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Almost 30 women accuse Paris street artist of rape, sexual assault

Picture of graffiti reading "The rapist roams the streets", posted on Twitter by Neon Magazine, which spoke to several of the plaintiffs in late June.
Picture of graffiti reading "The rapist roams the streets", posted on Twitter by Neon Magazine, which spoke to several of the plaintiffs in late June. © @neon_mag, Twitter
3 min

Paris police are investigating accusations by 28 women that a street artist in the historic Montmartre neighbourhood raped or sexually assaulted them in what has been described as a systematic, years-long pattern of targeting and manipulating teen girls and young women.

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A group of twenty-five women aged between 19 and 49 lodged a collective complaint on Tuesday, seen by AFP, in which they described Wilfrid A as a "sexual predator" who played on his fame as part of a well-oiled routine to assault his victims over the course of a decade.

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

Neon, a news and trends magazine aimed at young people, had published on June 22 the accounts of sixteen women, some of whom were underage at the time, describing rape and sexual assault.

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

But feminists have taken to crossing out the word "love" on the murals and replacing it with "rapist". 

Wilfrid A would walk up to mostly very young women in the street, often in the famous Montmartre artist quarter where he lives, the women alleged in the complaint.

He would compliment 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, they said. 

Valentine Reberioux, a lawyer representing several of the plantiffs, said they didn’t report the alleged 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.

'Frenetic hunt'

"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.

Investigators opened an inquiry on June 26, shortly after the publication of the magazine's initial article.

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

"My client is willing to explain himself to investigators," Cohen-Sabban said, adding that the street artist has been threatened since the publication of the article.

The accusations come as women’s rights groups are protesting French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision this week to appoint a man who is facing a rape investigation as interior minister, and a lawyer who has ridiculed the #MeToo movement as justice minister. 

Macron and his prime minister have defended the staffing choices. Protests were held in Paris on Tuesday and more are planned around France on Friday. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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