A new study that looks at rapes in Paris has found that nearly half of the city's victims knew their attackers, and that nine out of 10 sexual assaults in the French capital go unreported.
The study, conducted by France's National Observatory on Crime and Criminal Justice Responses (ONDRP), was based on 598 police cases where adult women who reported attacks by men in 2013 and 2014.
The highest number of rapes per capita is in the 1st arrondissement, the site of landmarks such as the Louvre museum and the historic Tuileries gardens. The 16th arrondissement, one of the most affluent areas of the city, had the most rapes overall. The neighborhood is home to the Bois de Boulogne, a beautiful public park by day and a prostitution spot by night. Other areas with a high incidence of rape include the gentrified neighborhood of Folie-Méricourt, in the east of the city, and the diverse, working-class neighborhood around the Belleville subway station.
The report found that 26 percent of victims described their attacker as a friend or acquaintance, and that 23 percent said they were romantically involved with the man who assaulted them. Given that information, it's not surprising that three out of four assaults were reported to have been carried out in private spaces such as homes, basements, vehicles, and doctor's offices.
Map showing concentration of rapes in Paris via ONDRP. Areas in light blue show a high concentration of rapes, dark areas show a lower concentration of rapes. The white lines draw the boundaries of each arrondissement.
In a statement published Friday, the French feminist group Osez Le Féminisme was quick to point out that "less than 10 percent of women who were raped are able to report their attack."
But the ONDRP report, citing the "victimization survey" carried out annually by France's National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, acknowledged that in France nine out of 10 victims of sexual assault do not press charges against their attacker. "The context in which a rape occurs, the possible relationship between the people involved and the trauma experienced by the victim often influence the decision to file a complaint," the report said.
Emmanuelle Piet, a French gynecologist and president of the Feminist Collective Against Rape, said the study might encourage victims to speak up and file complaints against their attackers.
"It's good that we are talking about it," said Piet, who questioned the finding that half the victims know their attacker. "From what we hear on the hotlines we've been running for 30 years, the rapist is known to the victim in 80 to 90 percent of cases," she said.
According to the study, the average age for Parisians rape suspects was 34, with 44 percent unemployed and 52 percent of them foreign nationals. Nearly half of the suspects were already known to the police, including nearly a quarter who were repeat sex offenders.
In 92.5 percent of the cases included in the study, the victims were women, with 40 percent of them under 25. Half of the adult victims were employed, and nearly half of all employed victims were "highly qualified and in managerial positions." Nearly a third of the victims were born outside of France.
Not all of the victims and suspects that knew each other were long-time acquaintances. Just over 2o percent of the rapes happened after the victim and attacker "met at a nightspot," which the authors of the study defined as "nightclubs, cafés and bars." Around 6 percent of the attacks fit the definition of "date rape."
According to the study, half of all victims were "intoxicated" during the attack — 87 percent of them from alcohol, 6 percent from drugs, and 7 percent from a combination of both.
Speaking to French daily L'Express on Friday, Piet noted that in many cases of rape, attackers supply their victims with alcohol. "The problem with saying victims were under the influence of alcohol is that it introduces blame," she told L'Express.
Ten percent of the attacks were gang rapes, and 8 percent of the attackers threatened the victim with a weapon.
The study also looked into 90 reported cases of rape against juveniles in 2013 and 2014. Of those, 20 percent of victims were boys, and their average age was 12, although most victims (38 percent) were 15. More than two thirds of the victims were attending pre-school, elementary school, or middle school.
Unlike rapes of adults, which tend to happen at night and on the weekend, the study found that most attacks on juveniles occurred on weekdays. Three out of four juvenile sexual assaults reportedly occurred in private spaces, and 17 percent took place "on playgrounds, in woods or in parking lots."
Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray
Additional reporting by Pierre-Louis Caron