When Marie Laguerre stood up to a man who she says was sexually harassing her, he responded by punching her in the face.
The shocking video of the brazen attack on the streets of Paris went viral, and also opened up a national discussion about the sexual harassment women face.
“He wasn’t the first one that day, or that week,” Laguerre told CNN of the harassment she says she encountered on July 24. “It happens almost every day.”
Laguerre said she was walking home when a man on the street started whistling and making “very degrading and humiliating” noises at her.
“It put me in a rage and I told him to shut up,” Laguerre said. “I didn’t think he’d hear me, but he did. He actually got really mad and then he threw an ashtray at me. After that, I insulted him and after that, he rushed back to punch me.”
The encounter, captured on video, lasts just seconds. After striking a blow to her face, the assailant turns to walk away as witnesses at a nearby cafe stand up to confront him.
“I took the punch with the most pride I could, because I didn’t want to show him any sign of weakness or any sign that he was actually going to put me down,” Laguerre said.
The man in the video hasn’t been found, said a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor.
After the video was posted online, Laguerre received hundreds of messages from women sharing their experiences with harassment, and from men who told her that they hadn’t realized the situation was this bad.
She said it “was powerful to read, because it gave me hope that now, men – thanks to this video – they realize it’s a really bad situation when we are in the street. We don’t feel safe.”
This week, Laguerre launched a new online forum for women called Nous Toutes Harcelement, which means “We are all harassed,” where they can share their stories anonymously.
Laguerre says she is grateful that the attack was caught on video.
“It’s helpful for the case, but more importantly, it’s really raising awareness of the gravity of the situation that every woman faces.”
“This video shocked a lot of people, because they could actually see what could actually happen to women when she says no,” Laguerre said. “They can also see that it’s not about seduction, it’s about domination and it’s raising awareness that we need to listen to women, because they’ve been talking about this issue for years.”
A 2015 survey for the French Institute for Demographic Studies found that 20% of the female respondents reported receiving wolf whistles, 8% reported receiving insults and 3% reported being followed in public spaces over a span of a year. Physical violence was reported by 1.3% of women, according to the survey, which had 27,000 respondents.
On Wednesday, France’s National Assembly passed a new law banning sexual or sexist comments that are “degrading, humiliating, intimidating, hostile or offensive.” Harassment in public could warrant hefty, on-the-spot fines from 90 to 750 euros ($104 to $876).
Laguerre says sexism permeates society, far beyond street harassment.
“We don’t feel safe in the street, but also in the workplace,” she said. “Those sexist men, they’re perfectly integrated into society, including politicians, musicians, actors, judges, doctors, teachers, everywhere – it’s hard to see that. It can also be a friend, a brother or a father, or a son. It’s important that today, we demand zero tolerance. If you see such behavior happen, that you say, ‘No, I don’t agree with you and you need to stop.’”
CNN’s Rose Shelby, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Angela Dewan contributed to this report.