8 French women lift anonymity over TV presenter Poivre d’Arvor rape case dismissal

·4-min read

Eight French women who accused former television presenter Patrick Poivre d’Arvor of rape and sexual harassment, have united to reveal their identities publicly.

In a special report published by French daily Libération, the women express anger over the fact that their experiences were not adequately taken into consideration by the court which ruled to drop all charges against d’Arvor in June.

It began in February when Florence Porcel filed a complaint against former television newsreader Patrick Poivre d’Arvor (often referred to as PPDA), accusing him of forced sexual relations in 2004 and 2009.

No charges were pressed as the judge said there was insufficient evidence on either side to categorise it as rape.

Following Porcel's complaint, 22 other women gave evidence against d’Arvor, seven of them bringing formal charges alleging rape, sexual violence or harassment.

No charges were pressed for these allegations either because they fell outside the time limit allowed under French law.

In March, d’Arvor expressed his anger over the accusations in a television interview, challenging the credibility of the women’s accounts.

"All of this is always under the cover of anonymity," he said at the time. No-one has dared come forward, face to face to tell me what I did was not acceptable." That has now changed.

Time to show their face

The decision by the eight women to reveal their identities in the report published by Libération on Tuesday is to denounce what they call the "predatory nature" of d’Arvor’s actions and express their anger over the final court decision on 24 June.

The accusations from journalists Stéphanie Khayat, Hélène Devynck and Cécile Thimoreau date back to the mid 1990s, while Aude Darlet, Emmanuelle Dancourt and Cécile Delarue say they were attacked by d’Arvor between 2002 and 2008.

Some of the women knew each other through their work, most did not. They say their decision to unite publicly was to "combat the feeling of impunity" they associate with this case.

Libération was able to consult the lengthy document containing the official witness statements, spanning a period of 1985-2015, which reveal strong similarities between the alleged attacks, which often took place in a professional context.

D’Arvor would often begin asking personal questions of a sexual nature by telephone or in person, several of the women said.

"It’s taken me years to escape from the feeling of shame and disgust, years telling myself I could’ve screamed, fought back, hit or run away," Hélène Devynck told Libération.

"I had to leave TF1 in 2001, I felt oppressed…since then it’s been hard for me to trust men," Cécile Thimoreau added.

Was management aware?

Muriel Reus, now a company director, was a manager at the TF1 television station where d’Arvor was head newsreader from 1987 to 2008.

She told investigators that d’Arvor attempted to sexually abuse her in 1995. She says top management knew what was going on and hinted that it wasn’t the first time.

When she informed the director of the station, Patrick Le Lay the day after the attack, he responded by saying "he tried that with you too?"

The police officer in charge of collecting witness statements for the inquiry wrote in the final report that "these testimonies describe d’Arvor as a sexual predator, who used his power in a similar approach with all his victims, and the brutality of his actions, committed without any seduction nor any consideration towards women who refused his advances."

TF1, when contacted by investigators said that there were no records attesting to complaints for sexual harassment against Patrick Poivre d’Arvor. Colleagues of his at the time said they were aware of nothing except they knew he was a "ladies man".

"I was cleared legally and all these claims were rejected by the court," d’Arvor wrote in response to questions from Libération.

"A great number of these complaints were not spontaneous, and a number of elements suggest the women consulted each other," he went on, adding that the newspaper article was a "regrettable" and "dangerous" attempt to whip up a media frenzy.

In any case, the story is far from closed.

Florence Porcel, who did not participate in the Libération interview, is believed to be preparing to file a separate complaint as a civil action, which could lead to a further inquiry, notably with regards to the alleged rape in 2009 which still falls within a legal time frame.

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