10:17, December 11 100 0 theguardian.com

2020-12-11 10:17:04
Édouard Louis ‘in very bad way’ after man accused of his rape has charge dropped

Friends of French writer Édouard Louis say he is in a “very bad way” after the man he accused of raping him eight years ago, the subject of his bestselling book History of Violence, was found not guilty of the crime last week.

In 2012, Louis was a 21-year-old student called Eddy Bellegueule and newly arrived in Paris when he told police a man he had met the previous evening had raped and tried to strangle him at knifepoint before stealing his iPad and phone on Christmas Day.

A medical examination carried out at the time found injuries that the doctor concluded suggested non-consensual and unprotected sex. It also noted bruising to Louis’s neck.

Bellegueule changed his name to Louis and wrote about the alleged attack in his bestselling book Histoire de la violence (History of Violence) in 2016. This followed his 2014 autobiographical novel En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (The End of Eddy), the story of his brutal childhood that launched him on to France’s literary scene.

The accused was arrested in 2016, after the story came out, as part of a separate police operation. His DNA matched that found on Louis in 2012.

After a long inquiry, the public prosecutor demanded the defendant be given a four-year sentence, two suspended, for sexual assault and aggravated theft. The accused denied the crimes, insisting there had been no violence and the sex had been consensual. Last week, a judge cleared him of sexual assault, but sentenced him to three months in prison for two counts of aggravated theft.

The public prosecutor has now appealed the judgment, as has Louis’s lawyer.

Didier Eribon, Louis’s former professor at Picardie University and also a bestselling writer, gave evidence at the trial.

“I saw Édouard after the attack. He was shaking and crying and in such a state of shock I wanted to take him to hospital,” Eribon told the Guardian. “At the trial, the judge said Édouard had changed his story, which he did not, and that he had refused a confrontation with the defendant. That was true, but the whole idea of being in the same room as that man was unthinkable for Édouard. It traumatised him all over again. He was genuinely terrorised by the idea. I suggested he should but he just couldn’t. He said it would kill him.

“He lives with this attack every day. It has deeply traumatised him. He still has nightmares about it. He was destroyed by this and now with this verdict he is in a very, very bad way.”

Eribon added: “It’s no surprise that women who have been raped are reluctant to report it. Clearly the words of a rape victim are not enough to be taken seriously even when backed up by evidence.

“The public prosecutor believed the rape and attempted strangulation charges had been established as well as theft, but only the theft was upheld. We are astonished, disgusted and outraged. It is incomprehensible.

“The judge asked me if Édouard was in the habit of meeting boys and taking them back to his home. He is a young man with an open sex life. Would you ask that of a woman? This is an example of the rape culture that exists in France and shows the victims are never believed even if they have all the elements of proof, which Édouard did. It was incontestable.”

Another friend, the philosopher and sociologist Geoffroy de Lagasnerie wrote online: “It (the judgment) doesn’t state what Édouard says is untrue, it simply states that objective elements or testimonies are never conclusive enough. Édouard always distanced himself from this trial from which he expected nothing … I can’t help but see this decision as the revenge of an institution against someone who didn’t want to play the game. Édouard didn’t attend the trial … the truth remains the truth.”

Louis’s lawyer Emmanuel Pierrat said the verdict was absurd and that the appeal meant the case would be “tried again from zero”.

“There is a lot of work to be done in France regarding the trying of rape cases as we have seen in this case. Louis was interviewed by three different police services, by doctors and yet he was criticised because he refused to come to court and recount it all over again for the fifth time,” Pierrat said.

Marie Dosé, lawyer for the accused, called the appeal “absurd”.

“It would have been wiser to put an end to this sad legal affair,” she said. “What’s the court of appeal going to do almost 10 years after the facts?”

Topics