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In France, Man Arrested After Video Of Harassment Goes Viral

A video showing a man punching a woman, posted by Marie Laguerre, has resulted in a man being taken into custody.
Marie Laguerre
Screenshot by NPR
A video showing a man punching a woman, posted by Marie Laguerre, has resulted in a man being taken into custody.

Police have taken a man into custody over the violent assault of 22-year-old Marie Laguerre on the streets of Paris.

A viral video caught on a security camera shows a man punching Laguerre in the face after she apparently screamed at him to stop making lewd remarks to her. It galvanized many French citizens to take action against sexual harassment.

According to French public radio Franceinfo, the 25-year-old suspect had been undergoing psychiatric treatment at a Parisian hospital for the past month. He was taken into police custody after leaving the hospital. Authorities have not officially released his name.

Apparently his stay at the hospital was not connected to the incident caught on video.

The man has not been formally charged with a crime, according to The Associated Press. "Magistrates will now decide whether to put him under formal investigation for sexual harassment and violence," the wire service reports. "The formal investigation is a first step towards an indictment."

Laguerre will have to identify the suspect in custody on Wednesday, French public radio adds.

The CCTV video, which has been viewed more than 6 million times after it was posted by Laguerre, shows a man walking past her on the street. He verbally harassed her, she said, and she then told him to "shut up" and continued walking.

The man then stops and grabs an ashtray from the cafe next to him. He hurls it in Laguerre's direction and then walks over to her and punches her in the face. Witnesses at the cafe appear shocked, and some stand up to confront the man. After a brief discussion, he walks away.

"This is an unacceptable behaviour. It happens everyday, everywhere, and I don't know a single woman who doesn't have a similar story," Laguerre said in caption to the video. "I am sick of feeling unsafe walking in the street. Things need to change, and they need to change now."

Since the video went viral, Laguerre has started a website called Nous Toutes Harcèlement, which means We Are All Harassed, for people to share their own experiences.

The violent video gave new energy to a push for stricter legislation against sexual violence. As NPR's Colin Dwyer reported, French lawmakers approved new anti-sexual harassment laws earlier this month.

One of the measures outlaws "sexual harassment in the street, rendering catcalling and lewd or degrading comments a crime punishable by on-the-spot fines of up to 750 euros — or more than $870," Dwyer reported. New legislation also implements stricter protection for minors under 15 years old, "making it easier for alleged underage rape victims to prove a lack of consent and extending the deadline to file their complaints by a decade."

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.