Roar writer Natalia Vasnier on the resignation of Frédérick Mion, head of Sciences Po, and lack of accountability in sexual abuse cases.

Olivier Duhamel, the President of La Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (FNSP), was accused of incest by his stepdaughter Camille Kouchner. She released a book called La Familia Grande in January, in which she accuses Duhamel of raping her twin brother whilst he was a teenager. Following this revelation, Duhamel quickly resigned from the FNSP and other high positions he held. Following Duhamel’s resignation, Frédérick Mion, head of  Sciences Po, resigned following public criticism surrounding the Duhamel case.

Why did the Head of Sciences Po decide to resign?

Following the accusations, people close to Mr Duhamel were accused of protecting him by staying silent, including Frédérick Mion. Reports from the French paper Le Monde indicate that Mion was aware of these allegations since 2018. In the letter released on Tuesday, Mr Mion said “The report points […] to errors of judgment on my part in dealing with the allegations I received in 2018, as well as inconsistencies in the way I expressed myself on the conduct of this case after it arose. I am aware of the resulting confusion and take full responsibility for it”.

It is shocking to learn that he has been aware of this since 2018 and has kept silent. His compliance is an insult to the victims of Duhamel and victims of sexual abuse in general. In recent weeks the movement #sciences porcs started on social media. This movement accuses the different Sciences Po institutions in France of crimes of silence, by failing to take effective measures to punish abusers.

The Head of Sciences Po was initially reluctant to resign. He believed that acknowledgement of wrongdoing on his part would confer responsibility onto Sciences Po, something he finds “absolutely impossible”. In his letter of resignation, Mion indicated that his decision to vacate came after the receipt of a provisional report confirming “that no system of concerted silence or complacency has existed within our establishment”, freeing the institution of any complicity. 

In 2006, the “Me Too” was founded and advocates for females who have survived sexual violence, especially at the hands of wealthy and powerful men, to speak up. From state representatives to public radio hosts, every sector of society has its share of offenders. Yet, they remain in power for many years until the victims speak. In these situations, it is rare that someone other than the victims speaks up about sexual abuse. This is a problem because if silence prevails these offenders could, and will, repeat their actions.

Most notably, Film Director Roman Polanski has been called out as a sexual offender.  In 1977 he plead guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but he fled the US before sentencing. Since then he has continued to make films from his home in France. The fact that he remained free without any repercussions on his actions in the past has outraged actors within the industry. Condemnation became evident when Mr Polanski won Best Director at the “French Oscars”, the Césars, in early 2020 as several actors walked out of the ceremony in anger. It was disgusting for France’s most prestigious award ceremony to nominate a sex offender. In essence, the Polanski situation and Mion’s case are similar because in both situations the accused are not immediately held accountable by the people around them.

Mion keeping Dumahel’s actions a secret for two years is unacceptable. Today, even if people speak up about their abuse, there remains a veil of silence over sexual offenders within the elites. The people with power are often the ones in charge and people fear opposing them for fear of personal repercussions. People who know of abuse and choose to remain silent, become accomplices of the offender, therefore sending the message that abuse is fine if you have considerable power. Reputation and repercussion are two key elements in the decision to remain silent; this must change.  

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