January 24, 2022

in Lille, the shocking testimony of the victims

The independent commission on incest and sexual violence against children has launched a tour of France. This week, she made a stopover in Lille to collect the testimonies of victims. A difficult job to try to restore the value of the child’s words. A discredited word since the Outreau affair.

I just found out that I had been abused by my father between the ages of 3 and 10“. In the middle of the room, Pascale speaks all dressed in pink. It’s her favorite color,”a way perhaps to leave a place for the little girl“.

To come and testify in Lille before the CIIVISE, the independent commission on incest and sexual violence against children, this 54-year-old woman has traveled a long way with her daughter. About a hundred kilometers from Waterloo in Belgium. She who is now afraid of everything.

In the attentive silence of the Grand Amphitheater of the Superior School of Journalism, his voice breaks. “Today is a big victory for me! It’s so symbolic to take this microphone. When it hits you years later, it’s a tsunami. Everything collapses“.

Launched a year ago in a context of free speech, the CIIVISE has given itself four areas of work: prevention, identification of cases, care and legal treatment of violence. A colossal project. In a few months, 8,200 people contacted the independent commission by email, letter or telephone. A campaign has also been launched on youtube.

The society “must listen, change the way it protects children, fight against impunity for aggressors“, explains one of its two presidents. Judge of the children, Edouard Durand said”impressed“by public meetings.

This word is legitimate because it creates changes in society.

Edouard Durand, co-president of CIIVISE

But the road will be long and difficult. First, because the taboo is immense. To protect herself and try to survive the unbearable, Pascale began by forgetting the facts. This traumatic amnesia affects most children who are victims of sexual violence. “I never could have imagined my dad would do such a thing“. This father who, instead of protecting her, destroyed her life.”My mom wasn’t a good person either“.

Pascale does not go into the details of the violence. Perhaps out of modesty, but above all because the memories remain imprecise. “For three years, I have had spasms, eczema, I vomited (…) It’s my body that remembers“. Little pieces of the past come back every day. Pascale’s parents are dead. She allows herself to face reality.

These mechanisms are well known to psychologists and psychiatrists at CN2R, the national resource and resilience center responsible for working on psycho-trauma. “There is the shame, the guilt that prevents us from speaking sooner“, explains Thierry Baubet, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry in Bobigny.

The aggressor places the responsibility for the incest on the child. There is a lot of unraveling to be done.

Thierry Baubet, professor of psychiatry

But talking is never trivial. “Since childhood, these adults have learned to cope with it. To speak is to take the risk of breaking this balance“. According to Thierry Baubet, the liberation of speech on social networks presents dangers. He warns.”Talking can be dangerous. If we get help in return, it can start an improvement. If you speak and the word is poorly received, it can be tragic“.

This is what the CIIVISE is all about: welcoming the word with kindness. A word so often prevented or abused. Farida also testifies to the violence she suffered. Her older brother abused her. “I went to see a doctor. No word, no explanation of what I had experienced “.

When I explained that I wanted to file a complaint, the doctor told me that my brother’s life was going to be destroyed, that I was going to destroy his family. It made me angry!

Farida, victim of incest

A father tells of the immobility of the management of his daughter’s establishment when he denounces the inappropriate behavior of a supervisor. “When we transmit the information, we have a silence, an “I don’t want to know”. (…) We have the impression that people act as if their responsibility was not at issue“. The institution is often an obstacle as such. The CIIVISE is therefore launching a targeted appeal on Wednesday.

At the other end of the room, another woman shares her experience with the Lille miners’ brigade. “I was the victim of rape. I was 12 years old, my cousin 17. I remembered it when I was 50 years old. Moved by this guilt of not having said anything, I met a very nice judicial police officer (OPJ). He convinced me that I should not press charges. I walked out of there in a state of bewilderment“.

Filing a complaint is a right in a democracy. You can never oppose a person who wishes to file a complaint.

Edouard Durand, co-president of CIIVISE

The numbers are staggering. In France, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Justice, there are 160,000 child victims of sexual violence, 8,720 complaints of rape. 70% of these complaints are dismissed. There are 279 convictions.

Denouncing sexual violence against minors is an obstacle course. The child’s word has very little credit, especially since the Outreau affair. Co-president of CIIVISE, Nathalie Mathieu quotes a recent American study.

