• The woman, now 25, said the assaults began when she was 13
  • The repeated assaults worsened the victim's health, resulting in frequent seizures
  • The accused have been charged with just “consensual penetrative sex with a minor under 15"

A French woman has revealed that she was raped by 20 firemen when she was between 13 and 15 years old. The woman, now 25 and identified as "Julie," said the assaults began after a firefighter assisted her during an anxiety seizure in 2008.

The incident and subsequent court proceedings have sparked protests with feminists taking out to streets seeking rape charges against the accused. As of now, only three men are charged, that too with only "sexual violation."

One of the accused, a fireman named Pierre and based at Bourg-la-Reine fire station in Paris, began sending her "affectionate messages” when she was 13. He got her contact number from her medical file, which mentioned her age, reports The Guardian.

The victim said Pierre wanted her to undress via webcam and when she complied, he passed her number to another firefighter who had the same demand.

According to her mother Corinne Leriche, she was initially happy that Pierre would call at the house to inquire after Julie’s health.

“I even made a cake for the firemen. We were grateful that they had looked after Julie when she was ill,” she said.

She said her daughter was raped in January 2009. “I thought he was the last person to do such a thing because he had helped her so many times and saw how vulnerable she was.” In November 2009, Pierre, in full uniform, took Julie, who was then 14, to his apartment, where she was raped again. She told the investigators that two other colleagues of Pierre came over to rape her while the men watched pornography.

The repeated assaults worsened the victim's health, resulting in more seizures, that firefighters had to attend her home 130 times in two years. She was also prescribed anti-anxiety mediation. In July 2010, she told her mother about the abuse, following which Leriche filed an official complaint to the police on Aug. 31 that year.

While two of the accused men admitted to having had “group sex” with Julie while on duty, another admitted to a sexual act in the toilet of a hospital where Julie had been admitted.

Following an investigation, a judge decided to drop the rape charges and replace them with “consensual penetrative sex with a minor under 15." Though an appeal was filed, it was thrown out in November last year because the court decided Julie had consented to the sexual acts.

Now, feminists want the authorities to enact an age-of-consent law in the country, like in other European nations.

Under French law, the complainant must prove she was forced or violently coerced to bring rape charges, or otherwise, the accused may only be charged with sexual violation. Her case will be considered by the country’s highest court this week.

Marguerite Stern, a member of the feminist group l’Amazone who is at the forefront of the protests, said feminists from all over France are joining the protest. "We are demanding that the firefighters be tried for rape and not "sexual violation." This culture of misogyny in our courts must end," she said.

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