First it was a photo posted Monday on Instagram. That of a swollen face, and an open cheekbone, accompanied by these few words, calling into question, without naming it, the “father of his daughter” 5 years old : “A year ago my face was injured, blue, purple under my eye, I saw myself deformed. A year ago I looked at my face in the mirror and I knew that I could no longer hide my face. In her publication, actress Judith Chemla says to herself “to the end”. This Wednesday morning, on France Inter, the actress reiterated her account of the violence which she attributes to her ex-companion, and for which she filed a complaint in July 2021, after having received a mobile phone in her face. Her ex-spouse, she said, was taken into police custody and then indicted and placed under judicial supervision. The actress then claimed to have been the target of “four months of intense harassment”, prompting her to file a new complaint.
The man she implicates was sentenced last May to an eight-month suspended prison sentence. Contacted by Releasethe lawyer of the interested party, Me Elise Arfi, denounces a “lynching” as well as “relentlessness” and affirms that the condemnation concerns “a single act of violence, and not the usual violence”which his client acknowledged. “It’s one fact. Admittedly, it’s one too many, but for which he asked forgiveness, and justice is passed. My client is not the sick psychopathic executioner portrayed by his ex-partner.she insists, stating that she is studying the possibility of defamation suits.
In her testimony, widely relayed on social networks, Judith Chemla spoke to women victims of violence in these terms: “Don’t be afraid: never, ever, ever withdraw a complaint you file. Never remove it. You will be intimidated. I was intimidated, I was made to feel guilty.” For Ernestine Ronai, co-founder of the Observatory of violence against women in Seine-Saint-Denis, this speaking out can contribute to “awareness” of the dangerousness of violent men.
What can be the impact of a public speech by a personality like Judith Chemla?
Public speaking is always important: it can contribute to raising awareness, in our society, of the dangerousness of violent men, and of the impact of this violence on children. In the specific case of this speech, what concerns me is the question of the instrumentalization of a child by the father, within the framework of his visitation rights. It is very common for violent fathers to victimize themselves in the eyes of their child, instrumentalize him by trying to present themselves as victims, when they are aggressors, to put the child on their side, against the mother. One of the battles to be waged today consists, in my opinion, in ensuring that the impact of violence on children is better understood by women themselves, and of course, by our society. This implies that when there is violence in a couple, it is possible, at least for a time, to exercise this right of visit in a meeting place.
Many women can feel a bit caught in a vice, between the need to protect themselves and the fear of “depriving a child of its father”…
It’s a common feeling, but it must be said that a child is not deprived of his father when he is in a protected meeting space. It is placed, in a way, under the eyes of society, through professionals trained in violence and responsible for preventing the father from instrumentalizing the child. In Seine-Saint-Denis, we have set up, for a dozen years, a measure of protected accompaniment, on the decision of a judge, in situations where the direct handing over of the child to the other parent presents a danger to one of them. To date, nine departments have been inspired by this system, but it seems to me essential to lead a fight so that these spaces are generalized to the whole of France. Our society is not always aware that a violent man is not a good father.
Has society changed as far as the place of children in domestic violence is concerned?
Since 2018, with the Schiappa law, we have obtained that the presence of children at the time of the violence is recognized as an aggravating circumstance. In addition, from now on, when a violent man is condemned for violence, whether it is a crime or an offence, the question of the suspension of the parental authority of the violent spouse must be systematically put to the time of judgment. Finally, since April, a decree indicates that when one of the parents has killed the other, the children can bring civil proceedings, directly if they are adults, or through an ad hoc administrator, in order to be able to be compensated. We are therefore gaining ground in taking into account the impact of this violence on children.
In her testimony, Judith Chemla also points to a lack of protection…
Despite the fact that a woman has done the right thing, that justice has been passed, this may remain insufficient: a certain number of violent men feel above the law. This means that for this type of profile, more restrictive, even more severe measures are sometimes necessary, which make it possible to really protect women, and therefore, to protect children. I repeat: when a woman is a victim, her children are too.
What are these more restrictive measures that can be put in place?
First, if we are faced with a suspended sentence, accompanied by a ban on entering into contact with the victim, but this is not respected, the justice system provides for possibilities, which can go as far as ‘in jail. But this requires the victim to file a new complaint, to point out that the violent man has not respected the law. There are also measures to prohibit the contact of the aggressor with the victim, such as the protection order, the “Telephone grave danger” or the anti-reconciliation bracelet. There are means in the law today, it must now be applied more.
The actress urges the women not to withdraw their complaints. Are you joining this call?
I would even say: report yourself when you are a victim, to the justice system, to the police, or to an association. Ask for help so you can be protected. The complaint is not obligatory: often, the women are too afraid, more especially as the aggressors often say to them: “If you speak, I will kill you”. They will therefore not necessarily file a complaint, but on the other hand, they can find help from social workers, associations, and thus work with someone who will help them to be protected until the complaint is filed.
How do you view these more and more frequent speeches on social networks? Are they a last resort in the face of a lack of protection?
There, it seems rather that Judith Chemla is addressing other women and encouraging them to report themselves, to protect themselves. If you think about it, #MeToo means “me too”. I really like this formula. In short, she means: “I stand in solidarity with all the women who are victims”. This is what Judith Chemla tells us. Social networks are a place where women can, together, in solidarity, encourage each other to obtain protection.