The alleged victims of a female French minister who has been accused of conducting invasive gynaecological checks have described their ordeals.
Secretary of State for Development Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, 46, is the subject of two complaints from patients, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who have accused the minister of carrying out rectal and vaginal examinations without consent.
One patient, who spoke anonymously to French television channel TF1, described a vaginal examination carried out by Zacharopoulou without consent as ‘brutal’ and ‘violent’.
She claimed Zacharopoulou started the exam ‘without a word, without asking for my consent at all’ and told her ‘There’s no point crying’ when she objected.
The second victim, speaking anonymously, told French media they felt they ‘could no longer breathe’ when Zacharopoulou allegedly carried out a rectal examination without asking for consent.
Zacharopoulou has yet to comment publicly on the allegations.
It is the latest in a series of sex scandals in the Macron administration – ones which have led to accusations that the head of state is too relaxed about serious criminal allegations and refuses to sack those involved.
Secretary of State for Development Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, 46, is the subject of two complaints from patients, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who have accused the minister of carrying out rectal and vaginal examinations without consent
A patient who was treated by Zacharopoulou at Trousseau Hospital in Paris for endometriosis, a disease that causes pain during menstruation, said they ‘couldn’t talk’ after the now-minister started a rectal exam without consent.
They said they had refused the exam but Zacharopoulou went ahead with the invasive procedure anyway.
‘I was totally frozen. I couldn’t talk. I could no longer breathe. I was crying in silence,’ they said.
A second patient who was treated at the same hospital in 2016 claimed Zacharopoulou told them not to get upset when she started an alleged non-consensual vaginal exam.
‘I was taken by surprise. I burst into tears because it’s brutal, it’s violent and it’s very painful.’
She added: ‘Even if I had booked the appointment myself… I wasn’t expecting that, and it has affected my whole life, my life as a woman, as a mother and my professional life too.’
‘My whole life is affected by the post-traumatic state in which I am now in, which is very difficult to handle.’
A source at the Paris public prosecutor’s office on Wednesday told the Marianne news outlet that the latest case related to Zacharopoulou’s time as a gynaecologist.
‘An enquiry has been opened into two alleged acts of rape which were allegedly committed in the suspect’s medical duties,’ said the source.
The first complaint was filed on May 25, and the investigation was opened two days later ‘to determine whether the facts are likely to fall within the scope of criminality’. The second complaint was filed on June 16.
Examining magistrates are now working on the enquiry with a specialist police brigade, meaning Zacharopoulou has already been interviewed at length.
Zacharopoulou, a Greece-born former MEP, joined the French government on May 20 – before last Sunday’s disastrous election results, which saw President Emmanuel Macron lose is parliamentary majority
Zacharopoulou, a Greece-born former MEP, joined the French government on May 20 – before last Sunday’s disastrous election results, which saw President Emmanuel Macron lose is parliamentary majority.
Like new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, Zacharopoulou is considered to be one of the most powerful female politicians in Mr Macron’s government.
Zacharopoulou gained prominence in 2015 by campaigning for greater public awareness of endometriosis together with actress Julie Gayet, who this year married former French president Francois Hollande.
Despite the accusations, she has kept her role in the government, which beyond Development also covers Francophonie (French-speaking countries) and International Partnerships.
There was no initial comment about the accusations from Zacharopoulou, or any of her government colleagues.
Damien Abad, France’s Minister for Solidarity and Disabled People, is also facing intense scrutiny following accusations of rape from two women.
Both accuse Abad, 42, of forcing them to have unwanted sexual relationships with him in late 2010 and early 2011.
One of the accusers filed two complaints with police in 2012 and 2017, but they were later closed with no action taken.
Damien Abad, France’s Minister for Solidarity and Disabled People, is also facing intense scrutiny following accusations of rape from two women
Abad strongly denies the allegations, saying that his arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the limbs, would make it physically impossible for him to commit rape.
Macron has meanwhile stuck with Abad, saying there was no reason to sack him because of unproven allegations.
In July 2020, Macron also expressed his wish to act as ‘guarantor of the presumption of innocence’ and ‘not give in to emotion’, when he refused to dismiss his Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, despite a rape accusation against him.
After closing the case against Darmanin without any further action, the Paris public prosecutor’s office requested that the case be dismissed at the beginning of 2022.
It was the same with Nicolas Hulot, Macron’s former Minister responsible for Energy Transition.
MHulot was implicated in a sexual violence case in 2018, but the head of state did not sack him, warning against ‘an inquisition.’
This led to fierce criticism of Macron from former women’s rights minister Laurence Rossignol, who said: ‘Emmanuel Macron has not understood that we cannot treat accusations of sexual violence, saying ‘It does not exist, move along, there is nothing to see, I will stand my ground.’