16-yr battle to justice in France

$30,630 of $35k goal

Raised by 435 people in 31 months
Claire McFarlane  Byron Bay, NSW
Hi!

My name is Claire and I am a South African born Australian. In July 1999, I was was brutally raped and left for dead on the streets of Paris, France. My attacker was caught 10-years later through DNA and for the past 6-years I have been navigating the French justice system.  

The French judicial system requires me to be a civil party in the prosecution and pay for all the criminal proceeding fees myself. To date, it has cost me more than AUD$35,000.

The first court hearing was held in November 2011 and my attacker was sentenced to 12-years of jail time.  He was granted parole after serving less than 4 (information that the French court's refuse to confirm as they believe the victim has no right to know).

My request to receive a small amount of compensation was rejected by the relevant French court. I am  now appealing the court’s decision and could create a legal precedent for victims of rape in France. I need your help.

The appeals process has been relentless. I was summoned to testify on 5 June 2014. Due to a legal technicality, this hearing was adjoined to 19 February 2015. The opposing party then decided to play dirty, and created a complication that forced the hearing to be adjoined again. 

The hearing finally went ahead on 2 July 2015. The outcome - I don't know. Much to my dismay a decision will only be handed down on 1 October 2015. 

Since June 2014, I have incurred additional legals fees as well as the cost of multiple flights, accommodation and living expenses in France . I have not been allowed o work in France because they only granted me a 'visitors' visa. 

I have tried so hard not to be a victim but the French system keeps dragging me down. I have sought counseling and medical support to make it through as there are many dark and desperate moments.

I feel like I am the criminal and I have to battle for my rights. 

I am overwhelmed by the ongoing expense of surviving such a violent crime in France. I feel that I have completed a civil duty by taking an extremely dangerous man of the streets of Paris so that he does not hurt any more women. It is such a struggle to come to terms with the fact that I may never be reimbursed by the French government for doing so. 

This journey to finding justice will cost me more than AUD$35,000.

I am seeking your support and help to cover some of these expenses. Whatever you can spare, no amount is too little, and every little bit helps. I would like to donate a third of the donations received to support women who are victims of sexual assault in Paris.

I thank you from the deepest part of my heart for helping me find peace as a victim after battling such a complicated legal system for 16-years.

You can read more of my story here: www.clairemc.com
Follow me on facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/clairesbattletojustice

By sharing my story, I am finally empowering myself, giving a voice to others in similar situations and ultimately being a catalyst for change.
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Update 24
Posted by Claire McFarlane
11 months ago
As 2015 comes to a close and I move on from the legal battle in France, it also seems like the right time to bring an end to my gofundme campaign.

Your generosity, kindness and words of support have helped me through some of the hardest moments these past 18 months. For many years I faced this battle alone and I have come to realise, that through sharing my story, I am not alone. Reaching out and knowing that there are people around the world concerned for me and my ordeal has given me so much strength.

It has also shown me that it is possible to make a difference and that my story can be a catalyst for change on a global scale. I am feeling excited (and a little daunted) by my next project. On 18 July 2016, I begin running 16kms of beach in every coastal country of the world (184 countries) to raise awareness and funds to support survivors of rape. It is called ProjectBRA and you can read more about it here: www.projectbra.org
Or follow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/projectbra

My gofundme campaign wasn’t able to reach the goal amount but it came close and all of the incredible donations have helped lessen the financial burden of my ordeal in France. I am also donating a third of this amount to a non-profit organisation in Paris who help survivors of rape.

The financial ‘damage’ as a victim of crime in France has been significant. I paid from the minute I was attacked. All of the emergency and medical cost associated with my care was at my own expense. This included time in hospital, blood tests, medication (retro-viral for HIV, contraceptive & antibiotics), specialist procedures, follow-up treatment and any physiological support. Then there is the criminal proceedings. I have spent over $40,000 fulfilling a ‘civil duty’ in France. This amount does not include all of the flights, accommodation and impact to my career. I’ve chosen not to go into these details at it would cause me a great deal of distress. When I made the decision to legally pursue my attacker, I knew there would be a financial cost but I had no idea that it would reach such high amounts.

