The student was hit in the face by a man who had been repeatedly catcalling her.
Marie Laguerre, 22, was returning to her home in the north-eastern 19th district of Paris last week when a man catcalled her on the street.
“It wasn’t the first time that day, that week or that month,” she told a French television show on Monday. “It had been building up.” The man in question made sexual comments, accompanied by “noises with sexual connotations” as Laguerre walked past.
She decided enough was enough, and told him to shut up before turning the corner and walking past a bustling terrace outside a café. But the man followed her, rounding the café and throwing an ashtray at her that only narrowly missed Laguerre. Then, as they squared off in front of the café, he slapped her in the face.
The whole incident was captured on CCTV video, which was provided to Laguerre by the restaurant owner to help her with her police report. (At first, Laguerre went home after the incident, only returning to the restaurant to obtain witness statements and the video.) When Laguerre posted the video on her Facebook this week it went viral. Warning: This content could be distressing to some viewers.
“Hoping it’ll make things move for all women who suffer from harassment and sexist violence on a daily basis,” Laguerre wrote, in a post that has since been deleted. “It happens everyday, everywhere and I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have a similar story. I am sick of feeling unsafe walking in the street. Things need to change and they need to change now.”
France is currently in the throes of its own #MeToo moment. (The French equivalent is #BalanceTonPorc, or ‘rat on your pig’.)
The country is about to implement a system of on-the-spot fines for street harassment, rolling out in Paris in Autumn. The fines, which range from £80-670, were first tabled in parliament in May and are slated to become law this week.
Equalities Minister Marlène Schiappa, who was agitators pushing for fines, noted that Laguerre’s case only highlights how important it is to make French streets safe for women.
“The stakes are serious,” Schiappa told Le Parisien. “They are about the freedom of women to move about freely in public.”