- Chi Chi Izondo
- BBC News
2 hours ago
A group of former models are calling on French parliament members to repeal a law that sets a time limit for victims of rape and sexual assault to report to the authorities.
The women, including former model Carrie Otis, allege that they were sexually abused or raped by agents of the models’ offices more than twenty years ago.
Under French law, the time within which to initiate criminal proceedings has run out.
But the women involved say that “rape should not have an expiration date”.
Some of them traveled to the capital, Paris, in order to testify before the French Senate, where they said that “the law needs to be changed.”
The women’s group, which included Lisa Amor, Tizia Weisman and Laurie Marzden, in a meeting with Senator Nathalie Goulet, demanded either an extension or abolition of the deadline for reporting sexual assault.
Otis told senators that it took decades to come to terms with what happened to her and decades to be able to speak publicly about her allegations that she was raped by Gerald Marie, the former European director of Elite.
Marie strongly denies the charge.
“The criminal justice system has not always served the interests of survivors,” Otis said during the hearing, and that “laws in the United States and around the world should reflect the science and experiences of sexual abuse.”
Nathalie Goulet said she was interested in a possible French version of New York’s Child Victims Act, which would provide a year in which cases can be brought about claims that have run out of time.
Last month, Otis filed a lawsuit against Gerald Marie, one day before the legal deadline expired.
“We have an opportunity in the next two weeks to ask for the law to be amended and to discuss the issue,” Goulet told the women. “We all feel the same, we must work to remove obstacles and restrictions.”
Despite this, Goulet said, “we must be realistic.”
And she continued, “It is absolutely clear that you want to change the law, but if we succeed in that, it will be about the future, not the past.”
“On the other hand, we also have another method other than criminal cases, which is civil cases, which may be easier.”
“Unfortunately, the fashion sector has not changed for 30 years,” Sarah Ziff, director of the rights group Model Alliance, said at one of the meetings.
The French authorities have launched preliminary investigations against Gerald Marie, who was one of the world’s largest fashion agents. So far, 14 models have testified that they have been sexually abused or raped.
Some models accuse another agent from the fashion sector, Jean-Luc Brunel, who is under investigation on charges of sexual harassment and rape of minors.
Brunel, who is currently in remand, has denied any wrongdoing.
Laurie Marsden claims that Marie attempted to rape her at the end of a party in 1982.
Marzden, who is now a social worker and psychologist, says it is necessary to shed light on the victims’ trauma before they are able to talk about their experiences.
“I’ve worked with trauma survivors over the past 24 years, and I intend to talk about why women are so reluctant to talk about their experiences, because they need a long time to overcome the shame and fear of what happened to them, and the overwhelming feelings they experience when reminiscing. There. Victims do not talk about what happened to them because they are not psychologically prepared for that, and this is an important point that was not taken into account when the laws were enacted.”
Gerald Marie said in a statement that he bitterly denied “these defamatory allegations.”
A former BBC correspondent, Lisa Birkenworth, took part in the debate in the French Senate, posing in 1998 as a model while making a BBC documentary.
She alleges that she was sexually abused by Gerald Marie during filming.
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