“He was five. In one afternoon, my mother’s brother put an end to my candor and cast a shadow over the rest of my life. In a second, he was 100 years old. ” “My father told me it was normal.” Since Saturday, the messages on Twitter in France multiply. Almost 80,000 on the weekend, and they keep coming. All tagged #MeTooInceste. The book’s publication at the beginning of the month The big family, where Camille Kouchner, daughter of former Minister Bernard Kouchner, reveals the abuse suffered by her twin brother as a teenager by her stepfather, the renowned political scientist Olivier Duahmel, has opened a floodgate in France that is difficult to close again. The new Me Too movement is just one more sign that the taboo on the sexual abuse of minors in general and within the family in particular seems to have been broken. While the word is being released, the country debates how to deal with this scourge that, according to a recent survey, one in ten French people have suffered in their childhood or adolescence. The proposal to create new laws does not convince everyone.
“There will be a before and after this,” says Madeline Da Silva. The Deputy Mayor for Children of Lilas, on the Parisian periphery, and a member of the feminist collective Nous Toutes is one of the creators of the #MeTooInceste label launched on Saturday. Yes The big family has impacted the influential Parisian political and intellectual circle of which he speaks, the wave of complaints on Twitter “has shown that the problem is everywhere and at all levels” of society, says by phone the also activist for rights of children. The victims “have spoken out in a massive way and that has made France open its eyes to the issue of sexual violence against minors.”
There is little doubt about the scale of the problem: according to a survey conducted in December, 6.7 million French people, 10% of the population, say they have suffered sexual abuse by a family member. That same month, the macronista deputy Alexandra Louis presented a report according to which each year, in the country, almost 130,000 girls and 35,000 boys are victims of rape or attempted rape, attacks that “mostly take place in the family or close range.”
What generates less consensus is how to act in the face of this reality. At the center of the discussions is the question of whether to legislate more or if existing laws are enough and what is needed is to apply them well and, above all, to carry out an effective prevention policy. A debate that, on the other hand, is not new.
In France, incest is not a crime, but it is considered an aggravating factor in the case of rape or sexual abuse. The French Penal Code also establishes a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for cases of rape of a person under 15 years of age.
In 2018, the so-called Schiappa Law was approved, which extended the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against minors from 20 to 30 years after the victim’s age of majority. It also strengthened the provisions to punish more harshly this type of crime against children under 15 years of age.
New sex crime
But for some it didn’t go far enough, mostly because it failed to set a minimum age of consent. This issue is now at the center of new discussions, along with the possibility of further extending the statute of limitations. The Senate plans to discuss this Thursday a proposal to create a new sex crime “to protect those under 13 years of age.”
“If the law must change, we will,” said the head of the macronist ranks in the National Assembly, Christophe Castaner, on RTL on Tuesday. A path supported by the Secretary of State for Children, Adrien Taquet. “We have to find the legal means to criminalize sexual relations between an adult and a person under 15 years of age,” he declared in Europe 1.
But the new legislative fever does not like among the promoters of the new Me Too. “You have to stop trying to change the law. That does not mean that it is satisfactory, but if we talk about changing the law, we imply that it does not prohibit sexual violence against minors, when it does. And even so, it does not stop ”, he warns. Hence, as many experts do, they advocate the training of professionals who care for minors to detect a case of abuse, just as they claim for gender violence.
“It is not the law that is going to make the police stations better serve women who report abuses and it is not the law that is going to make the schools or places that host children better understand what they mean, ”sums up Da Silva. “The reality is that you have to make the violence stop, not punish it better. If we do only that, we are going to occupy the public space with a debate that is not the good one, ”he warns.