Friends of French writer Édouard Louis say he is “very ill” after the man he accused of raping him eight years ago, the subject of his best-selling book A History of Violence, was found not guilty of the crime last week.
In 2012, Louis was a 21-year-old student named Eddy Bellegueule who had just arrived in Paris when he told police that a man he had met the night before had raped him and tried to strangle him at knife point before stealing his iPad and phone on Christmas day. .
A medical examination conducted at the time found lesions that the doctor concluded suggested unprotected and non-consensual sex. He also noticed bruises on Louis’ neck.
Bellegueule changed her name to Louis and wrote about the alleged attack in her best-selling book. History of violence (History of Violence) in 2016. This followed his 2014 autobiographical novel Ending with Eddy Bellegueule (The End of Eddy), the story of his brutal childhood that launched him onto the French literary scene.
The defendant was arrested in 2016, after the story broke, as part of a separate police operation. His DNA matched that found in Louis in 2012.
After a lengthy investigation, the prosecutor demanded that the accused be sentenced to four years, two suspended, for sexual assault and aggravated robbery. The defendant denied the crimes, insisting that there was no violence and that the sex was consensual. Last week, a judge acquitted him of sexual assault but sentenced him to three months in prison on two counts of aggravated robbery.
The prosecutor has appealed the sentence, as has Louis’s attorney.
Didier Eribon, Louis’s former professor at Picardie University and also a best-selling writer, testified at the trial.
“I saw Édouard after the attack. He was shaking and crying and in such a state of shock that I wanted to take him to the hospital, ”Eribon told The Guardian. “At the trial, the judge said that Édouard had changed his story, which he did not do, and that he had refused to confront the accused. That was true, but the idea of being in the same room as this man was unthinkable for Édouard. It traumatized him again. I was really terrified by the idea. I suggested that he should, but he couldn’t. He said he would kill him.
“Live with this attack every day. It has deeply traumatized him. He still has nightmares about it. He was devastated by this and now with this verdict he is very, very wrong ”.
Eribon added: “It is not surprising that women who have been raped are reluctant to report it. Clearly, the words of a rape victim are not enough to be taken seriously, even when backed by evidence.
“The prosecutor believed that the charges of rape and attempted strangulation, as well as robbery, had been established, but only the robbery was confirmed. We are amazed, disgusted and outraged. It’s incomprehensible.
“The judge asked me if Édouard was in the habit of meeting boys and taking them home. He is a young man with an open sex life. Would you ask a woman that? This is an example of the rape culture that exists in France and shows that victims are never believed, even if they have all the evidence, which Édouard did. It was indisputable. “
Another friend, the philosopher and sociologist Geoffroy de Lagasnerie wrote online: “(The sentence) does not say that what Édouard says is false, it simply says that the objective elements or the testimonies are never conclusive enough. Édouard always distanced himself from this trial from which he expected nothing … I cannot help seeing this decision as the revenge of an institution against someone who did not want to play the game. Édouard did not attend the trial … the truth is still the truth. “
Louis’s attorney, Emmanuel Pierrat, said the verdict was absurd and that the appeal meant the case would be “re-tried from scratch.”
“There is a lot of work to be done in France regarding the trial of rape cases, as we have seen in this case. Louis was interviewed by three different police services, by doctors, and yet he was criticized because he refused to go to court and retell it all for the fifth time, ”said Pierrat.
Marie Dosé, a lawyer for the accused, described the appeal as “absurd”.
“It would have been more prudent to put an end to this sad legal matter,” he said. “What is the appeals court going to do almost 10 years after the fact?”
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