a e book. It is referred to as La Familia Grande and is written by his stepdaughter, Camille Kouchner, 45. In it, she particulars the alleged sexual abuse of her twin brother, whom she calls Victor within the e book to guard his privateness, by her stepfather, Olivier Duhamel, when Victor was 13 and 14.

Duhamel instantly resigned all his posts and went to floor. He admitted nothing, merely saying he had been the goal of non-public assaults.

Olivier Duhamel, second from proper, was once an influential political scientist in France, seen right here in 2007 with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

Others additionally resigned, together with a former justice minister, Elisabeth Guigou. She was an in depth good friend of Duhamel and his household however, for the file, denied understanding of the allegations. Nearly unbelievably, the put up she resigned from was as chair of a authorities fee on incest.

Based on Camille Kouchner, Duhamel’s household, after which others near the household, had recognized for a dozen years of the alleged sexual abuse, however Victor had not wished the information to change into public.

Her e book unleashed a storm. The social media hashtag #MeTooInceste attracted 1000’s of testimonies from folks saying they’d been victims of incest. This mirrored the surprising results of an opinion ballot from Ipsos in November 2020 that surveyed a random pattern of 1,033 French adults. In it, one in 10 folks surveyed mentioned they’d been victims of incest. (In France, incest is outlined extra broadly, and contains sexual abuse by a member of the family even when not associated by blood.)

Change to the regulation

Camille Kouchner’s e book has already had a print run of greater than 300,000 copies. Two weeks after its publication, Victor was interviewed by French police. An investigation 10 years earlier had been dropped as a result of the statute of limitations on incest and sexual aggression towards minors was restricted to twenty years. 

Two years in the past, the statute of limitations was lengthened to 30 years from the age of majority of the minor. 

And, in response to the groundswell of shock, Macron mentioned, “We’ll go after the aggressors.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, carrying a protecting face masks, has supplied his assist to victims of sexual abuse inside households. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

On Jan. 26, Victor formally indicated that he thought-about his stepfather an aggressor. He made a felony grievance towards Olivier Duhamel.

Victor’s brother, Julien Kouchner, was quoted within the newspaper Le Parisien two days earlier saying, “In our circle, many individuals knew of the behaviour of my stepfather.” That circle was one of many highest in France. The daddy of Julien, Victor and Camille is Bernard Kouchner, a former French overseas minister and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (Docs With out Borders). His second spouse is Christine Ockrent, a well-known tv anchor and journalist. 

Based on Camille and Julien, Kouchner and Ockrent had been horrified when Victor advised them of Duhamel’s behaviour in 2008, however Victor did not need it made public as a result of his mom, Evelyne Pisier, was nonetheless with Duhamel and refused to simply accept he had raped her son. However Kouchner and Ockrent allegedly advised mates.

Bernard Kouchner, former overseas minister of France, is seen throughout the 2018 Iran Rebellion Summit in Manhattan, New York. (Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

Julien advised Le Parisien: “Our world then divided into two, those that distanced themselves and even broke with [Duhamel], and others who stayed with him due to disbelief or opportunism…. However I’ve since found a 3rd class, that of the accomplices who mentioned issues had been solely rumours which they knew to be actual information.”

For 12 years, Olivier Duhamel carried on untouched. He misplaced none of his positions or clout.

Solely after Evelyne Pisier died in 2017 did Camille, with Victor’s permission and assist, resolve to write down about what occurred.

Social reckoning 

The detonation has been big, however there was one other bomb a 12 months earlier. It, too, took the type of a e book, this one referred to as Le Consentement (Consent). The writer, Vanessa Springora, advised of being sexually pursued and possessed at age 14 within the Nineteen Eighties by a person greater than 30 years older. 

The person was Gabriel Matzneff, 84, a profitable writer whose works detailed the pursuit and conquest of teenage ladies and boys. He was rewarded with enhancing jobs at an enormous publishing home and main French literary prizes.

The e book Le Consentement by Vanessa Springora is displayed in a bookstore exterior Paris. The literary editor alleges that she had a damaging underage sexual relationship with French writer Gabriel Matzneff, now in his eighties. (Christophe Ena/The Related Press)

Springora’s e book, which bought greater than 200,000 copies, led to an abrupt change. Matzneff was stripped of his positions and charged with justifying aggravated rape.

He expressed “remorse” for his sexual actions, however, in an interview with the New York Instances in February 2020, appeared unrepentant. “Even the foolish issues I might need finished in these euphoric days of freedom, I wasn’t the one one. What hypocrisy.”

“These days of freedom” refers back to the years after what in France are referred to as “the occasions of 1968.” France was delivered to a halt in Might 1968 by huge strikes. The decision was for revolution, and for sexual freedom particularly. 

For a lot of elites in France, the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s turned an period of open marriages and open intercourse. The mom of Victor, Evelyne Pisier, after she divorced Bernard Kouchner, embraced this ethos with a number of lovers, together with, for 4 years within the early ’80s, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s president.

Then she met and married Olivier Duhamel. Even when Victor advised her of her husband’s behaviour, she refused to consider it, her youngsters say.

There may be now a tragic reckoning in France.

“How do you resist the decision of the flesh, liberated from all restraints? How do you say no when imposed sexuality is labelled as emancipation?” Malka Marcovich says in her e book L’Autre Héritage de 1968: La Face Cachée de la Révolution Sexuelle (The Different Heritage of 1968: The Hidden Face of the Sexual Revolution), printed in 2018. “So folks, female and male, who had been dragged right into a untimely sexuality, now seen as violent, most well-liked to maintain quiet.”

Emmanuel Pierrat, lawyer of French author Gabriel Matzneff, leaves Paris’s courthouse on Feb. 12, 2020. The authorized woes of the once-celebrated author, Matzneff, are mounting. (Michel Euler/The Related Press)

Matzneff pushed the “name of the flesh” even additional, drawing up an open letter in 1977 calling for intercourse with minors below 15 to be decriminalized. Sixty-nine French intellectuals together with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre signed. So did two future cupboard ministers. One in all them was Bernard Kouchner, Victor’s father. 

After Springora’s e book was printed, Kouchner recanted in an interview with the French journal Le Level in January 2020. “That was idiocy. I did not even learn it. A good friend mentioned I ought to signal it.”

And in an interview with Le Nouvel Obs, a French journal, on Jan. 17, writer Camille Kouchner supplied a harsh verdict on that point, a verdict that, alongside along with her stepfather, finds her mom responsible.

“Liberty, girls, the couple, joyous infidelity, clever modernity — I used to be introduced up with these concepts. My mom roughly deserted us. This e book let me launch my pent-up anger towards her, and to like her. I do not attempt to excuse her.”

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