“I let the first blows pass, telling myself that it was my fault”

I let the first blows pass telling myself that it

Verbal violence that becomes physical violence: this is the spiral described by Laura, who took time to file a complaint against her attacker for fear of the consequences. Demonstrations are planned in several major cities in France, this November 25, day of the fight against violence against women, to denounce this scourge and demand better protection for victims.

Laura is 34 years old, she is the mother of four children. For a year, she was beaten by her husband. The latter did not accept that Laura wanted to separate from him. The young woman who lives in Teil and works in Viviers in Ardèche explains the spiral of violence. It all starts with verbal aggression: He spoke to me like he had never spoken to me before, and I had the impression, in fact, of seeing a stranger in front of me, when we had shared 14 years of common life. “. A violence that the young woman begins by denying: “ I let the first blows pass by telling myself that it was almost my fault because I was driving him crazy and he was unhappy, and that suddenly it was going wrong, but that it was not very serious “.

Laura’s children unfortunately witnessed these scenes. And that’s what, for her, was the trigger. It was the first time I filed a complaint, because he hit me in front of the children, leaving me really on the ground, bleeding, in front of them. Following the altercation in front of the children, I understood and I said to myself that if he did not stop typing, he was going to kill me in front of them. “.

Testimony of Laura, collected by Laurence Théault

Fear, an omnipresent obstacle

A complaint which however is only the beginning of a long journey. Before the police and then the courts, passing through medical and medical consultations, the social workers of social assistance for children too. A way of the cross that comes up against the lack of means of the public authorities. But sometimes also to the psychological errors of the victims who sometimes return to their accusations, as explained by Blandine Weck de Terris, lawyer.

A female victim who tells me : ‘I want to withdraw my complaint’, often when I ask him : ‘Oh really why ?’, they rarely tell me : ‘because I lied’. They’ll tell me instead : ‘Because I don’t want him to have any problem’, and it’s not the same thing at all. Very often, they maintain what they may have said in their complaint. In fact, they are afraid of taking responsibility for the future consequences of their statement, and my job, as a lawyer for victims of domestic violence, is to tell them : ‘The culprit is him. If he is sanctioned, it is not because of you who had lodged a complaint, it is possibly because of the court, because it is he who condemns, but it is above all because of him. In any event, a person who withdraws his complaint, whether for spousal violence or for any offence, any fact, that in no way prevents the prosecutor from deciding to prosecute in spite of everything, because this it is not the victim who decides if there should be a trial, if there should be a judgment, a conviction, it is the prosecutor, or the prosecutor, who asks the court to condemn such a person and afterwards, the court convicts, or does not convict, according to the evidence in the file.”

Protection of victims difficult to implement due to lack of resources

To prevent this domestic violence, to punish its perpetrators, an important legislative arsenal has been put in place over the years. Particular emphasis was placed on the prevention of recidivism and the protection of victims who will now have to be notified when the spouse leaves prison. This is provided for by a decree, which entered into force on February 1, 2022. The text specifies that the judicial authority must then “ expressly » questioning the need to put protective measures in place for these victims.

An application made almost impossible by the absence of ad hoc resources released and the overload of work which is already incumbent on the magistrates, regrets Albertine Munoz, sentence enforcement judge at the Bobigny court: “ The means we currently have do not allow us to make this report within the timeframes that we consider satisfactory. Asking the victim’s opinion also means knowing if he wants to benefit from a protective device, such as the anti-reconciliation bracelet. And that requires organization upstream. Victim support associations and prison clerks must be contacted. As long as the victim does not live in the department in which the convicted person lives or is imprisoned, we have to go through other intermediaries. If the convicted person committed the acts a very long time ago, we must even manage to locate the victim, you see, we are at that stage! “.

Heavy investigations, difficult to carry out, notes the judge questioned on RFI since the new reforms have been carried out with constant staff, without any additional means. Most sentencing agencies are not in a position to put them in place. There is no mechanism, for example, for centralizing victim support associations. I can contact an association which will tell me that it is ” not competent for such territory, or for such protection device, continues the judge. You see, we waste a lot of time, whereas I still have my thousand files to manage. With my clerk, we are supposed to go fishing for information in very sensitive files “.

Since the beginning of the year, France has recorded 100 feminicides according to an associative collective, against 122 in 2021 according to official figures.

To listen also: Silence we kill: feminicides still on the increase