Print Posted By Lost in France on 12 Mar 2006 in Living in France - Living in France

Domestic Violence in France

Domestic violence knows no boundaries and it affects women of all ages, colours, creeds and social backgrounds. Amnesty International has revealed that in France a women is killed by domestic violence at least every 4 days, and that 1 out of 10 women in France is a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives. These figures are shocking and the French government has been urged to tackle the situation. Bear in mind that figures are based on statistics gathered from reported crime, which makes it all the more horrifying when you start to think how many of these crimes go unreported or worse still how many women are out there living in fear?

{loadposition contentad}The legal system is incredibly slow and extremely complicated and expensive, while legal aid is available in the case of an "un-amicable" divorce it often takes more than a month before the aid is granted and without the aid the solicitor cannot start proceedings or arrange an injunction against the violent partner. This often forces women to stay with violent partners in the family home. The legal system at times also seems to support the instigator of the crime rather than the victim - this needs to be redressed!

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite? Surprising then that this is allowed to happen and more still more surprising that women in France only received the right to vote in 1944 and that most banks in France on opening a joint account still only issue a credit/debit card in the mans name, the women often has to apply & pay for her card separately. Although equal rights laws exist in France it is still common place that women earn on average one fifth less than their male counterparts!

Perhaps the most famous case of domestic violence occurred in 2004 when actress Marie Trintignant was violently beaten around the head and face and killed by her rock star boyfriend Bertrand Cantat who was the lead singer in the French group Noir Desir. What made the case more sickeningly ironic was the fact that Desir was seen publicly as a passivist whilst Trintignant was known as a strong supporter of women's rights.

The French newspaper Le Monde cited Trintignant's death as "proof that domestic violence is not restricted to the underprivileged, unemployed, violent or alcoholic".

Safety First At All Times
If you are a victim of domestic violence or are living in fear of an abusive partner first take action to keep yourself and your children if you have any safe, memorise emergency numbers note that if you cannot speak French you're more likely to find someone that speaks English if you dial the European emergency service on 112 and they will connect you to the appropriate emergency service and translate for you. For the French police or gendarmes dial 17, for emergency medical treatment or ambulance dial 15. If you have a close neighbour that you can confide in arrange a code with them to alert them of your danger such as an item or ornament visible in the window.

Remember that your safety is paramount at all times and if at all possible remove your self from the family home and stay with friends or relatives. If you cannot or do not wish to leave make sure you have prepared an escape route or plan, if trouble starts try to position yourself near the door or exit, avoid rooms with no exits such as the bathroom and keep out of rooms likely to contain weapons such as the kitchen (knives). Keep a spare set of keys/car keys and some money either with you in a pocket or hidden in an easily accessible place preferably outdoors.

If You Are Injured
Firstly seek medical attention and ask the doctor for a medical certificate to prove you have been assaulted, make a note of the time, place etc of the assault and names & addresses of witnesses if any. Contact or go to your local gendarmerie and file a complaint. Then seek the assistance of an avocat - some legal assistance is available in France if you are on a low income or have no money of your own. It is also possible to seek an injunction through the French courts to have your abusive partner or husband removed from the family home. Unfortunately the French legal system is at best slow, you will also need to show the avocat originals of yours and your partners birth certificates and marriage certificate - if you do not have the originals you will have to contact the registrar of Births & Marriages in the UK and ask for a certified copy (around £11) to be sent to you - this is time consuming and requires a UK debit or credit card if applying by phone.

Secrecy & Abuse
Domestic violence and abusive behaviour tends to thrive on secrecy as the abuser gains more power over the victim if they are too frightened to tell. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to tell someone what is happening to you. Always remember that it is not your fault, no one no matter what deserves to be beaten, threatened or abused.

And finally the sad truth is that abusers just get more abusive over time, the violence WILL get worse, take steps to break the cycle of abuse now!

External Resources:
Dealing With Domestic Violence - Counselling in France
S.O.S Femmes English Page


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