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Sexual violence

Paris street artist accused of rape, 'systematic targeting' of young women

Picture of graffiti reading "The rapist runs the streets", posted on Twitter by Neon Magazine whose article on 22 June related accusations of rape against graffiti artist Wilfrid A.
Picture of graffiti reading "The rapist runs the streets", posted on Twitter by Neon Magazine whose article on 22 June related accusations of rape against graffiti artist Wilfrid A. © Neon Mag, Twitter
4 min

A group of 25 women have accused a well-known Parisian graffiti artist of rape and sexual assault, in what has been described as a systematic pattern of targeting and manipulating teen girls and young women.

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The women lodged a joint complaint on Tuesday, saying the alleged attacks occurred over the last 11 years.

The collective complaint was filed after three other women filed individual complaints against the artist.

They described the man, identified as Wilfrid A, as a "sexual predator" who played on his fame as part of a polished routine in order to assault his victims.

Wilfrid A has denied the allegations.

The street artist became a local star after the November 2015 Paris terror attacks when his most famous tag "Love roams the streets" became a symbol of resilience and hope. 

Feminist groups have since erased a number of his murals, replacing “love roams the streets” with “rapist roams the streets”.

Girls as young as 16

The alleged attacks took place between 2009 and 2020, for the most part in the picturesque Montmartre district in the north of Paris.

The women were aged between 16 and 26. Wilfrid A. is thought to be in his 50s.

According to the complaint, the artist would walk up to mostly very young women in the street, complement them and suggest they model for his photographs or become the face of his brand.

Once they arrived at his "studio", which turned out to be his home, the street artist would offer them alcohol or drugs. He would then become aggressive or violent, the women said. 

“We have never seen a case of this magnitude,” Valentine Rebérioux, a lawyer representing several of the plaintiffs, told Franceinfo.

She explained that the women did not report the assaults to police at the time out of fear that they wouldn’t be believed, or that he would publish nude photos of them, or because they felt responsible for allowing themselves to be abused and manipulated.

'A tireless, frenetic hunt'

In late June, NEON, a French news and trends magazine aimed at young people published an investigation into Wilfrid A, detailing the accounts of 16 women who had been contacted by the artist.

"Wilfrid A appears to have been on a tireless, even frenetic, hunt for very young women for at least a decade," Neon alleged in its article.

A few days later, on 26 June, investigators opened an inquiry.

"An inquiry doesn't begin in a magazine but in a police station," Joseph Cohen-Sabban, a lawyer representing Wilfrid A, told AFP. 

Contacted by Franceinfo the lawyer said his client "denies the facts" and "doesn't even know who is attacking him", adding the artist plans to defend himself.

Two ministers in feminists’ crosshairs

The allegations follow the appointment of a new French government which includes two controversial ministers.

New interior minister Gérald Darmanin is himself being investigated for alleged rape, which he denies.

On Tuesday, feminists protested against his appointment and more protests are planned for Friday.

The appointment of Eric Dupond-Moretti as justice minister has also caused outrage in feminist ranks. The defence lawyer, a vocal opponent of the #MeToo movement, is renowned for his sexist comments.

(with AFP, AP)

 

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