If you are still wondering what actually happened in France, here is a brief recap:

1. July 2009, ten years after the attack, the man who raped me is apprehended through DNA.
2. In order for me to have any legal rights in the criminal proceedings, I have to declare myself a civil party, find a lawyer and pay for all legal costs.
3. In November 2011, my attacker was sentenced at the Cour d’Assise to 12 years in jail.
4. After the Cour d’Assise, the civil component kicked in and my lawyer took charge of securing compensation.
5. In October 2013, my lawyer accidentally found out that my attacker was released from jail since June. He served less than four years. The courts, to this day, refuse to officially advise me on his release based on the argument that the victim has no right to know.
6. In November 2013 (two years after the criminal hearing), my lawyer informs me that the compensation request has been refused. Her recommendation is to appeal.
7. My case had become pertinent in France and if I won the appeal I would create a legal precedent that could change the outcome for other victims in my situation (and quite literally the law). Knowing this, I chose to go ahead with the appeal.
8. April 2014, I am summoned to appear at the Cour d'Appel in Paris on 5 June 2014 to make a statement. I was living in Australia at the time.
9. May 2014, I decided it was time to share my story and I created the gofundme campaign.
10. The appeal hearing on 5 June was adjourned to 19 February 2015. The presiding judge deemed that the debate should be based on another article of the law.
11. I returned to Paris for 19 February 2015, only to find out the that opposing party had played ‘dirty’ and the hearing was adjourned again. We had a strong feeling that the opposition was attempting to get me to back down. I had already come this far, I wanted an outcome. We agreed on a final date for the hearing, 2 July 2015.
12. On 2 July 2015, the appeal hearing went ahead and I was able to give my statement. As we walked out of the court room, my lawyer told me that the verdict would only be handed down on 1 October 2015 (three more months of waiting).
13. Fortunately, I didn’t have to reappear in court for the verdict and on 1 October my lawyer telephoned me with the news. We had lost!
14. What made the loss even worse was that the legal argument for the decision gave no concrete reason for rejecting the claim. The decision had nothing to do with money, as the courts could have made a gesture and allocated a token amount. The decision was purely based on not creating this legal precedent.
15. Sixteen years is how long it has taken to have final closure. I was in a legal battle with the French system for over six years. It still baffles me how a system can allow a victim to be dragged through such a long, arduous, gruesome legal process and not expect any damage to be done. The Cour d’Appel officially declared that there was no 'damage' caused by the legal proceedings despite making me relive my ordeal over and over again ten years after the attack.

I was so disappointed and shocked. It took me a few days to rationalise the outcome and realise that France was not ready to improve their legal system. More victims would have to suffer through horrendous legal proceedings before change can happen.

I understand quite clearly now why only 2% of rape victims in France choose to be a civil party in criminal proceedings.

None of this has been a waste and even though I have not been able to leave my mark on the French Justice, I have made a difference in the lives of other rape survivors. Sharing my story has had an impact that is far reaching. Little by little, I am helping to remove the taboo around rape and to slowly open a dialogue for further change.

That fateful night in July 1999 could have destroyed my life forever, but instead it shattered my world into lots of broken pieces that I have slowly put back together to reveal my life purpose and to make me a stronger, braver, more peaceful version of myself.

If you wish to stay a part of my journey and follow the adventures of ProjectBRA, please check my blog for updates and follow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/projectbra

Thank you! Merci beaucoup!

Claire
Always take time to smell the roses!
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Update 23
Posted by Claire McFarlane
16 months ago
Celebrating the small changes because eventually they add up to huge results!

Revealing and exposing all of the messiness, damage and eventual beauty behind my rape has helped me to heal more than I could ever imagine. Writing and talking about the rape and the battle with the French justice system has given me hope, meaning and insight that there is nothing ‘normal’ about being a victim in France. By speaking the truth, I am able to expose how a system fails it citizens and therefore evoque change. 

On top of this powerful healing experience, my story has also been the catalyst for some small positive outcomes around the world. I would like to take a moment to tell you about them with the desire to share some of the good that can come from surviving a violent crime. 

With not having a ‘regular’ day job and the expense of the legal battle becoming too much for me to handle alone, I began this gofundme campaign in May 2014. I had read many wonderful stories about crowdfunding and possibly it could help me. The support has been incredible and also initiated separate fundraising events. 

