The Duhamel affair reopens the debate on issues of consent and imprescriptibility

In the wake of the explosion produced by the exit of the structure The Big Family (Threshold, 2018 p., 18 euros), by Camille Kouchner, in which she accuses her stepfather, Olivier Duhamel, of incest towards her twin brother, two questions have resurfaced in the public debate: that of seeking the consent of the minor victim in the event of rape or alleged sexual assault and, to a lesser extent, that of the extension of limitation periods for these cases. In recent days, victims’ associations or personalities such as psychiatrist Muriel Salmona have returned to the media to obtain changes on these points.

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In 2018, the law on gender-based and sexual violence, known as the Schiappa law, lengthened the statute of limitations for acts of sexual crimes against minors, increasing it from twenty to thirty years from the date of the victim’s majority. This progress is still insufficient for a certain number of actors, such as the association Face à inceste and others, who campaign for imprescriptibility, in particular highlighting the traumatic amnesia from which victims may suffer.

“A virtual impunity”

However, the subject is far from gaining unanimity, in the world of justice, but also within the associative sector. The association La Voix de l’Enfant is, for example, opposed to it, on the grounds that it is now reserved for crimes against humanity. Its president, Martine Brousse, also wonders about “The risk that the victims will delay their revelations”, and consequently their support, in the absence of limit.

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A second project, the proposal for an age threshold below which a minor would automatically be considered as not consenting to sexual relations with an adult, is also being revived. Initially envisaged by the government in 2018, the measure was finally abandoned, to the chagrin of associations which still campaign for its establishment. “At the present time, we have a failing system which guarantees impunity or near-impunity for sexual violence against minors”, denounces the Collective for Children, which brings together 33 associations engaged in this fight. “Whatever the age of the victims, we continue in the courts to study on a case-by-case basis whether a child was able to consent to the act, which leads to reclassifications in cascade of cases of rape into sexual abuse”, which amounts to dividing by three the penalty incurred. The collective campaigns for the creation of specific sexual offenses for minors under 15 “Which would exclude having to provide proof of coercion”, one of the conditions constituting acts of rape or sexual assault, such as threat, surprise and violence.

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