In France: what the situation about violence against women?
1... Not one more! 2... Not one more! 3... Not one more! And this goes up to 149.
Does it seem long to you?
Yet, I am talking about the 149 femicides in France in 2019. As I began writing this article, 73 women have already been murdered since the beginning of 2020.
These numbers are communicated by the voluntary collective “Féminicides par compagnon ou ex” (Femicides by partner or ex), which records, every day, the murders of these women in France by their companion or ex-partner.
One woman every 3 days, killed by a man who claims to be "in love". They were between 15 and 92 years old, their names were Aurore, Letitia, Raymonde, they lived in the North, the South, in the city, in the countryside. They were victims of violence without having had the chance to get out of it. A drama that continues every year, again and again, that feminist demonstrations in France count in chorus to better denounce them. "4... Not one more! 5... Not one more! 6… “
Counting out loud, up to 149, makes us understand how much each dead person is a new burden to bear in a society where they would have us believe that there is no longer any patriarchal domination. Yet there is a mechanism behind such acts, such violence, such suffering. A cause that has innumerable consequences and some ways to overcome it.
This article will deal with violence against women in France in order to illustrate a situation happening in the West. For violence against women throughout the world, the subject is even broader and in fact deserves a separate study.
Patricia, a courageous woman, will share with us her experience and her solo trips which have enabled her to gradually rebuild her life. A touching and inspiring testimony, which will allow us to glimpse a glimmer of hope.
1. Violence against women in France: a few numbers
“What a world”; well, a world where the Minister of the Interior is accused of rape, where the Minister of Justice questions the numbers, even though they come from the Ministry itself, where the Caesar Academy rewards a paedocriminal that has been publically accused. A world in which we close our eyes and downplay a reality that is nevertheless present. "Yes, but men are also victims of violence, so why do you only talk about women! "In any case, if she was assaulted it's her fault, did you see the way she was dressed?" "So what? In other countries, it's worse anywhere!".
Here are my answers (because I can't ignore ignorance):
Yes, men are also victims of violence.
This is an undeniable reality - but the numbers speak for themselves. In 2016, 16% of women said they were victims of a rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime, compared to 5% of men (Le Féminisme, Anne-Charlotte Husson and Thomas Mathieu).
No, the way women dress has no impact on the assaults.
It's the reasoning itself that is completely bad... It reminds me of this awareness advertisement. A woman threw herself on an amazing cake which had taken hours to be prepared. The woman used the pretext that it was too "appetizing". So, is it the pastry cook's fault if his work seems so tasty that we can't resist it? Or is it the woman’s fault because she is unable to refrain herself ? Just asking.
Yes, in other countries, the situation is often worse.
But as a country that wants to be modern and egalitarian, there are still too many medieval behaviours to change if we want real gender equality.
2. The different types of violence
A blow, a slap, a bite... Any raised hand, any physical attack is one too many, with all due respect to those who maintain that "come on he didn't really hit you!". Maybe he didn't hit you, but do you think that pushing you violently out of anger… Was a real form of benevolence?
A touching, a caress, a penetration; any physical act without consent (a yes is a yes, a no is a no, silence is a no).
It reminds me of that woman I met in the queue at the post office... And who complained that men could no longer touch her buttocks in the street. I'm still shocked that some women themselves don't realise the seriousness of certain acts.
You know, insults, mockery, insidious remarks to demean and destroy you mentally. Violence that should not be overlooked, which often precedes physical blows (8 out of 10 women victims of physical violence admit to having been victims of psychological violence beforehand).
A perverse relationship that no longer has anything to do with love, which nevertheless serves as a cover for these manipulators. "You would be nobody without me!" Would I? Because I need an extra brain to think for myself?
I am not a psychologist, or an expert in psychiatry, simply a feminist (and no, this term is not a dirty word contrary to what one might sometimes think) who is outraged at the seriousness of the situation of certain women in France… A beautiful and rich world power.
