The French Equestrian Federation sues for defamation a victim of sexual violence

At the end of March, Amélie Quéguiner, 51-year-old equestrian center director, receives a letter she does not expect: a summons to appear before the Périgueux criminal court following complaints filed by the French Equestrian Federation ( FFE) and by its president, Serge Lecomte. She who was the victim of rape of a man who was her coach and stepfather when she was a minor is attacked in defamation for passages of a testimony published on February 6, 2021 on the site of “Obs” , where she tells her story, talks about the freedom of speech movement in the sports world in the face of sexual violence and the obstacles encountered.

In this text, she also questions the real desire of the French Equestrian Federation to tackle the phenomenon of sexual violence. And reports, based in particular on a Médiapart investigation published in May 2020, that the president of the federation Serge Lecomte made work in his own equestrian center a teacher who was sentenced (15 days in prison suspended on September 16, 2013 , for sexual assault on a minor) “Kept in post for seven months before being dismissed under pressure from the staff”. Amélie explains that this man was then hired at “A job as a truck driver and FFE stand coordinator at major events”, before being the subject of new complaints and another conviction (November 20, 2017, to one year in prison suspended and tested for sexual assault on three minors). In her testimony, Amélie Quéguiner denounces “An indecent and backward rape culture” and criticize him “Scandalous and revolting behavior” of the president whom she indicates that ” has nothing To do at the head of a sports federation. So many elements pointed out by the complaint as being defamatory.

“And there, I decided to publish the story of my assault on Facebook”

Reached by phone, President Serge Lecomte justifies his complaint: “I’m sick of being dragged through the mud, I didn’t cover this teacher, I just didn’t know about his 2013 conviction. If he left the club, it’s for d ‘other reasons: because things were wrong with his wife, who also worked at the club. I don’t see why the federation wouldn’t have hired him as a driver afterwards, we’ve known him for fifteen years! One cannot, under the pretext of being a victim, defame the federation and its president. Ms. Quéguiner, we helped her, we forwarded the files to the Ministry of Sports, as we always do. However, it has not stopped spreading in the press with invented things. “” Anything made up?, answers the horsewoman. But the facts of which I speak were made public in the media, which themselves, were not attacked! “ In June 2020, the Mediapart site had the headline: “Pédocriminalité: the president of the French Equestrian Federation had been well informed. Amélie Quéguiner is convinced that these defamation complaints have only one objective:

They want to silence me. And through me, the many victims in horse riding, who told me their story. “

“You give riding a retrograde image”

In fact, the complaints fit into a particular calendar: Amélie Quéguiner is summoned to court on April 28. The day before, April 27, the second round of the election for the presidency of the FFE will take place. And this even though the sports body is shaken by cases of sexual violence and that it is under investigation by the General Inspectorate, initiated by the Ministry of Sports. ” It has been a while since, through open letters and on my Facebook account, I have asked the federation and its president to adopt a strong position on these issues and that I point out the timidity of their actions., explains Amélie Quéguiner. Why are they attacking me today? Because of the elections? “

A certainty in any case, the “Amélie Quéguiner case” is at the heart of the standoff between the current president Serge Lecomte, 70-year-old candidate for a sixth term, and his main opponent, Anne de Sainte-Marie. “You muzzle the floor, writes Anne de Sainte-Marie, in an open letter published on Tuesday, April 13 and distributed in equestrian centers. You show the face of an intimidating federation for victims who have found the resources and the courage to speak out. ” And the opponent to the president to continue: “You damage the image of our clubs, by being the first and the only one of the 115 French sports federations to take legal action against a victim. You give riding a backward and backward looking image. You run the risk of creating distrust among the French vis-à-vis our sport, and keeping their children away from our clubs. ” A letter to which the president of the FFE responded publicly the next day: “The subject of sexual violence is exploited for electoral reasons and used to exist better in the media without worrying about tarnishing the image of horse riding. (…) However, the federation is at the forefront of listening to the victims of this scourge of society which goes beyond the very sphere of our sport. “

“He told me it was normal”: the fight of Audrey who accuses her riding trainer of rape

The image stakes are high for a federation which knows it is under surveillance. The association Colosse aux pieds d’argile, which is developing actions to prevent sexual violence in sport, denounced these legal proceedings in a press release published on Friday, April 16: “We are in no way united with this legal action, and as such we have asked the federation for explanations. Depending on the information provided, we reserve the right to denounce the agreement that binds us. “ Between now and the elections, will Serge Lecomte be able to hold his position? Anne de Sainte-Marie believes that the federal committee, an elected body representing the different sectors of the horse, “Could request the withdrawal of the complaint”. The secretary general of the said committee, whom we reached by telephone, takes refuge behind a cautious “The legal service is working, we are waiting for the election of the future president to discuss it” … In other words, depending on whether the president-elect will be Serge Lecomte or Anne de Sainte-Marie, the outcome of this complaint may not be the same.

The standoff should harden in the coming days, especially since it is now taking place publicly. The coming week promises to be hectic for the Equestrian Federation.

A year after Sarah Abitbol, ​​confessions of athletes who have broken the silence on sexual violence

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