French TV star checked into book on sexual assault, #MeToo

Paris – “On a certain level of fame, no French man has ever been convicted of sexual assault.”

These words are from the book Impunity by Helen Devink, who says she was raped before FranceThe most famous TV presenter.

Divink is among dozens of women who have recently spoken out to accuse Patrick Poivre d’Arvour of rape, sexual assault or harassment from 1981 to 2018. Her book, published last month, investigates the accusations against Poivre d’Arvour, and decries France’s historically lax position. towards allegations of sexual assault and questions about why the #MeToo movement has limited influence in her country.

Poivre d’Arvor, who has hosted France’s most popular news program for more than two decades and remains a respected figure, denies any sexual misconduct and insists that relations with his accusers were consensual.

Now 75 and retired, Poivre d’Arvor has sued 16 of his accusers – including Devynck – and a French newspaper that addressed the allegations.

Most of the accusations are now too old to be prosecuted, but French judges have opened an investigation examining alleged violations by Poivre d’Arvor. French media reported that more than 20 women had lodged legal complaints, although no charges were brought.

In the US, several high-profile sexual assault trials are taking place across the country: film mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Danny Masterson and director Paul Haggis are facing #MeToo-related charges. They all deny any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, France has not seen the prosecution of any major figure in the #MeToo era, and it has a much more serious relationship with the movement. Even as more and more people in France stand up against sexual misconduct, the debate continues over where the temptation ends and sexual harassment and abuse begins, particularly in a context where the “French lover” myth remains popular and positively perceived.

Divink’s book, 55, follows several recent accounts of women accusing Poivre d’Arvour in the French media.

Divink said she was raped in 1993 by Boever Darfur when she was working as his assistant for TF1, a leading European broadcaster. At the time, Poivre d’Arvor attracted up to 10 million viewers each night.

Poivre d’Arvor’s accusers told Devynck that his fame and power made it pointless to speak when he offended them because they felt no one would believe them and it would ruin their careers.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Divink said the point of her book “is to show how this impunity has been built, falsified, and maintained. And as we’ve talked… impunity continues.”

The accusations came after 39-year-old writer Florence Purcell first filed a complaint in February 2021 against Boivre Darfur, accusing him of raping her in 2004 and 2009.

The AP does not generally identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted, except when they publicly identify themselves.

Divink said she spoke with about 60 women who accused Poivre d’Arvor of sexual misconduct while writing the book. Since its publication, she said, about 30 other women have made allegations against him. She said that not all of them spoke to the police, as some would prefer anonymity and avoid a long and difficult judicial process.

Few of the women knew each other through work, although most did not.

Poivre d’Arvor was the star presenter of TF1’s evening newscast “20 Heures” between 1987 and 2008 and one of the most famous people in France, where he is widely known as “PPDA”. A writer, he also used to host a prestigious television literary show.

Two weeks after Purcell complained, in his only interview about the allegations to date, Boiver admitted Darfur “little kisses on the neck, sometimes little compliments or sometimes some charm or seduction” – things he said were no longer accepted by the younger generations.

Speaking on TMC, a channel belonging to the TF1 group, he added, “I have never in my life accepted a relationship that would not be consensual.”

Divink said she noticed strong similarities between the accounts of the women she spoke to.

“We’re all telling the same story, he’s been using the same words. He’d start with: Are you in a relationship? Are you loyal? And then, he’d make the same gestures and had a very good operation,” she told The Associated Press.

Poivre d’Arvor used to offer the women to watch “20 Heures” in the television studio, then invite them to his office, Devynck said. “Not all of them were raped. Some of them were mistreated, others were harassed. But every time, everyone who talks says he tried (acts of a sexual orientation).”

This, as she describes it in her book, is exactly what happened to her.

“I remained silent. I did not speak while I was working at TF1. If I had spoken, it was the end of my career and I had absolutely no chance of my voice being heard,” she told The Associated Press.

Devynck decided to publish her story after 28 years. She lodged a complaint with the police last year after she watched an interview with Bouivre Darfur on French television after Purcell’s complaint.

“The picture that this guy showed compared to what I, I, knew of him, was so wrong that the next day, I called the investigators to testify,” she recalled in her interview with the Associated Press.

“I have spoken out to defend other women,” she added.

She argued in her book that the image of Poivre d’Arvor, often described as a witch, helped protect him. Divink said that because he was known to try to seduce a lot of women, people assumed all relationships were consensual.

Boiver’s Darfur attorney, Jacqueline Laffon, declined to speak to the AP about the case. She recalled previous comments she made last year after the Purcell case was initially closed following an initial investigation.

Lafont said at the time that closing the case without charges was the “only possible decision” after a “thorough investigation.” She said Boivre Darfur was able to present “evidence” to his defense showing that Purcell “was lying.”

Purcell then filed another complaint, which prompted the investigating judge to reopen a judicial investigation. The Nanterre Prosecutor’s Office said several other charges brought recently were combined with this investigation.

Only 12% of alleged victims of rape or attempted rape file a complaint – and only a small percentage of these cases lead to prosecution, according to French government statistics.

However, the French Interior Ministry said there was a 33% increase in 2021 in the number of sexual assault complaints reported to the police, a trend it attributes in part to the #MeToo movement that prompted women to publicize incidents from their past.

“Before #MeToo, women were more afraid to say what happened to them,” said Violin DePhillips, a lawyer and activist specializing in women’s rights.

So now, she said, to say ‘No, it’s not meant to be, it’s not normal, it’s illegal and dangerous,’ that’s very important.

It did not specifically refer to the Boivre-Darfur case.

French Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti sent a memorandum last year to prosecutors encouraging them to investigate allegations of sexual assault, even if they seemed too old to prosecute. One of the goals, he said, is to find other potential victims. Another is for judges to be able to hear from the accused.

Divink said she would like to see Poivre d’Arvor in the courtroom.

“I hope there will be a trial one day,” she said, “but I don’t know.”


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