It has been very important for me to share funds raised with others, especially organisations supporting victims of rape. I hold firmly to the belief that it is in giving that we receive and donate a third of all funds raised. 

Here is how your support has helped me to make a difference so far:

√ The Lismore Women’s Health and Resource Centre, a local non-profit organisation in the Byron Bay Shire was able to pay for 14 counseling sessions for women on low income thanks to the donation from the CrossFit Byron Bay fundraiser held in May 2014. 

√ My collaboration with a non-profit organisation in Paris helping victims of rape, the CFCV, is making a huge impact for foreign victims of rape. CFCV will receive a third of the gofundme campaign money with the specific purpose of translating information brochures into English. This has never been done before and hopefully by providing foreign rape victims with information in English they will know how to seek help and understand their rights. The brochures will be made available at the tourist office, in hospitals, police stations and foreign embassies. 

√ On 26 September 2015, my crossfit box in Geneva, CrossFit GVA, will also be hosting a fundraiser to help create awareness around violence against women and to support my campaign. A third of the funds raised will go towards a Geneva-based organisation supporting victims of rape. 

Little by little, all of these acts of kindness and generosity move us one step closer to making massive change. 

I thank you deeply for your support and encourage you to share this positive message with others. 

You can read the full version of this update on my blog: www.clairemc.com

Wishing you much peace, harmony, laughter and love
Claire
Xxx
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Update 22
Posted by Claire McFarlane
16 months ago
Your feedback is important to me / Ton avis compte pour moi

Do you enjoy receiving regular updates on my story? Would you follow me on Facebook?
What do you enjoy reading?

I have been sharing much of my experience and story via my blog ( www.clairemc.com ) and I also post updates to Facebook ( www.facebook.com/clairesbattletojustice )
It's actually quite a challenge figuring out the best content, the approach to social media and how to stay connected with you. At the moment, much of it is trial and error.

It has also been brought to my attention that if I want to start getting sponsorship for the big run next year, a strong following is always favourable. This basically means more likes on Facebook and your engagement.

I would love to receive your feedback. Please leave your comments here, on Facebook or drop me a message.

If you are open to liking and sharing my story, please click on the link: www.facebook.com/clairesbattletojustice

Big big thanks for all of your support.
Claire
Xxx
What are your thoughts?
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Update 21
Posted by Claire McFarlane
16 months ago
Tomorrow, the 18th of July, marks sixteen years since that fateful night in Paris. Sixteen years since I was brutally raped and left for dead. A moment in time, when one man’s action created great suffering, damage and pain for many years to come. Little did this man know that the young woman he chose to destroy was indestructible. Her body was beaten, her mind was weak, she faced denial and all of it’s terrible consequences, she was victimised over and over again by a system that deemed rape an inconvenience, she paid heavily for her rights as a woman, but in the end, she made it through. Today this woman stands before you, strong and unwavering in her desire to take such great suffering and turn it into positive change.

This is why marking the sixteen years tomorrow has deep importance for me. I know now that remembering the past does not need to be cause for sadness, but rather a moment to celebrate all of the lasting change that my story can make to the life of others who have been raped.

Since sharing my story last year, I have been able to give strength to other women. I’m not exactly sure how many, I only know about the ones who have so bravely shared their stories with me. My vision has always been simple, if through sharing my story I can change the life of even just one woman, it has all been worth it.

My gofundme campaign has also allowed me to make a difference. Right from the start, I was adamant about sharing a third of all monies raised with non-profit organisations directly supporting victims of rape.

Last year, CrossFit Byron Bay held a fundraiser to help boost the gofundme campaign before I headed off to Paris. It was an amazing event and we had so many generous donations and sponsors. A third of the money raised went to the Lismore Women’s Health and Resource Centre (LWHRC) and helped pay for fourteen counselling sessions for women on low incomes. This is just a drop in the sea of healing, but it may have been just enough to make a difference in a few women's’ lives.

