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I'm an Irish guy living in France. I like music, books, creative writing, art, history, vegetarianism, people, and chocolate.

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Tuesday 8 July 2008

France's Last Taboo

Violence is a terrible thing, and anyone that knows me will know that it is probably the thing that I abhor the most. There is worse, though : domestic violence (aka spouse abuse). As if dehumanising one's neighbour and oneself by giving in to violence wasn't bad enough, some people act in this way towards the very person they are supposed to love and care for : their partner or spouse.
Amnesty International campaigned to make more people aware of this in France last year, and it doesn't seem to have worked. This morning, while logging on to Yahoo to check my email, I noticed that this issue was making the headlines of Yahoo News France.

According to the article, a French governmental body which measures the country's crime rate (the OND) found that in 2007, spousal abuse had increased by over 30%. That year, 410,000 women reported having been abused in some way by their partner or ex-partner. This represents 2% of France's female population. Apparently 20% of cases of spousal abuse go unreported — and unpunished!
There also cases where men are the victims of spousal abuse : 0.7% of the male population in 2005 and 2006.

But the issue of domestic violence is terrible not only in itself, but also because of the fact that it such a taboo in France. Speak to anyone in France, and they will deny that it is a problem. At most they will say that it is something which only happens in Muslim or working class families (which isn't true, by the way. It happens in white and middle class families as well).

There is a fair chance that you personally know a woman who has been abused by her partner or ex-partner, but that you know nothing of it. It's very hard to know if the victim doesn't speak out : very often, the victim will keep it a secret for fear of reprisal or because she loves her partner nonetheless.

I know someone who told me that she was attacked several times by her boyfriend. She didn't seem alarmed by the fact, and when I suggested that she should break up with him or call the police if it happened again, she said she couldn't do it, because she loved him.
I'm not one to underestimate the strength of love. Love is patient ; love heals. But it's no excuse for keeping quiet about mindless (or premeditated!) acts of violence, especially when it happens within a couple — the relationship which is designed to be one of the only safe, trusting and nurturing havens on earth.

The taboo must be broken.

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