When they reveal these kinds of deeds and facts, 99% of kids aren’t lying. It takes substantive work to change the representation of the child’s speech.

Nathalie Mathieu, co-president of CIIVISE

And Edouard Durand to continue: “The risk we run is not inventing victims. The real risk is letting children pass before our eyes without protecting them“.

So, should we make this word sacred? “Above all, we must put an end to the anti-victim discourse that tries to discredit the child and his word. (…) There are ways of hearing children. You have to apply the right protocols“. And train, train all interlocutors in the chain.

Before the commission in Lille, a mother testifies. “My daughter was sexually assaulted by her father two years ago. She told me that she had been shot between the legs. I lodged a complaint (…). I am refused the hearing for lack of discernment because of his age“.

A lawyer in family law in Valenciennes, Betty Rygielski also presents herself as an activist. Member of the association “Nous tous 59 valenciennois”, she never ceases to train and inform against violence.

I often have a problem with proof in cases of sexual violence “, assures Betty Rygielski before the commission. “These difficulties could be overcome by hearing children … if their words could be believed! When they are made, it is by educators who do not have access to the file. Suddenly, nothing comes out of it.“. The lawyer also describes the” imbalance “from the start of business.

You have a lawyer who accompanies you when you are accused, but the victim often finds himself alone when filing complaints and during confrontations.

Betty Rygielski, lawyer in family law in Valenciennes

Sitting to the left of the Valencia lawyer, Fiona continues: “I was the victim of incest from my uncle. It is an inequality that I feel. It is a burden. You can’t be defended by the right person“. For lack of means, most of the time, victims have recourse to legal aid.

A young lawyer then testifies about his experience at the Lille children’s court. He too notes the dysfunction of the institution. “The time that can be devoted to these files is minimal. It is slaughter justice. We don’t have time to work on the files. There is no background. Children’s judges do it with the means they have. It’s something very frustrating“.

This public meeting is the consequence. More than ever, consciousnesses are awakening, the lines are moving. A national resource and resilience center was created in July 2019. A public interest group funded by six ministries, it works closely with the Lille University Hospital.

Its vocation is to promote and enhance knowledge and know-how relating to psycho-trauma. The CN2R is at the start of its work. This week in Lille, the first working meeting with CIIVISE took place.

Together, these professionals from psychology, psychiatry, medicine, justice, national education will draft a skills framework. This repository should serve as a training basis for the actors called upon to intervene in cases of violence.

Co-directed by psychiatrist Thierry Baubet and clinical and research psychologist Sylvie Molenda, the resource and resilience center will therefore analyze all the testimonies of the CIIVISE. “Coming to testify in the commission, that commits us“, according to Thierry Baubet.”Something must be returned to the people who testified. We must commit to taking action “.

Patient since the start of the public meeting, another mother decides to take the microphone. It is a test for her. Visibly tense, overwhelmed by emotion, she prefers to remain anonymous. We will call it Amber.

Ambre returned to the North of France to get away from her former spouse. An abusive husband with whom she lived for fourteen years. It is only belatedly that she learns of her judicial past. “This man had been given a suspended prison sentence for the rape of his sisters. However in France, a pedo-criminal is not deprived of his parental rights “.

Today, her daughter is approaching in age that of the raped sisters. Amber no longer sleeps. Legally, this mother is obliged to share custody. “I ask for supervision for my children. I am outraged that they are left as an offering when all the signals are flashing“.

Cautious, CIIVISE officials recall that they cannot intervene in a procedure. However, the commission is not powerless. Lille is the fourth stage of a Tour de France which started in Nantes, Bordeaux and Avignon. Lines have already moved.

As proof, this recommendation issued last October which resulted in a decree on November 23. The text relates specifically to situations of parental incest: when one of the two parents is suspected of sexual violence and the other refuses to leave the child in custody. Until then, this refusal was liable to prosecution. This will no longer be the case on February 1, 2022. “The child must be protected. The child must be somewhere safe“, specifies Edouard Durand.

At the end of its mission, in two years, the CIIVISE will have to make other recommendations. The question of the means will then arise. “We will inevitably be overtaken by this question “, admits Nathalie Mathieu. It is up to the public authorities to know if they really want to protect children“.