Where my story is now making a big impact is back in Paris. Last year I approached an organisation called Le Collectif Féministe Contre le Viol (CFCV) and discussed the vision behind my donation. I wanted them to use the funds to develop information brochures in English for foreign rape victims. The non-profit thought it was a great idea and even questioned why they had never thought to do it before. There are no official statistics for foreign rape victims in Paris (probably because many are terrified to face the system), but the numbers are high. The non-profit indicated to me that they receive calls every day concerning a foreign rape victim. If you count the number of days in a year, that’s already 365 foreign women raped in Paris each year.

The English brochures will be made available to the tourist office, hospitals, police stations and foreign embassies. I never had access to this kind of support sixteen years ago, so I hope that these brochures will help non-French speaking woman get the help they need in Paris and, most importantly, understand their rights.

You may ask how I plan to spend my day tomorrow?

Peacefully and with much gratitude that I’m able to enjoy the Present moment, free of my past and healing nicely.

There are also a few coffee sessions with inspiring women planned and I’m heading to CrossFit GVA for weightlifting. CrossFit has been an integral part of my healing and has given me great strength, both mental and physical.

Please join me tomorrow in remembering what I have survived, but also celebrating what I have achieved and all of the incredible change that is still to come.

You can also read more about last year's CrossFit fundraiser on my blog:
http://www.clairemc.com/#!Such-incredible-support-at-the-CrossFit-Byron-Bay-fundraiser-on-Saturday-31-May/c218b/4676FB32-3BE2-4667-8430-C7985140AA88

Peace, Harmony, Laughter and Love
Claire
Xxxx
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 1.3K total shares
John Bradford
30 months ago
1
1

Sorry my donation is so small, I live on a very small pension, and paying med bills (er, nothing like yours, however) but I figure I can periodically donate over time. I am all too aware of the pathetic attitude towards rape in France and Italy, where so often the victim is actually viewed by many of the older people in the judicial system, though not just them, as part of the cause for the rape - there are a couple of books on this systemic travesty, that it might add up to something a bit more helpful than my covering $ for a couple of cups of coffee I am sending you. Keep up the fight Ms Courage, I hope you are able to recoup your $, and live well. My sincere regards and admiration.

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David Day
30 months ago

I'm inspired by your strength and courage in speaking out when it would be so easy to give in. May you find the peace you need and may your example inspire others to take a stand against such violence

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Emma Jane
30 months ago

I will help organise donations for you, from my friends and family in Melbourne. Your courage and determination is amazing.

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James Tucker
30 months ago

I will help you out. I will pray for you and hope everything works out for you. God Bless!

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$30,630 of $35k goal

Raised by 435 people in 31 months
Created May 10, 2014
FF
$5
Fonda Ford
30 months ago
$5
Anonymous
30 months ago
MO
$5
Megan O'Neill
30 months ago

Claire, you are the type of woman that this world needs. Life can be shit, but you still did what you needed to do and for that, you are amazing.

MS
$5
Moya Gibb Smith
30 months ago
$5
Anonymous
30 months ago
DR
$5
Dave Ridley
30 months ago

Good work Claire. Your brave

M
$5
Michelle
30 months ago

Hang in there, however it ends the legal stuff will be over soon, and you can hopefully start the healing process.

$5
Anonymous
30 months ago
$5
Anonymous
30 months ago
$5
Anonymous
30 months ago
John Bradford
30 months ago
1
1

Sorry my donation is so small, I live on a very small pension, and paying med bills (er, nothing like yours, however) but I figure I can periodically donate over time. I am all too aware of the pathetic attitude towards rape in France and Italy, where so often the victim is actually viewed by many of the older people in the judicial system, though not just them, as part of the cause for the rape - there are a couple of books on this systemic travesty, that it might add up to something a bit more helpful than my covering $ for a couple of cups of coffee I am sending you. Keep up the fight Ms Courage, I hope you are able to recoup your $, and live well. My sincere regards and admiration.

+ Read More
David Day
30 months ago

I'm inspired by your strength and courage in speaking out when it would be so easy to give in. May you find the peace you need and may your example inspire others to take a stand against such violence

+ Read More
Emma Jane
30 months ago

I will help organise donations for you, from my friends and family in Melbourne. Your courage and determination is amazing.

+ Read More
James Tucker
30 months ago

I will help you out. I will pray for you and hope everything works out for you. God Bless!

+ Read More
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