It is therefore very important for all of us to understand these different forms of violence, in order to realise that nothing should be overlooked; neither an insult, nor a small slap, nor one a touch. Even if it seems a little too "extreme" for some who prefer to accuse those who denounce and not those who commit.
3. What are the origins of such violence?
Accusing such violence means accusing an entire system that is perfectly entrenched.
And this is the heart of the problem: years, centuries, millennia of history where men have been considered superior to women, and just as much time for us to bow our heads to please these divine beings. All this because we have knowingly eaten the forbidden fruit; we are such threatening witches!
Chapters and chapters of history to erase us (and make us erase ourselves) to let men shine, these great monarchs, these great artists, these great warriors. And then, finally, in the 20th century, the right to have a bank account; the right to vote; the right to have an abortion; the right to exist, to appropriate our bodies, the right to live... like a man.
But not too much either, let's not exaggerate. Less paid (let's clarify things right away: Santa Claus is a myth, not wage gap), less listened to (hello poor media and government representation!), less respected (as shown by mental load).
Its history has made France, my country, what it is. Men continue to grow up on a pedestal sculpted by our ancestors. And if fortunately there are men capable of discernment who participate in the construction of an egalitarian march for us, there are others who take advantage of the pedestal they have to better establish their authority. Those who are so high in their esteem that they no longer even see the pedestal on which they stand in peace.
Rapists, aggressors and murderers thus benefit from the view they have from the height of their ego and in fact act in conjunction with the power they have been given. They have an ancestral hold and domination which they use to rule better. Other factors obviously come into play, but we must never forget that society contributes to the shaping of these culprits.
Becoming aware of the depth of the current patriarchy is to realise the potential points of action to better get rid of it in the future. No woman in the making deserves to suffer such outrages again. I don't have any children, but I have two adorable little nieces. And I refuse to let them suffer the consequences of a history of domination at a time when we can finally change things...
4. How to exit from this diagram
But then, how can we put an end to this violence?
Understand that they are not justifiable, that lack of respect, whatever it may be, is to be proscribed and avoided; because we all deserve much better than to be subjected to daily insults.
There is therefore a personal work to be done: to learn from this society and to educate ourselves about its shortcomings in order to better prevent them. Reading articles, buying books, having a critical mind about what we are told.
No, there is no such thing as a "crime of passion" - the last time I checked, we never kill for love. A man who kills a woman is a murderer, not a "lover who has lost his temper". You'll see, once you start learning about these topics, you soon realise that there is still a lot of work to be done... It's a good thing: we need you!
You have to educate yourself, but also educate others and offer a helping hand to people who haven't yet spotted the toxicity of these behaviours. Discern the alarm signals in our friends, try to make them understand that no, our partner doesn't have to threaten us to love us and that if we say no in bed, it doesn't mean "convince me".
Educate men, too. By this I mean those who are not yet aware that certain behaviours can be disturbing.
We all have this clumsy friend, who sometimes makes inappropriate remarks because he doesn't measure the seriousness of certain acts. Well, let's not hesitate to remind him that rape is still a traumatic event; that killing a woman is murder and not just an excess of anger; that whistling at a young girl in the street is heavy and not at all gratifying.
Because yes, sexism exists through small "harmless" remarks which end up constructing an archetype of deviant behaviour.
By dint of telling us that little girls have to identify with the sweet princess while boyfriends can play the knight in shining armour... We end up believing in these fixed roles of daring and enterprising boys and wise girls who have to please.
So, what could be more normal than little Leo peeking under girls' skirts! After all, they are there to be wise and to please.
And we end up building well gendered roles where we do not even realize anymore the unequal relationship in which we have been rocked. You can just give a look at the trend of "girls only" to understand the extent of it.
Yes, but what about afterwards? We can try to change the world for others, to offer this better future to our daughters (or nieces); but when our own world has been destroyed because of traumatic violence, it can be very difficult to rebuild.
