French Friday: Speak up

If there is one single thing I know about me is that I am a half-full glass kind of person.

Call me naïve but….

I refuse to believe that the news is only dark.

I refuse to believe that there are more bad people than good.

As devastating as 2017 has been on so many different levels so far across our planet, I refuse to fall into despair. Which has meant choosing to stay away from blogging about politics or topics leading to heated controversy, and thus contributing to the divide that’s killing the world.

However, earlier this week, I came to realize that being guarded edges too closely cowardice or at least a desire to remain in my comfort zone. Since my blog represents my French-American dual identities I couldn’t remind silent on two topics that are currently making the news in both France and the USA.

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You would have to live without TV, a phone, and newspapers and to be very isolated to ignore the recent sexual assault and rape accusations against the movie producer Harvey Weinstein. No need to go into details. No need to name the women, mostly Hollywood actresses, who accuse the godly man. Some had accepted financial settlements in exchange for their silence. Others kept quiet for reasons most women can understand, particularly in an industry where fame can be built in one movie and destroyed with another, when success is almost always related to looks and age and almost always between the hands of powerful older men, but also simply because when sexual assault and rape happen girls, young women, and boys, too are convinced that they did something wrong. However, since the first accusations surfaced, more women are speaking up. Years later. Often as much as twenty years later.

Statements and declarations are also made. Some people, women and a few men, pretend not knowing what was happening. Others admit that they kind of knew but never suspected the extent of the despicable business Weinstein was running. Many, many more are still opting for silence.

The French Cannes Festival has issued its own statement denouncing the producer’s inacceptable behavior. Looks like, however, they still glorify Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, both accused of rape and sexual assault on minor girls who spoke up. Immediately.

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Only a few weeks before the Hollywood scandal, a 28-year-old man sexually assaulted and then raped an 11-year-old girl in the Parisian suburbs. The sixth-grader who was on her way from school when she was coerced was in such shock that she froze and didn’t fight back. However, she told her mother. Immediately. Not twenty-years later, obviously. Yet the trial, postponed until February, will be hold in a French court that handles infractions and not crimes. The girl’s rapist is likely to be incarcerated for five years maximum.

The young woman looks older and more sexually precocious than an 11-year-old girl, has said the lawyer who defends the accused. On the other side, he added, my client looks younger than a 28-year-old man.

Please.

I suppose that by now most of you who assume that France is an advanced country on so many levels are getting uncomfortable. Read furthermore:

In 2017 the victims of sexual assaults or rapes must prove that their aggressor or rapist used force, violence, threat or total surprise. Otherwise, mutual consent from both parties is implied. The victims and aggressors’ age doesn’t count, unless the victim is younger than five. Only these children are automatically considered too young to consent.

This is the current law in France. Which lags behind most other European countries on sexual assault and rape.

Fortunately many French people are outraged and want the law to change. I suspect that most had just discovered this law. If you want to read more about the topic of sexual age consent in contemporary France, I recommended this article in the Opinion section of the New York Times. I back up the French journalist on all points.

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In the end, it’s always a matter of power. Whether using physical force or not, age almost always matters when one human being dominates another.

It outrages me that no one, whether in France or in the U.S. is mentioning that in the first place an adult should never approach a much younger person, regardless of the gender, to obtain sexual favors. In fact, an adult should never even think of approaching a much younger person for sexual reasons.

I want to believe that real adults don’t.

That’s the note of hope I want to hold on as these two separate events have distressed me more than I first realized.

Real adults don’t see younger human beings as objects placed in their way for their sexual pleasure.

Real adults remember being young and eager girls and boys, full of hope and big dreams. Real adults see the future of our world in the girls and boys they meet. Not sex.

Shame on anyone who disagrees.

I spoke up once. I was 21. I knew the French law perfectly well, and although I could prove myself I also knew that the police but also some of the very, very few people who knew would question my clothes, my hair, my looks, me. I knew I would not win anything and I didn’t.

Yet I spoke up.

Because I would have lost myself if I had remained silent.

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For a whole week, until this morning, I’ve debated whether or not I would hit the Publish button. Because in fact, despite everything I want to believe, I still deal with that eternal thought: What did I do wrong?

I owe the courage to speak up again, decades later, to my brave, loving daughter who told me that this was way too important to shut up about.

Sometimes, I dream that all of us would stand up together and that our number would be so overwhelmingly big that we would shame everyone who didn’t believe us, turned their head the other way, urged us to remain quiet for their own peace of mind.

Girls and young women but also boys and young men don’t win ANYTHING when they speak up about being sexually assaulted and raped, but we ALL lose when they don’t.

Speak up.

Tulips that my husband chose for me. A real adult. A great man.

P.S. Although I didn’t remove the Comments option, I’d rather not receive comments on this post. Your Like (don’t we wish for other icons sometimes?) will mean that you read and much, much more importantly that you believe the ones who speak up.

Comments

  1. Evelyne, since you don’t want comments, I won’t make one. Except to say this is a brilliant post! Shine on, my friend.

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