Men sue women who accused them of harassment. Will it prevent others from expressing themselves?
Last week, Sandra Muller, the woman who launched the French version of #MeToo, appeared before a Paris court, where she faced a defamation lawsuit against the man she accused of making indecent comments about her.
Muller claimed that Eric Brion, a high-profile French television producer, had humiliated her by saying, "They have big boobs, they're my kind of wife, I'll bring you to orgasm all night." In a public apology published by the French daily Le Monde in December 2017, Brion admitted that he had made these comments to Muller had made her "inappropriate remarks", "very late at night, during a cocktail party evening with alcohol, but I only did it once. "
In court last Wednesday, Brion once again admitted that he had said those words to Muller that he had sent her an "apology text message" but received no response the next day. He added, "Muller's violence against me has never stopped, the violence of people hiding behind their cell phones."
While he has said that he regrets his words, Brion noted in Le Monde that he would rather have been tried in a court case than in the Social Media Court.
And that's exactly what he did.
A & # 39; gray zone & # 39;
In January 201
8, Brion announced that he was suing Muller for defamation and demanded damages of € 50,000 and legal fees of € 10,000.
While Brion admits to having made Müller "inappropriate" comments, his lawyer Marie Burguburu told CNN that the reason for the lawsuit was the reason Müller accused him of "sexual harassment at work" on Twitter.
"This is defamatory because we can not blame a man for being guilty of a crime if it is absolutely not the case," Burguburu said.
Müller, who was recently honored as a "quiet breaker" and told Time of the Year by Time Magazine at the time, was surprised by Brion's strategy change.
Müller wrote on her Facebook page: "The #balancetonporc movement has encouraged the victims to speak and shed light on a real social issue that is still such a taboo."
"With this call but they want to force me to shut up. "
Müller vowed to "fight this to the end" and hoped that the process would be an opportunity for a genuine debate on ways to combat sexual harassment. "
Celine Piques, spokeswoman for the French feminist association Osez Le Féminisme, (Dare Feminism) told CNN that the process is "absurd" and reinforces a culture in which the courts "try to make us believe that there is a gray area between harassment and seduction. "
Women face tremendous challenges for several reasons, including sexual harassment and gender-based violence, for fear of losing their jobs or other reasons for retaliation.
] The threat of defamation intensified just fears.
France's judiciary is already not responding "to the statements of women," Piques said, adding that even after #MeToo only a fraction of the women who raped it took their case to the police.
The latest figures available from the French Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women's Rights show that an average of 84,000 women are victims of rape or rape every year, and fewer than 40% of estimated cases of sexual violence were registered with the police from November 2014 to October 2015, and Only 771 people have committed the crime in 2014
The French journalist Lauren Bastide and spokeswoman for the feminist movement Prenons La Une (Let & # 39; s Take The Front) shared CNN that social norms continue to shape court proceedings in France.
"Women are asked how they are dressed before the defendant is asked any questions," she said, critics of the feminist movement perilously prosecuted sexual assault and rape with the French Bring conflict. Tradition of flirting, of seduction.
"Justice is sexist in the image of society," added Piques, who attributes the backlash against the #Metoo movement to men who are "unwilling to give up their privileges."
Bastide also said that economic factors play a role in abuses, with working-class or poorer women being less likely to report their abuser because they can be charged.
"Fortunately, there are spaces in which you can express yourself, but it is very paradoxical. Twitter is a wonderful tool, but it's also the most violent tool that can turn against us. "Bastide Said."
"A Precision Strike"
Brion, however, seems to believe that he is a victim of the #Metoo movement and said in court last Wednesday that he was "the victim
Brion sues her for defamation and joins a growing list of wealthy men in powerful positions who have taken legal action against their prosecutors.
He received an Oscar last month Award-winning actor Geoffrey Rush earned 2.9 million Australian dollars (about $ 2 million) after winning his slander against a journalist and the Sydney Daily Telegraph newspaper.
The Australian newspaper b He alleged that Rush had inappropriately pushed his "King Lear" co-star Eryn Jean Norvill on the breasts and on his back, followed her into a bathroom and sent her an inappropriate text message during the night. Show production in Sydney between 2015 and 2016. Rush denied all allegations.
Norvill had made the allegations in a private employment complaint, but later agreed to testify for the newspaper. She continues to claim that her claims are true.
In a series of interviews with the Australian ABC News and the New York Times, actress Yael Stone Rush also accused sexually inappropriate text messages, made herself known to her and tried to watch her take a shower – ABC News said last year, The fact that she has been waiting years to file the accusations for fear of publicly blaming a big star could ruin her career. Rush has also rejected all these allegations.
Stone added that Australia's defamation laws prevented them from reporting, as Australian laws require publishers to prove the accuracy of the allegations.
The slander law varies from country to country. In countries such as Australia, France and the United Kingdom, the full burden of proof lies with the accused, while in the United States, if the claimant is a public figure, he must prove that the accused's statements are not true and intentional.
While defamation suits are often brought before civil courts, where defendants may be fined, jail sentences are also threatened in countries with criminal defamation statutes.
] In India, defamation suits can be filed in civil or criminal courts. If a libel case is filed with the criminal court, defendants convicted of defamation may be sentenced to terms of imprisonment of up to two years – an outcome that provides an additional layer of protection for the victims.
Two high-profile offender libel cases have recently shaken the nation's #Metoo movement.
MJ Akbar, former junior minister in the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former influential newspaper editor, was accused by at least a dozen women of insulting, attacking and harassing. He rejected the allegations.
Following allegations of sexual assault and harassment by former colleagues, Akbar said in October that he had decided to resign and act against what he called "false accusations". "Since I have decided to seek justice in person in a court of law, I consider it appropriate to resign from office and to challenge false allegations made against me personally," he sued.
Akbar Journalist Priya Ramani, who made the first allegation against him last October, called the allegations "wrong and fictitious".
In another case, Bollywood star Alok Nath filed a lawsuit this month against writer and producer Vinta Nanda, claiming that Nath raped her in the 1990s. In a frightening Facebook post, Nanda said she remembers that he "endlessly hurt" her after finishing work on a soap opera for the day. Nath has rejected the allegations.
"I have been waiting for this moment for 19 years, and I call out to each one of you who suffered from the predators' hands to come out and say it out loud," Nanda wrote her post.
However, Nath's request for a gag order was rejected by a judge, and both slander trials continue.
In the United States – where the burden lies the evidence the plaintiff – at least 24 states have defamation laws with criminal libel laws.
Sharyn Tejani, director of Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, an organization that was founded in response to #MeToo to overturn the legal costs for people who have experienced sexual harassment or related workplace retaliation they have operated, they have received around 5,000 support requests. Two-thirds of the requests come from low-income workers, who often have concerns about becoming the target of retaliation.
She explains that although reprisals such as shifts, disciplining or sudden layoffs are commonplace, defamation is also a concern.
Tejani, who has worked in the field for 20 years, said the organization was surprised at how many people came to them in cases of defamation.
"It's a higher number than we expected and certainly something that affects people who want to report."
And for victims of sexual and domestic abuse, the threat of defamation can keep the victims from turning themselves to speak out, said Harriet Wistrich, director of the British Center for Women's Justice.
CNN's Kara Fox reported and wrote while Antoine Crouin reported from Paris.