Allegations of sexual misconduct against twenty French firefighters have sparked nation-wide protests by feminist groups seeking a change to the age of consent law. The case dates back to 2008 when the victim claims she was assaulted over a two-year period when she was between 13 and 15-years old.
The victim, who has a history of anxiety and seizures, was befriended by a firefighter following an anxiety episode. The firefighter used information from her medical report to contact her afterwards. This led to inappropriate webcam activity and eventually to sexual relations with the firefighter and others.
France has a law that makes the age of consent 18 when the perpetrator is in a position of authority. Three of the 20 firefighters were placed under investigation for rape, and four others were accused of “lack of protection.” The “lack of protection charges” were dismissed but the rape charges dragged on for some eight years. In 2019, the judge responsible for the investigation opted to drop the rape charges in favor of a lesser charge of “consensual sexual relations with penetration with a minor under the age of 15”.
The victim’s family opposed the judge’s decision and appealed to the Versaillles Court of Appeal. Last November, the court of appeals rejected the family’s appeal prompting them to appeal to France’s highest court. That court is expected to hear the case soon.