Catherine Fournier: “I was afraid to live with this label”

Catherine Fournier:

Catherine Fournier’s appearance on the show Everyone talks about it on Sunday evening was an expected moment, as the young politician revealed this week that she was the victim of former Rimouski member of the Parti Québécois (PQ) Harold LeBel, convicted of sexual assault.

The Mayor of Longueuil returned to the difficult stages that pushed her into 2020 – almost three years after the facts – to denounce his attacker. It was for the sake of consistency, but mainly because she had obtained the guarantee that her identity could be protected if a legal process were initiated, that she had made this choice. It turned out, however, that the identity of the chosen one quickly leaked.

“It’s a long journey, at the beginning I had chosen to put it in a small box in my head, says the mayor. I told myself that denial was a lot easier than the alternative of denouncing”.

It’s not because we want to forget that we forget

Catherine Fournier, mayoress of Longueuil

Catherine Fournier admitted having had difficulty taking the legal route, although this is the approach she advocates with victims of sexual assault, and this despite the support she enjoyed, by virtue of her position. She explained that she wanted to protect her loved ones and feared for her career.

“I did not want to take the path of the justice system. I matured this decision for several years. I didn't want to live with this label, I was afraid of the potential consequences on my professional development”, lists the Longueuilloise.

“I judged myself a lot at the start”

The young politician admitted to being surprised by her initial reaction, but believes that her choice to remain silent for a moment was guided by fear. Being sexually assaulted by someone you think you know well generates a surprise that can be paralyzing, said Catherine Fournier.

“I never thought I would react that way. I even judged myself a lot at the start. In a context where we know the person, what differs is the effect of surprise. He’s not the person we know. We are faced with a stranger and we wonder how far it can go, ”testified the young woman.

When he began to be very insistent, I clearly expressed my refusal to him.

Catherine Fournier, Mayor of Longueuil

Catherine Fournier also deplored the fact that her promise of anonymity had been broken, when several pieces of information allowing him to be identified were disclosed. She also announced that former PQ MP Stéphane Bédard will donate $10,000 to the Quebec Regrouping of Centers for Aid and the Fight against Sexual Assault (CALACS), following an agreement, for not having respected the publication ban on his identity.

The mayor called this episode “the worst day of my life”.

“I was so disappointed because the people who accompanied me through the justice system from the first day I filed a complaint did a very good job and took all the measures to protect my identity. I felt dispossessed of my choice,” she recalls.

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