She Accused a Moroccan Pop Star of Rape. Online, She Was Vilified.

3:58 PM Aida Alami 0 Comments


MARRAKESH, Morocco — Many women who have spoken out against sexual aggression by celebrities have received sympathy, and the men they have accused have often turned contrite in the face of public scorn.

Not so for Laura Prioul, a 21-year-old Frenchwoman, who says she was beaten and raped last year in a Paris hotel, where a housekeeper found her partially naked and bruised in a hallway.
The man she accuses — a 32-year-old Moroccan pop star, Saad Lamjarred — has a music video with a half-billion YouTube views, a zealous fan base, a prominent family and fame enough that King Mohammed VI helped hire a top-shelf legal team to defend him, according to the Moroccan state news agency.

Since Ms. Prioul pressed charges last year, she had been so threatened by his fans that she has gone into virtual hiding. The case has reverberated through the Arab world and North Africa, where it has illuminated the risks women may face when they speak up against sexual violence in countries where rape is often excused and women are more likely to face condemnation, and even prosecution, than the men accused of aggression.

Mr. Lamjarred has publicly maintained his innocence in this case, as well as in two others where he was also accused of assault and the women later withdrew their complaints.

Ms. Prioul says she is determined to seek justice. This month, she released an internet video from an undisclosed location, describing it as a desperate attempt to air her story, clear her name and protect her family.

“I finally felt ready, although it was particularly difficult, to publish my story,” Ms. Prioul wrote in an email. She and her mother had not granted any interviews since the episode but spoke by telephone to The New York Times. “Finally we are giving a voice to victims of sexual violence around the world.”
After Ms. Prioul pressed charges, Mr. Lamjarred was arrested and spent several months in detention in France before being freed on bail in April. Upon his release, he published a video showing himself dancing and singing in the streets of Paris. He is now awaiting a potential trial and cannot leave France.

For her part, Ms. Prioul, who works in the hotel and restaurant industry, has removed herself from social media and doesn’t go out much for fear of being recognized.

“You will pay for this, you will die,” reads one of the messages she received and showed to The Times. “We are going to kill your mother in front of you.”

Ms. Prioul, then 20, was visiting Paris with friends when the assault occurred, she said. Since then, she has returned only when the court or the police summon her. She says that many websites have smeared her, saying that she was a professional escort.

“The purpose of my video is to give my testimony in all sincerity and to stop the rumors about me for a time, to get a little break,” she said.

Continue reading on the New York Times' website.

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