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French lawmaker makes a striking comeback after accusing senator of drugging her to assault her

FILE - A general view of National Assembly in Paris, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. French lawmaker Sandrine Josso, 48, made Tuesday Jan.16, 2024 a striking, much-applauded come-back at the National Assembly after she accused a senator of having drugged her with the aim of sexual assault. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

PARIS (AP) — A French lawmaker on Tuesday made a striking, much-applauded comeback at the National Assembly, after she accused a senator of having drugged her with the aim of sexual assault.

Sandrine Josso, 48, a deputy at France's lower house of parliament, filed a complaint against Sen. Joel Guerriau in November after she said he drugged her as he invited her to his Parisian apartment.

Guerriau, 66, was given preliminary charges of use and possession of drugs, and of secretly administering a discernment-altering substance to commit a rape or sexual assault. He was released under judicial supervision and barred from contact with the victim and witnesses while the investigation continues.

“On Nov. 14 last year, I went to a friend’s house to celebrate his re-election. I came out terrified,” Josso told lawmakers during Tuesday's public session at the National Assembly.

“I discovered an assailant. I then realized that I had been drugged without knowing it. That’s what we call drug-facilitated assault," she added.

In a rare unanimity, French deputies from the right and from the left stood up to applaud her.

Josso said the issue of drug-facilitated sexual assault concerns each year “thousands of victims” in France, from children to older people, "at the office, at home, in night clubs and friend parties.” She said nine out of ten victims are female.

"Today, I’m not talking as an abused woman, but as the nation’s lawmaker who is outraged that the problem is not being fought back,” she said, urging the government to take action.

Aurore Bergé, the newly-appointed minister in charge of gender equality, praised Josso's “courage” to stand up and “speak out.” She recalled a 2018 law that makes drugging or trying to drug a person a crime whether or not it is followed by a sexual assault.

Bergé said more must be done to help the victims psychologically.

“Today ... not only do we listen to them, but we tell them that we believe them, and we stand by them,” she said.

Josso told French media Guerriau put ecstasy in a glass of champagne he served her, before she left as she started feeling sick.

Guerriau’s lawyer said the senator didn’t intend to drug Josso to abuse her and has apologized to her.

Preliminary charges under French law mean investigating magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing but allow more time before determining whether to send a case to trial.