INTERVIEW. Fiona Ferro case: “I knew I had to speak to free myself”, says Maître Isabelle Colombani, the player’s lawyer

INTERVIEW.  Fiona Ferro case: "I knew I had to speak to free myself", says Maître Isabelle Colombani, the player's lawyer

“A difficult but necessary step.” On Friday, September 2, Fiona Ferro came out of her silence through a press release, indicating that she was taking “act of the position of Pierre Bouteyre in [son] accusation of acts of rape and sexual assault by a person in authority,” dating from between 2012 and 2015 when he was between 15 and 18 years old. The tennis player, who filed a complaint on February 25, recalled that she was not “not consent and that the rapes and sexual assaults were committed out of moral restraint”.

After several months of a preliminary investigation, followed by a confrontation between Fiona Ferro and her former coach, the latter was charged on August 19. He has also been placed under judicial surveillance with obligation of care, and is prohibited from training minors and having contact with Fiona Ferro. He faces up to 20 years in prison and is presumed innocent. According to Pierre Bouteyre’s lawyer, Me Virginie Pin, “he acknowledges the materiality of the facts but denies the accusation of rape”. According to the latter, the sexual relations took place during trips abroad, but “without coercion and without violence”. It also evokes a romantic relationship between the player and her coach at the time.

For her part, a few hours after Fiona Ferro spoke, Maître Isabelle Colombani, a lawyer at the Draguignan bar association, gave news of the player and told franceinfo: sport her trip, which convinced her to file a complaint.

franceinfo: sport: What state of mind is Fiona Ferro in since the media coverage of this whole thing?

Master Isabelle Colombani: She is already a fighter. She is not a top player for nothing. But it is true that it is a bit complicated, because she did not expect this case to be publicized. Since the publication in the press, there has been a bit of a ripple.

I’m going to be very honest with you, what worries her the most today is Pierre Bouteyre’s defense system. Because she admits the facts but disputes the rape, saying that she consented. So she has a lot of anger because she is someone she loved very much despite everything that happened. When we prepared the confrontation, I told Fiona that she was going to challenge, because it is usual. She thought that despite what had happened, he would be honest and admit the facts.

What was the trigger that pushed her to come see you?

She very naively believed that by parting with this coach, she would be able to forget. When she came of age and stopped collaborating with Pierre Bouteyre, she thought that she would be able to overcome this ordeal.

“In fact, she realized that every time she ran into him, at clubs or tournaments where he was accompanying other players, she couldn’t play afterward.”

Maître Isabelle Colombani, lawyer for Fiona Ferro

on franceinfo: sport

Great anguish, stress and even anger invaded her. She consulted a psychologist for help. But when she realized that it was not working and that it was even getting worse, she understood that she had to act. She felt it even more when she had her first childhood love and that story prevented her from living a normal story. She first spoke to her parents about it in late 2021, before making the decision to file a complaint.

In what mood did he come to see you in January 2022?

He knew that he had to speak to free himself but he was very afraid to do so, not in relation to Pierre Bouteyre’s reaction, but in relation to the gaze of the others. It was hard for her to know what others would think of her after all this: would they continue to see her as Fiona Ferro the tennis player, or would she become Fiona Ferro the player raped by her coach?

Between filing the complaint in February and the confrontation in August, how did Fiona Ferro experience these six months of investigation?

Lived the roller coaster. When the complaint was filed, she was relieved and she felt a sense of well-being for a few weeks. Then, during the time of the preliminary investigation, which extends over several months, we are not aware of anything. We do not know what is done, who is listened to.

“The wait was unbearable for her, until August 16 when she received the phone call from the investigator telling her that Pierre Bouteyre was in custody and the confrontation.”

Maître Isabelle Colombani, lawyer for Fiona Ferro

on franceinfo: sport

Therefore, you are warned the day before for the next day. It is quite violent.

Are you questioning your career?

That is the question for which she has no answer. She expects a lot from what the French Tennis Federation (FFT) can offer her or not. Whether or not she can benefit from moral support.

Because he realized that since he left Pierre Bouteyre he feels a difficulty in his relationship with the man in general and with the coach. I think it will take the month of September to settle down and digest all this. He also needs to rediscover the desire to play, which he lost today.

Precisely the FFT gave him its support on Friday, September 2, as well as many players on the circuit such as Alizé Cornet, Caroline Garcia or Nicolas Mahut.

Yes, and it warmed his heart a lot. She receives a lot of messages, some of which go straight to her heart, and that affect her especially, like her exchange with Caroline Garcia, who is in the middle of a tournament. These messages from her did him a lot of good.

What’s next in the case?

The judge will order rogatory commissions, that is, psychological and psychiatric expertise of the accused and also of Fiona Ferro. Letters of request will also be made to listen to the two retinues, as well as to all the players he has trained, such as Alizé Cornet. Fiona will have to be heard in the coming weeks by the investigating judge and perhaps ask for a new confrontation.

“Like any investigative procedure, in criminal matters, it can last up to two years. You have to take that into account.”

Maître Isabelle Colombani, lawyer for Fiona Ferro

on franceinfo: sport

Fiona knows it, but now we have to find out what she will be able to do in her life as a woman and a player during these two years. Because your life is marked by the different judicial stages and we know that the time of justice in France is particularly long. And a lot of times, it’s classic in these kinds of cases, you start to recover, and then there’s an act, or a summons, something that brings you down. 24 months of procedure is a long time, especially when you are an elite athlete. Two years in a career is a lot.

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