Adèle Haenel: France ‘Missed the Boat’ on #MeToo
PARIS — When Adèle Haenel said late last year that she had been abused as a child by a movie director, she became the first prominent actress in France to speak publicly about abuse in the country’s film industry. By then, the #MeToo movement was already two years old.
Families argued about her story at the dinner table. Colleagues discussed it in workplaces. Brigitte Macron, France’s first lady, said Ms. Haenel, 31, deserved “great respect.”
In a recent interview with The New York Times — Ms. Haenel’s first since she aired the accusations in November — the actress urged President Emmanuel Macron’s government to step up its efforts to tackle violence against women.
“The judicial system needs to change to better treat victims of sexual violence,” she said. “On all levels.”
The director Christophe Ruggia, whom Ms. Haenel accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate contact that she said began when she was 12, has denied the accusations through his lawyers. In January, he was charged with sexual assault on a minor under 15, and an inquiry is underway.
Although Ms. Haenel has stayed quiet since airing the accusations, similar stories have followed, including an accusation by the photographer Valentine Monnier that the movie director Roman Polanski raped her in 1975 when she was 18. (Mr. Polanski denies the accusation, although he has previously pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in the United States.)
A few weeks before the American release of her latest movie, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Ms. Haenel sat for an interview in Paris. It was followed by a telephone conversation, and the transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
You shared your story three months ago and haven’t spoken publicly since then. How was your testimony received?
My story was like the last gram in a chemistry experiment that made everything emerge. It resonated because French society had gone through a thought process about #MeToo.
I am part of the film world, but today I want to hear from women from other spheres, in academia, in organizations. The enormous number of handwritten letters, messages, emails — from women, but also from men — who had been moved by my story also made me realize that we lacked media stories on survivors of sexual violence in France.
How would you describe how #MeToo has unfolded in France?
There is a #MeToo paradox in France: It is one of the countries where the movement was the most closely followed on social media, but from a political perspective and in cult...