Le Monde Editorial
Friday 08 August 2003
It's one of those taboos you try hard to hide in the familial or national dirty laundry basket. So it is, alas!, with conjugal violence which is too often part of what is unspoken of in private life, secrets like those of the bedroom which are no one else's business. Worse still, it is not always taken seriously. After all, people say, it's nothing but an argument that went wrong. And sometimes, we even kid around about it, coarsely, between friends, or at a show, where a slap is like a good joke.
A media drama, the recent death of a talented and well-known actress was necessary for the problem of beaten women- six of them to death every month in France- to be opened discussed. Marie Trintignant's tragic disappearance on top of which the blows having been struck by another star, the head of the rock group, has aroused righteous anger. One hopes that once the summer is over and political and social crises return with the fall, we will not quickly, and maybe even a little cravenly, forget that numerous "Marie Trintignant" exist in France and in Europe.
Marie Trintignant's martyrdom reminds us, if it were necessary, that this sordid behavior is only too common-in one household out of ten- according to the inquiry ordered in 2000 by Lionel Jospin's State Secretary for Women's Rights, Nicole P ry, whose conclusions were published by Le Monde. Bertrand Cantat is a well-known artist; he has invested in important causes and had a positive "big brother" image. An additional proof that conjugal violence is not the prerogative of the underprivileged, the unemployed, the openly violent or alcoholics; that it may be equally a fact among "good people". According to the inquiry, more women are beaten who come from the management/executive level (8.7%) than among those who are blue collar workers, ordinary employees, and shopkeepers.
Otherwise, how can we explain that women are insulted, assaulted, threatened with death, killed, in one household out of ten? How do we explain that men, even educated men, continue to surrender to compulsions that come from another time, when women were supposed to be submissive?
Some people, like the philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, accused the inquiry with doing women a disservice by "victimizing" them. Perhaps. But debating the matter is not enough when we are aware that the statistics have hardly evolved since 1989, when Michel Rocard's State Secretary for Women's Rights, Mich le Andr , already introduced the statistic of 10% of all households affected, which, at the rate of 6 deaths a month, amounts to more than a thousand victims since then!
What to do? Above all, take this tragedy seriously: welcome, protect and help these women who feel so alone, resource-less, and sometimes even abandoned by their families. And show yourself uncompromising from the first blow. As the comedienne Maria de Medeiros writes us, "one slap is never harmless, a slap is never an accident".
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.