The Verdict in France’s Teenage Gang-Rape Trial Will Probably Infuriate You

Illustration for article titled The Verdict in France’s Teenage Gang-Rape Trial Will Probably Infuriate You

The verdict is in for the shocking teenage gang-rape trial in France, and depending on your level of world-weary, rape-trial cynicism, the results are probably going to shock you just as much as they shocked one of the victims' lawyers, who earlier today characterized the four-week-long proceedings as a "judicial shipwreck." Of the 14 men accused of brutally (and daily) gang-raping two women when they were teenagers living on the estates in Fontenay-sous-Bois outside Paris, ten were acquitted and four were handed sentences ranging from three years' suspended sentence to a single year in prison.

According to The Guardian, public reaction to the verdict has, on the whole, wavered somewhere between outraged to cartoon-steam-out-of-ears, red-faced, fist-clenched rage that not a single defendant received the five to seven year sentences (already widely perceived as too lenient) recommended for eight of them by the state prosecutor. The court also determined that only one of the women, Nina, had been raped, and failed to uphold allegations from the other woman, Stephanie. Clothilde Lepetit, the lawyer responsible for the incisive nautical metaphor, further denounced what she described as a poorly handled trial fraught with judicial failures. Another lawyer for the women, Laure Heinich asked (in what we can only imagine was a deflated tone), "What sentence makes sense when one hears that gang-rapists are given a three years suspended sentence?"

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The Guardian's Angelique Chrisafis notes that the unsatisfying verdict "has highlighted the problems in historic rape investigations where material evidence is lacking and much rests on the women's word." Lawyers for the women, moreover, said they felt that their clients' testimony had been disrespected during the proceedings, a rape-trial phenomenon we on the other side of the Atlantic have had our fair share of conniption-fit-inducing experiences with.

The great-galloping surprised of a verdict has elicited some choice responses from prominent figures across France, including French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who said that the women probably had grounds for appeal, adding that "gang-rapes" are indeed a shocking, nauseating phenomenon:

Personally, I'm shocked by gang-rapes, by every form of aggression against women and I think we have to create conditions so that the facts are established and those guilty can be effectively identified.

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As for the accused, many of them, shock of all shocks, told the French media that they were relieved by the verdicts.

Four guilty in gang-rape trial that shocked France [The Guardian]

Image via ER_09/Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

It seems fitting that just yesterday, a fictional TV show about catching rapists had the main character end the episode with [paraphrased] "Sexual assault cases are the only cases where the victim's word isn't good enough - we need to prove that the crime actually occurred".

I just don't get it. In a robbery case, why isn't it customary to question the case by citing that sometimes the victim gave money/items to people on the street willingly? In an assault and battery case, why doesn't anyone cite that people are paid million of dollars to hit each other (and willingly submit to being hit) while playing any major-league sports? Or in murder cases, why not bring up the fact that sometimes people ask for assisted suicide, which might mean that the victim might have actually wanted to die, so it's totes okay to let the perp go? (Oh, so they exhibited suicidal/violent/charitable tendencies in the past? Well then, clearly there is no crime here because the victim got what they wanted)