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June 18, 2021

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French victims of child abuse speaking out

MeToo-inspired effort could lead to new, tougher laws

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Signs on the wall reads "Duhamel, and the others, you will never be in peace" referring to prominent French political expert, Olivier Duhamel, in Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The French government pledged on Thursday to toughen laws on the rape of children, as a massive online movement has seen hundreds of victims share accounts about sexual abuses within their families under the hashtag #MeTooInceste.
Signs on the wall reads "Duhamel, and the others, you will never be in peace" referring to prominent French political expert, Olivier Duhamel, in Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The French government pledged on Thursday to toughen laws on the rape of children, as a massive online movement has seen hundreds of victims share accounts about sexual abuses within their families under the hashtag #MeTooInceste. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) Photo Gallery

PARIS — The French government pledged on Thursday to toughen laws on the rape of children after a massive online movement saw hundreds of victims share accounts about sexual abuse within their families.

The move comes in the wake of child abuse accusations involving a prominent French political expert.

France’s justice minister said Thursday the government will soon present new legal measures to better protect children, while a draft bill has started being debated at parliament to toughen laws on the rape of minors under 13.

The social media campaign was launched Saturday by activists of the French feminist group #NousToutes in reference to the #MeToo movement that sparked a global debate about sexual harassment and assault.

The #MeTooInceste hashtag overwhelmed French social media in just a few days. In French, the word “inceste” is widely used to refer to any sexual act between members of the same family, including abuse of children, stepchildren or younger siblings.

Hundreds of people shared appalling accounts about how they were sexually abused when they were children:

“I was between 11 and 14. It was my brother. I’m now 57 and still a victim of that past.”

“I was 8. Abused by my grandfather.”

Tens of thousands of people responded by sharing and commenting under the same hashtag.

Laurent Boyet, 49, was among those who tweeted. A police officer and head of the association Les Papillons (“Butterflies”) fighting against child abuse, he published a book in 2017 to tell his story. He said he was raped by his brother, who was 10 years older than him, when he was between 6 and 9.

“I really hope society is going to have the courage to face the problem,” he told The Associated Press. “We need to stop looking away.”

The debate about France’s response to child abuse within families broke out earlier this month amid accusations involving top political expert Olivier Duhamel. A book written by Duhamel’s stepdaughter, Camille Kouchner, accused him of abusing her twin brother during the late 1980s, when the siblings were 13 years old.

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