France's public prosecutor's office has opened an investigation after a survey on gender-based and sexual violence at CentraleSupélec, one of France's top engineering schools, revealed around 100 reported sexual assaults and rapes during the 2020-2021 academic year.
The anonymous audit was conducted among 2,386 students, by e-mail, in June and July this year. The survey "highlights particularly worrying situations of sexist and sexual violence", CentraleSupélec said in a statement on Thursday.
"The results of this survey stunned us," the school's director Romain Soubeyran explained. "We had no idea how bad it was," he added. "Faced with the seriousness of the facts", Soubeyran decided to alert the authorities.
The public prosecutor's office in Evry, south of Paris, opened a preliminary investigation on Thursday for sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
According to the audit's preliminary results, 51 women and 23 men said they'd been victims of sexual harassment in the past year, 46 women and 25 men of sexual assault and 20 women and 8 men of rape.
In nine out of 10 cases, the perpetrator was a student and the assault was committed within a student organisation or at the university campus of Gif-sur-Yvette, some 20 kilometres south of Paris, where 2,000 students are housed.
110 women and 25 men said they had been subjected to sexist comments.
Life on campus
"The results of our audit are alarming, but we believe they are necessary to make everyone aware of the extent of the problem of sexist and sexual violence in higher education," said Çapèse, the organisation commissioned by Supélec management to carry out the survey.
In February 2021, students at IEP Institute of Political Science denounced sexual violence during their studies, using the hashtag #SciencesPorcs (SciencesPigs).
"Since #SciencePorcs it's become easier for students in France's elite schools to talk", journalist Iban Raïs told RFI. "But it's a long process because these elite schools are very careful about their image and reputation," given the importance of international rankings he said.
Elite schools are perceived as being more protective of female students and life on campus more caring than at university but he says "it's the opposite".
"There's an island effect, disconnected from big cities, which means that everything happens on the campus: the parties and the excessive behaviour."