France sees rise in lawsuits for sexual assault and rape

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France's Interior Ministry says it has seen a sharp rise of the number of lawsuits filed for sexual crimes at the end of last year, in the wake of the scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Statistics released Thursday show the number of lawsuits for rape rose by 17.9 percent in the last quarter of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016. Lawsuits filed for other sexual crimes, including sexual harassment, rose by 31.5 percent. Over 80 percent of the victims were women.

Interior minister Gerard Collomb made the link with Weinstein case on Europe 1 radio Thursday, saying it had the effect of "freeing speech" and that victims are "hesitating less to file lawsuits."

France has seen an active "MeToo" movement, encouraging women to go to the police.