In France, only one in every ten women press charges after being raped. As the world marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Friday, FRANCE 24 examines the case of a young woman who did file criminal charges against her rapist. But after six years of fighting in court, her abuser walked out a free man.
Karine Sanzalone was walking home from work late one night in October 2016 when a taxi driver offered her a ride.
She was just 19 and the cab driver told her it’s unsafe for a young woman alone on the street at night.
Sanzalone felt vulnerable. The taxi driver seemed nice. She got into the car and her life changed forever. The taxi driver raped the teenager.
“It was late at night. I shouldn’t have gotten in. I was young and I should have known better. All this time, I’ve been saying to myself I should have seen it coming,” she said. “And that’s the feeling that stays the most with me.”
Sanzalone was in a state of shock for three days before she decided to go to the police.
The attacker was known to police. He had already been sentenced to a year in prison for sexual assault.
When her rapist attacked another victim ten days later, the prosecutor finally opened an inquiry.
Six years later, he was given a four-year suspended prison sentence and two years of so-called alternative detention, which is an electronic tagging. In other words, he we was free to walk out of court that day.
For Sanzalone’s lawyer, Sonia El Midouli, it was an upset, but not a surprise. “With this four year suspended prison sentence and two years of alternative detention, we felt like the court had purposely decided that this man would not spend one day in prison – because he’s got a job, he’s an entrepreneur, because placing him in detention would have delayed his psychiatric treatment that he had started years before. And also because prisons here are full,” she explained.
In France, only six out of 1,000 sexual abuses are found guilty in a court of law, according studies.
Sanzalone is 25 now and continues to fight for justice and is still hoping for a different outcome from a second trial, which will not take place before 2024.