French intellectual under investigation, accused of raping underage stepson

·3-min read

A Paris court has opened an investigation into “rape and sexual aggression against a minor” after prominent French intellectual Olivier Duhamel was accused of raping his stepson by Camille Kouchner, the alleged victim's twin sister, in a new book to be released on Thursday.

Duhamel stepped down from his academic and media positions on Monday following the accusations.

In her book La Familia Grande (The big family), lawyer Camille Kouchner accuses her step father of sexually abusing her twin brother when he was 14 years old.

Duhamel has described the accusations as "personal attacks".

Extracts of the book have been published in Le Monde daily and L’Obs online.

"I was 14 years old and let it go ahead. I was 14, I knew and said nothing," Camille Kouchner, now 45, writes in the book.

She names her brother only as "Victor" in order to protect his privacy. But Le Monde said he had read the text twice and was happy for his sister to speak on his behalf.

"I confirm that what my sister has written concerning the actions of Olivier Duhamel towards me is correct," Victor told Le Monde.

Half-brother Alexandre Kouchner posted on twitter: "I love my brothers and sister and praise their courage and support their decision to break the silence."

Family secret

Camille Kouchner and her twin brother are the children of France's former foreign minister and humanitarian doctor Bernard Kouchner and academic Evelyne Pisier.

After they separated in the 1980s, Pisier went on to marry high-profile political scientist Duhamel. The couple frequented leftist intellectuals, among them disgraced former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss Kahn and former Socialist president François Hollande.

Pisier died in 2017.

In her book, Camille Kouchner maintains the sexual assault went on for years but that there was a family “omerta” surrounding the past.

In an interview with L'Obs, Kouchner said the book revealed the extent to which Duhamel and Pisier's group of friends knew what was going on.

“Of course, I thought my book might sound obscene because of my family’s notoriety. Then I said to myself: this is exactly what needs to be done,” she said.

In a statement released by his lawyer, Bernard Kouchner said that a "heavy secret which weighed on us for too long has happily been lifted. I admire the courage of my daughter Camille".

On Monday, Duhamel resigned from all his functions, including his position as head of the National Foundation of Political Science (FNSP) and as host of a popular radio programme on Europe 1.

“Being the object of personal attacks, and wishing to preserve the institutions in which I work, I put an end to my functions”, Duhamel wrote on his Twitter feed on Monday.

His profile on the social media platform was subsequently deleted.

Breaking taboos

Many commentators criticise France for being slow to break longstanding taboos over the abuse of minors. And this is not the first such controversy to make headlines over the last year.

Publisher Vanessa Springora, in a book published in January last year, accused prize-winning writer Gabriel Matzneff of abusing her while she was a minor.

In November 2019, film star Adele Haenel accused director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her when she was in her early teens.

Haenel and other French actresses, in February last year, walked out of France's Cesar awards after filmmaker Roman Polanski – who is wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 – won best director.

(with AFP)