“She knew she had to speak to free herself,” says Maître Isabelle Colombani, the player’s lawyer

"She knew she had to speak to free herself," says Maître Isabelle Colombani, the player's lawyer

“A difficult but necessary step.” 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 on [son] accusation of acts of rape and sexual assault by a person in authority”, dating back to between 2012 and 2015 when she was between the ages of 15 and 18. The tennis player, who filed a complaint on February 25, recalled that she was not “not consenting and that the rapes and sexual assaults were committed by moral constraint”.

After several months of a preliminary investigation, followed by a confrontation between Fiona Ferro and her former coach, the latter was indicted on August 19. He was also placed under judicial supervision with obligation of care, and is prohibited from training minors and coming into 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 recognizes the materiality of the facts but disputes the accusation of rape”. According to the latter, the sexual relations took place during trips abroad, but “without constraint 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, lawyer at the bar of Draguignan, gave news of the player and told franceinfo: sport her journey which convinced her to file a complaint.

franceinfo: sport: In what state of mind is Fiona Ferro since the media coverage of this whole affair?

Master Isabelle Colombani: Already, she is a fighter. She’s not a top player for nothing. But it’s true that it’s a bit complicated, because she didn’t expect this case to be publicized. Since the publication in the press, it’s been a bit of a wave.

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

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

She believed very naively, that by separating from this trainer, she would be able to forget. When she was of age and she stopped her collaboration with Pierre Bouteyre, she thought she was going to be able to overcome this ordeal.

“In fact, she realized that every time she came across him, in clubs or at tournaments where he accompanied other players, she was unable to play afterwards.”

Maître Isabelle Colombani, lawyer for Fiona Ferro

at franceinfo: sport

She was seized with great anguish, stress, even anger. She consulted a psychologist for help. But when she realized that it wasn’t working and that it was even getting worse, she understood that she had to act. She felt it all the 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 at the end of 2021, before making the decision to file a complaint.

In what state of mind did she come to see you in January 2022?

She knew she had to speak to free herself but she was very afraid to do so, not in relation to Pierre Bouteyre’s reaction, but rather in relation to the gaze of others. For her, it was difficult to know what others would think of her after all this: would they still see her as Fiona Ferro the tennis player, or would she become Fiona Ferro, the player raped by her coach ?

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

She lived the roller coaster. When the complaint was filed, she was relieved, and she felt a feeling 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 heard.

“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

at franceinfo: sport

You are thus warned the day before for the next day. It’s quite violent.

Is she calling her career into question?

That’s the question she doesn’t have the answer to. She expects a lot from what the French Tennis Federation (FFT) may or may not offer her. Whether or not she can benefit from moral support.

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

Exactly the FFT supported him Friday, September 2, as well as many players on the circuit such as Alizé Cornet, Caroline Garcia and Nicolas Mahut.

Yes, and it warmed his heart very much. She receives a lot of messages, some of which go straight to her heart, and which particularly affect her, such as her exchange with Caroline Garcia, who is in the middle of a tournament. These messages did him a lot of good.

What’s next in the case?

The judge will order letters rogatory, that is to say psychological and psychiatric expertise of the indicted and also of Fiona Ferro. Letters of request will also be carried out to hear the two entourages, as well as all the players he has trained, such as Alizé Cornet. Fiona must be heard in the coming weeks by the examining magistrate and perhaps he will ask for a new confrontation.

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

Maître Isabelle Colombani, lawyer for Fiona Ferro

at franceinfo: sport

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

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