Very difficult, but not impossible. All tunnels have a point, a glimmer of light; a glimmer of hope that eventually pulls us, slowly but surely, towards the end of the nightmare. We never forget the path we have taken, but we can at least enjoy the rest of our journey. And in order to achieve this, we can count on professionals such as psychologists specialised in the traumatic situations experienced by women victims of violence, but also on the support of those around us when they are present.
I would also say that you have to rely... on yourself. We are the injured person - we know what we need to move forward. To find ourselves again, to refocus, to better establish the foundations on which we want to be rebuilt.
In fact, travelling alone is a way to conquer this self extinguished under the ashes of violence. This is the approach chosen by some women: a distant, solitary, independent departure, like a true globetrotter in order to put an end to gender representations as well.
You can become a solidary host to welcome them as they travel solo : a true helping hand.
Travelling alone, this is what Patricia, 61 years old French woman, has done, and today she testifies to share her experience with us.
5. Patricia's testimony
Fanny: What type(s) of violence(s) have you experienced? Who did it come from? For how long?
Patricia: "My husband, charming and really nice, but full of anger and resentment and addicted to playing poker in bars and, of course, to alcohol.... He would come home drunk and I had to “honour my role as his wife”, but when I refused, it always ended in rape."
F: How did you get out of it? What was the "trigger" if there was one?
P: "Our little one-year-old boy woke up one night and saw that his father was abusing me. He said "Daddy mean, want grandma.” I took him and we left."
F: What could have helped you get out of his hold?
P: "That's the question I'm still asking myself! I don't know, in front of a 1.90m (6ft2) tall man who is drunk and angry we just try to calm the situation down. I was afraid of dying under a bad blow, so I just accepted it.”
F: And then what did you do? How was this transition time?
P: "I went to a girls' home but the very next day I went to live with my parents, because I knew my mother would have been hurt to know I did not come to her. I filed a complaint against my husband. But I went back home with him anyway and talked about separation hoping to get him to react... My husband became really absent and played more and more, so I left again. I finally got a fault divorce by withdrawing my complaint".
F: Did you travel a lot on your own? Where did you go?
P: "After this difficult period I needed air but also work. I remember, I was in secretarial training and I was deeply bored. One day during a break I saw a travel advertisement for Greece in a magazine, in the afternoon I took a dry flight to Athens. I left my little boy with my parents because they didn't want me to take him with me and I left for 10 days...10 days of dreaming and rebuilding, of finding myself face to face. I was 28 back then".
F: Why did you decide to go on your own?
P: "I preferred to be alone to see what I was capable of and to get rid of any feelings of guilt."
F: What did it bring you?
P: "Nice encounters, in fact we go alone but already on the plane I met a girl travelling alone. We did a bit of road together. I came back stronger and without regrets."
F: What do you remember from this solo trip ?
P: "The kindness of the people you meet, the locals who want to share their culture, their meals... Travelling with a backpack is much richer than in an organised trip. I slept on the roofs of houses... In youth hostels you meet a lot of solo travellers".
F: Your best memory of this journey (an anecdote, a laugh...)?
P: "Arriving in a village, I had my backpack and I was looking for a room for the night. I saw 3 “papou” (grandfathers) sitting at a bar table... They said to me "Little girl, leave your bag, here in Greece there are no thieves... or else it's a tourist !” So I left my bag at the foot of a tree and came back an hour later. It was still there! I learned to trust."
F: A piece of advice for those who don't dare to go on a solo trip?
P: "You go alone but really, you never travel alone. It's such a discovery about yourself, your capacities, that it gives you the strength to face all the worries of life... A worry at work, you have to position yourself? I go back to my travels and I find the necessary strength".
Patricia's testimony is particularly inspiring. She exudes an admirable strength that I had the opportunity to discover during our full interview. An example of courage that proves that we can always rise again, even from the worst.
I would have liked to conclude on this note of positivism thanks to her, but reality has caught up with me again. By the time I wrote this article, a 74th woman in France had been beaten to death by her husband.
This is a matter of urgency.
PORTRAIT & MEETING
20 Octobre 2020
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