Man who hit woman in the face in viral video has been sentenced with jail time
Back in July 2018, a disturbing CCTV video spread over social media. The footage showed a Parisian man violently assaulting a woman after allegedly verbally harassing her. Marie Laguerre was walking through a busy street when the man insulted her, before reportedly throwing an ashtray at her and slapping her in front of dozens of onlookers. In response, Laguerre uploaded a video of the incident to YouTube, in order to spread awareness of the kind of misogynistic violence she claims women are subjected to daily, as well as the societal apathy around the subject. As of July 28, the video boasts over six million views.
Laguerre captioned the video: "Last night, as I was coming back home in Paris, I walked past a man who sexually/verbally harassed me. He wasn't the first one and I can't accept being humiliated like that, so I replied 'shut up.' He then threw an ashtray at me, before rushing back to punch me, in the middle of the street, in front of dozens of people. This is an unacceptable behaviour. It happens every day, everywhere and I don't know a single woman who doesn't have a similar story. I am sick of feeling unsafe [walking] in the street. Things need to change, and they need to change now."
However, this week the culprit responsible for the assault, who is known only as "Firas M," has been sentenced in court for his crimes. French newspaper Le Parisien described the perpetrator as violent, disturbed, and "capable of hitting his mother." He will serve six months of jail time and is also required to pay a fine of €2,000 (approximately $2300.00). Lawyers also stated that Firas M will undergo treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, as well as psychiatric help. However, the sentencing has provoked further controversy in France, since Firas M was ultimately convicted of aggravated violence with a weapon and not on sexual harassment charges. This was a result of new legislation passed after the altercation occurred.
Speaking to Le Parisien about the incident in a later interview, Laguerre stated: "I knew he was coming to hit me, it was clear from his gestures, it was clear from the exchange of words and his intentions. He rushed towards me. I looked at him straight in the eyes. And I took the blow with the utmost pride just to show him that if he thought he could put me back in my place, it hadn't worked."
Although the verdict is not what many activists have hoped for, one positive thing to take away is that Laguerre's video has sent a powerful message out regarding violence towards women. In the aftermath of the incident, Laguerre personally established an online platform for women, allowing them to anonymously share their stories of being victims of public abuse and harassment. She received over a thousand contributions in the space of the week, so it's clear that the problem is a wide-reaching one.