In France, public denunciation of sexual assaults on children is making headway

In France, public denunciation of sexual assaults on children is
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"Every three minutes, a child is a victim of sexual assault" is the message that, since September, thousands of people have heard in France, where the fear of speaking, especially about incest, progressively disappears, awaiting the government's response. Advertising campaigns, award-winning books, films, press articles... The taboo began to disappear in 2020, in the wake of #MeToo, and this Friday an independent commission urged the government of centrist President Emmanuel Macron to go further.

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The Ciivise (Independent Commission on Incest and Sexual Violence against Children), promoted in 2021 by Macron, recommended declaring cases of pedophilia imprescriptible, systematically asking children in schools or at the doctor if they suffer from this violence and creating a protocol to treat the consequences, among other proposals.

"Sexual violence against children is a massive public order and public health problem, which destroys and annihilates multitudes of children," writes the co-president of Ciivise, Judge Edouard Durand, in the report called "We believe them."

But how has a country, where there was a certain complacency during the period after 1968 marked by the liberation of morality, sexuality and society, come to elevate this problem as a national cause? For the experts, The wall of silence began to crack in 2020 with the publication of the book "Consent" by Vanessa Springora, victim of the writer Gabriel Matzneff, whose assumed pedophilia was known to the Parisian literary world.

And another book, "The Big Family", in which Camille Kouchner accuses her stepfather, the well-known political scientist Olivier Duhamel, of having sexually assaulted his twin brother when he was a teenager, he just broke down the taboo on incest.

"Springora caused an electroshock," says Pierre Verdrager, a sociologist specialized in pedophilia, for whom this launched a movement, also promoted by #MeToo, for victims to speak and people to listen.and. But "it is not a revolution, there is no such thing as the world of yesterday and the world of today," The researcher clarifies, using, for example, the Catholic Church in France, which did not make "major changes" after learning of the extent of sexual abuse within it in 2021.

In October 2021, Ciase, another independent commission, estimated that some 216,000 minors were victims of priests and religious between 1950 and 2020 in France., and that about 5.5 million adults suffered sexual assault in their childhood overall. Other data provided by Ciivise complete the picture: 160 thousand children are victims every year, 97% of the aggressors are men (in 27% of cases, the parents) and only 3% of the attacks end with a conviction of the aggressor (1% in case of incest).

Laure (pseudonym) wrote to Ciivise (which collected 30 thousand testimonies) and explains the "obstacle course" involved in reporting incest. In her case, she accuses the father of her 3-year-old son, from whom she had separated. After reporting it to the juvenile brigade, where the reception "was very bad", and a judge issuing emergency measures, the investigation was shelved. After a complaint from her father, she lost custody of her son, who now lives with him, and whom she sees for an hour every 15 days, she says.

"They have come to take it away from us because we have broken the silence," denounces Laure, who appealed to file the investigation. And every time he visits her son, who asks him why he can't go with her, he tells her: "I believe you. You haven't done anything wrong," he explains.

The commission advocates, among its 82 recommendations, for guaranteeing the safety of the protective parent in the event of parental incest and of the minor, creating protection orders, and treatment of between 20 and 30 sessions to address physical and psychological trauma. The effects on a victim's health throughout their life, as well as the deployment of police and judicial means, currently have a cost of almost 10 billion euros annually (about 10.8 billion dollars), warns Ciivise .

The Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, will present on Monday a plan to fight against attacks on minors.

"The time has come to say stop and ask for urgent and consistent action," reads a call to demonstrate on Saturday launched by the group Collectif Enfantiste.

Beyond the measures prepared by the government, One of the main unknowns is what the future of Ciivise will be. Legislators, celebrities and associations have already asked the president to maintain it beyond December 31.


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