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French leader tells child sex abuse victims 'we believe you'

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Signs on the wall reads "Duhamel, and the others, you will never be in peace" referring to prominent French political expert, Olivier Duhamel, in Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The French government pledged on Thursday to toughen laws on the rape of children, as a massive online movement has seen hundreds of victims share accounts about sexual abuses within their families under the hashtag #MeTooInceste. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS – Amid a national French reckoning with sexual abuse of children by family members, President Emmanuel Macron told victims Saturday: “We believe you. You will never again be alone.”

The French government pledged on Thursday to toughen laws on the rape of children after a massive online movement saw hundreds of victims share accounts about sexual abuse within their families over the past week.

In a video message posted on social networks Saturday, Macron promised sexual abuse screening and prevention meetings with every child, both in elementary school and middle school. He said the state health care system would finance psychological treatment for children who are victims of sexual violence, and said more should be done to address the problem.

“Shattered lives in the sanctuary of a child’s room. Stolen childhoods during family vacations, or times that should have been innocent,” Macron said. “These testimonies, these words, these cries, no one can ignore them anymore. Against sexual violence against our children, it is now up to us to act.”

The World Health Organization say international studies show that one in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child aged under 18. Experts say sexual abuses are likely to be underestimated amid secrecy often surrounding the issue.

The outpouring of testimonies in France under the hashtag #MeTooInceste comes in the wake of child sex abuse accusations involving a prominent French political expert. That has also unleashed a wave of accounts by men revealing long-secret memories of sexual abuse by other men under the hashtag #MeTooGay.