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French students create website for reporting sexual assault incidents

Dépose Ta Plainte aims to offer a solution for victims of sexual, race-related or cyberbullying crimes who do not want to file reports in police stations

Five students have launched a website designed for reporting criminal incidents Pic: Screenshot / Deposetaplainte.fr

Five students have launched a website designed for reporting criminal incidents in an effort to facilitate administrative processes and put pressure on the government to act quicker on finding solutions for victims of sexual assault and racism. 

Dépose Ta Plainte was introduced on April 15 and offers all of the services needed to fill in and register a complaint without having to go to the nearest La Poste or police station. 

The website results from nine months of collaboration between the students, who partnered with Stop Fisha, an association fighting against cybersexism and cyberviolence, Stop Homophobie, an association fighting against homophobia, the Harvard Innovation Lab and Legal Tech For Good, through which lawyers and members provide legal advice.

Dépose Ta Plainte draws inspiration from the #MeToo and #DoublePeine movements, which both encourage those who have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault to speak about their experiences. 

The project is also meant as a way to put pressure on the state, following repeated statements from President Emmanuel Macron expressing his desire to create a dedicated government website for reporting such crimes by the beginning of 2023.

“We want to offer a clear and simple legal solution that could facilitate victims who are left discouraged when going to the nearest police station,” said Charles Culioli, co-founder of Dépose Ta Plainte, adding that the idea was elaborated around the same time that the #DoublePeine movement emerged last year.

The website asks users to complete a questionnaire before sending the document to the public prosecutor through a computer-generated system. The website also provides legal advice regarding complaint procedures.

As part of the questionnaire, the victim is asked to answer a series of questions and provide a brief explanation and context before the website transmits documents to the closest public prosecutor. 

Mr Culioli said the website wishes to provide a helping hand to improve the ease and speed of a procedure in which victims often have trouble finding the address of the right prosecutor, shaping the complaint or proceeding with formal letters. 

It draws from Article 40 of France’s Code de procédure pénale legal procedure code, which states that any person can file a complaint before the public prosecutor. However, very few French people are currently aware of this. 

Mr Culioli said Dépose Ta Plainte has already registered reports relating to sexual assaults or abuses since its opening, adding he was pleased the website is achieving its objectives, but could not give a specific number. 

The website charges €20 to cover postal fees, the printing of documents and data server costs. Mr Culioli added all of the funds generated will go to associations supporting victims. 

He added that Dépose Ta Plainte is temporarily unavailable as it undergoes improvement works linked to requests from users. However, it will be back online in the next 10-15 days. 

Inspired by #DoublePeine

Mr Culioli said the website was particularly meant for three types of complaints: victims of sexual assault or abuse, undereported race-related hate crimes and cyberbullying messages. 

Dépose Ta Plainte is inspired by #DoublePeine, a platform gathering together 135,000 people advocating gender equality. It was launched by several feminist activists who denounced the wrongdoings of police officers when recording victim statements on sexual assaults.

The #DoublePeine website claims, for example, that police officers in Montpellier asked rape victims if they had had an orgasm during the incident. 

Read more: Paris police officer who insulted sexual assault victim suspended

This police treatment has been likened to a ‘double peine’ or as an additional punishment piling on top of the initial sexual assault, a concept supported by data compiled by the feminist collective #NousToutes.

Some 66% of people reported “mistreatment” with regards to sexual assault complaints filed by police officers, a survey* run by the collective in May 2021, has found. 

This is in sharp contrast with police reports to the government, which claimed that 90% of victims felt that their case had been dealt with in a satisfactory manner. 

Read more: 'Listen to the victims who dare to report domestic violence'

Likewise, only 2% of racially-motivated complaints are filed to police forces, the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'Homme (CNCDH) concluded in a 2021-report brought forward to then-prime minister Jean Castex.

The French governmental organisation reported 7,283 complaints filed to police with only 843 sentences on the overall 1.2 million of people who have said to have been victims of xenophobic, racists or antisemitic comments. 

The absence of complaints is often explained by fears of a ‘negative reception’ in the police station. 

‘My only wish is to shut down the website’

Dépose Ta Plainte was also elaborated to put pressure on the state and highlight its apparent inactivity with regards to facilitating the filing of complaints: a recurring issue in French politics. 

The website was partly developed through observation at the Ministry of Justice, where Mr Culioli met collaboration student Julien Deschamps during an internship as a Judicial Law Clerk at France's Secretary of State for the Digital Sector Cédric O’s cabinet. 

Dépose Ta Plainte is similar to CovidTracker and ViteMaDose, websites created by data-scientist Guillaume Rozier in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic aimed at providing tracking-data of the pandemic.

Read more: French Covid statistics site creator awarded National Order of Merit

Mr Culioli said he could not be compared to Mr Rozier, someone he qualified as a “genius,” but said his website proceeded in a similar way by taking responsibility for an operation he thinks should be part of the government’s responsibility.

Dépose Ta Plainte has beaten President Macron to his aim of creating a government website for reporting such crimes available by early 2023, a wish which he expressed in September 2021.

“We are not in a cabal against the state. We do not want to replace the state. My only wish is to shut down the website,” said Mr Culioli, in the hope that at some point it will have been replaced by an effective state service. 

*Survey conducted on 3,496 people by #NousToutes for #NousToutes.

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