One of France’s most prominent political commentators has resigned from his academic posts and media after being accused in a new book of incestuous sexual abuse of his stepson.
Olivier Duhamel, who has described the accusations as “personal attacks”, is accused in the book, written by his stepdaughter Camille Kouchner, of abusing his twin brother when they were 14 years old.
The book “La Familia grande”, which will be published on Thursday but has been published in the magazine L’Obs and Le Monde, has shocked French intellectual circles given Duhamel’s prominence and close connection to the elite.
While many commentators have seen France as slow to break long-standing taboos over the abuse of minors, this is not the first controversy to make headlines in the past year.
In a book published in January last year, publisher Vanessa Springora accused the award-winning author Gabriel Matzneff of abusing her while she was a minor. Movie star Adele Haenel accused director Christophe Ruggia in November 2019 of sexually harassing her when she was in her early teens.
Haenel and other French actresses also went to the French Cesar Awards in February last year after filmmaker Roman Polanski – who is wanted in the United States for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 – won best director.
‘I knew and said nothing’
Duhamel said on Twitter that after the accusations, he resigned from all his posts, including as head of the National Foundation of Political Sciences (FNSP), a body that oversees the hugely prestigious Sciences Po University.
“I resign from my posts after being the target of personal attacks because I want to preserve the institutions where I work,” said Duhamel, who has also so far presented a show on Europe 1 radio and is an analyst at LCI TV.
Camille Kouchner, now 45 and a lecturer, and her twin ailments are the children of France’s former foreign minister and co-founder of the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), Bernard Kouchner and academic Evelyne Pisier, who died in 2017.
Kouchner and Pisier separated and she married Duhamel.
“I was 14 years old and let it go on. I was 14, I knew and said nothing,” Camille Kouchner wrote in the book, according to the published excerpts.
In the book, she only names her brother as “Victor” to protect his privacy. But Le Monde said he had read the text twice and was happy for his sister to speak on his behalf.
“I confirm that what my sister has written regarding Olivier Duhamel’s actions towards me is correct,” Victor told Le Monde.
In an interview with L’Obs, Kouchner said the book revealed the extent to which Duhamel and Pisier’s group of left-wing intellectual friends, some of them known in France, knew what was going on.
“Of course I thought my book might seem obscene because of my family’s fame. Then I thought to myself, that’s exactly what needs to be done,” she said.
In a statement released by his lawyer, Bernard Kouchner said that a “heavy secret that has weighed on us for too long has been happily removed. I applaud my daughter Camille’s courage”.