broadsideblog

France Makes Verbally Abusing A Woman A Crime

In Crime, women, world on July 1, 2010 at 9:46 am
Nadine Morano, French politician

Nadine Morano -- Merci! Image via Wikipedia

It’s no longer enough to hit a woman, but threatening her with violence is now a crime in France. From The New York Times:

The French Parliament gave final and unanimous approval on Tuesday to a law that makes “psychological violence” a criminal offense as part of a law intended to help victims of physical violence and abuse, especially in the home.

The law is thought to be too vague by some judges and the police, and whether they choose to investigate and prosecute such offenses will define the success of the new legislation.

Nadine Morano, the secretary of state for the family, told the National Assembly that “we have introduced an important measure here, which recognizes psychological violence, because it isn’t just blows, but also words.”

Ms. Morano said the primary abuse help line for French women got 90,000 calls a year, with 84 percent concerning psychological violence.

The legislation, introduced by Danielle Bousquet, a Socialist, and Guy Geoffroy, a member of the ruling center-right Union for a Popular Movement, quickly found bipartisan support and backing from the government. In November, Prime Minister François Fillon called the draft law “a national cause” and said it would allow the authorities to deal with “the most insidious situations, which don’t leave a mark to the naked eye but can mutilate the victim’s inner self.”

Those found guilty face up to three years in jail and a fine of 75,000 euros, or about $90,000.

This is an important step — 2.2 French women are killed in domestic violence every day, slightly lower than the three a day in the U.S.

Women who live with threatening and abusive partners live in a kind of hell few of us can imagine. A man’s verbal abuse can do just as much damage to a woman’s psyche and confidence — her ability to work or have friends or see her family or care for her kids — as a punch to the face. You can call the cops if he hits you; physical assault is a crime and provable while threatening words become a game of he-said, she-said, the damage deep but invisible.

I spent a lot of time around women who had been abused, beaten and repeatedly threatened, sometimes for years or decades, for my 2004 book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns”. Just listening to their stories left my own soul bruised and darkened, like the elegant blond who spoke to me in a Texas library bathroom and told me her husband kept a shotgun under his side of the bed and threatened regularly to aim it at her. Her own family of origin said — suck it up.

I’ve also spent time around men who were extremely verbally abusive, when they weren’t utterly charming.

Untangling one’s psyche from these men isn’t nearly as simple as it can appear.

  1. I’ll be impressed when they ban insulting foreigners.

  2. Calme-toi! They’re not much ruder than New Yorkers, I can assure you, having lived both places.

    The French are often formally much more polite to one another, and I miss and appreciate that social lubricant — you are considered a rude boor (and many tourists ignore this custom) if you do not formally say hello and goodbye every time you enter a shop, for example.

    How difficult is it for us to even acknowledge one another?

  3. Enforcing the French law that bans verbal abuse of women will prove difficult in the best of circumstances, and probably impossible in quite a few cases.

    Still, it’s a superb idea and an important step forward in the never-ending campaign to halt cowardly men who feel hatred toward women.

    Let’s hope lawmakers in the United States study implementation of the law closely, then adapt the French version to domestic circumstances here.

  4. I wish that could happen…as you know, dv is so often dismissed or hard to stop.

    I wish it were re-named intimate terrorism…the word “domestic” softens and somehow weakens the reality. These women live under a reign of terror.

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