A French newspaper has been overwhelmingly criticised for putting a rapist’s letter on its front page on International Women’s Day.
French newspaper Liberation decided to publish the letter written by a 20-year-old student named as Samuel, who says he raped his then girlfriend Alma Menager when she was 18 years old in April 2019.
The letter was sent to the email of the news outlet, which described it as “a strong and disturbing text” geared towards “challenging” the reader and to “push them out of their comfort zone”.
In the letter, the young man, who claims he is usually calm, describes “losing control” as “rage cascades inside” him.
The letter says: “More and more violence. More and more intensity. Less and less consideration for the other person. I quickly only existed through the lense of the extreme and rare emotions I was experiencing. She, as if dead, slowly faded from my gaze, which had become primal and animal. I raped.
“Only the victim was able to open my eyes. My experience, my knowledge, were not enough to really question myself, since the rapist is always another person. It’s a film director we admire, our brother’s sports teacher, a distant cousin, but never oneself. Never. But in this case, it’s me.”
According to Liberation, Alma says that against all odds reading the letter “appeased” her for the first time since the assault.
She said: “It’s hard to describe, but reading the first few lines, a wave of relief swept over me. The word rape was written in black and white. My rapist recognised what he had done to me. Samuel admitted to destroying me.”
However, the publication of this letter on International Women’s Day yesterday sparked widespread outrage on social media.
One user wrote: “Perfect timing… Decency is really dead and rape has a bright future ahead of it.”
Whilst another netizen commented: “Giving a voice to a rapist and putting it on the front page of a major daily on International Women’s Rights Day, with a very questionable illustration, is this really advancing prevention?”
And a third user wrote: “When he tells Liberation that it was his relationship with his girlfriend that created the conditions for the rape, he says – maliciously – that she is responsible for it too. And you validated that, published that. On 8th March. He uses the fact he was raped himself, of being a man, of having had a passionate relationship, to clear himself of guilt.”
Liberation responded to the criticisms and defended their editorial choice saying: “The author accurately describes the personal, cultural and social determinants that were involved in the commission of his act. He doesn’t justify himself, doesn’t self-flagellate, doesn’t backtrack, he explains. And to explain is not to excuse.
“The intellectual force, the ardour of this text also run the risk of triggering a rejection by the reader and working against it. But it’s a fact: it brings human material to a painful, complex and taboo issue.”
They added that they knew publishing it posed ethical, journalistic and legal issues and that their priority was that the words of the abuser should not overshadow the victims.
According to Liberation, they had previously contacted Alma for permission to publish the item, who says she is “in permanent contact” with Samuel and will file a complaint when she is ready.
The young woman is now a passionate activist for women’s rights and has created the group ‘Toustes Violet’ (‘All Violet’, which is also a play on words with the French word for ‘rape’, “viol”, so it would also mean ‘all raped’) on Facebook and Instagram.
Alma is currently in hospital being treated for depression, where according to French newspaper 20 Minutes, she was informed that the letter was being published.
She said: “I was raped by the man I loved two years ago. That day, that Monday when Notre-Dame was burning, he took away my being.”
According to Liberation, Alma Menager was 18 when her boyfriend raped her one evening in April 2019, then left her. They say that “On 14th December 2020, consumed by sadness, incomprehension, anxiety attacks, fear and anger, her body and mind let go. She was hospitalised for depression in a psychiatric clinic, with the memory of being ‘in the antechamber of death’.
“It took until January and a long discussion with a friend to put into words the source of her pain for the first time. An explosion in the life of the young woman, who decides to ‘break the silence’ a few days later on the Facebook group of the students of Sciences-Po Bordeaux, where she was studying.”
After the rape, Alma quit her politics studies and started studying psychology.
To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Lisa-Maria Goertz, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash