Twenty firemen allegedly had sex with a young teenage girl in France — and the country is now fiercely debating whether the incidents constitute rape.
Protests broke out across the country over the weekend in support of the woman, now 25, who says the attacks began when she was just 13, after a firefighter assisted her during an anxiety seizure in 2008, the UK’s Guardian reported.
The woman, dubbed “Julie” by French media, says the fireman soon had sex with her and passed her around to his cronies — some of whom raped her together in uniform — for two years.
Her mother told investigators she had no idea what was going on, saying she thought the smoke-eaters were just being nice by taking an interest in her daughter.
“I even made a cake for the firemen,” she said, according to the Guardian.
At least three of the firefighters have admitted to having sex with the then-teen — but argue she was a willing partner.
France does not have an age-of-consent law, so a child is not automatically considered a rape victim.
But there is a law on the books that prevents those in positions of authority from having sex with someone under age 18, so three firefighters have at least been charged with “sexual violation,’’ the Guardian said. The rap carries a prison term of up to seven years.
Still, the woman and her advocates are demanding the firemen face the harsher charge of rape. But for that, the victim must prove she was violently forced or coerced into the sex act. The charge carries up to 20 years behind bars.
The country’s highest court is set to hear arguments in the case Wednesday.
“Every stereotype about rape is in this case: The judges and the psychiatrist say Julie is a liar, that she consented to sex with all those men and that she is lying about being raped because she is ashamed,” said the woman’s exasperated legal advocate, Marjolaine Vignola.
There are now renewed calls to enact an age-of-consent law in the country.