La Vie En Rose – Domestic Violence Figures Shame France


Some national records are enviable, others are shameful. The official figures concerning domestic violence in France make for grim reading – a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every three days.

France’s dismal record on domestic violence is certainly nothing to be proud of, but what is even more worrying is that the country’s official figures may only reflect the tip of the iceberg and come nowhere near the harsh reality facing French women in their homes. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce measures to combat domestic violence, including the confiscation of firearms from those suspected of domestic violence and formally recognising “psychological violence” as a form of domestic violence. Abusive partners who push women to commit suicide would face criminal convictions under the proposed laws.

Tackling this deep-rooted and tragic problem requires significantly increasing available funds in order to have the facilities that will protect victims who are trying to escape from the clutches of their abusers. More often than not, victims of domestic violence have nowhere to go to escape the uncontrolled violence of their partners. They either endure the violence by staying at home, briefly escape to return when they think that their partner has calmed down, or sleep rough in the parks of French towns and cities, in the hope of a brighter tomorrow. For psychiatrist, Marie-France Hirigoyen, who has been working on the psychological effects of domestic violence for over 40 years, domestic violence comprises psychological and physical components.

The problem with psychological violence is that it is difficult to prove that it is actually taking place. It is an insidious process in which the victim participates unconsciously in her own downfall by accepting the situation as being normal. For Hirigoyen, the globalism of violence endured by women can be compared to an iceberg, with the very tip of the iceberg representing the victim’s suicide as a result of psychological and physical violence that forms the rest of the visible part of the iceberg. But what lies under the cold ocean must also be taken into account. It comprises the blatant but mundane inequalities that exist between men and women and that are so widely accepted in our societies.

In her surgery, Marie-France Hirigoyen has counselled victims who have never been physically abused but who have developed psycho-somatic symptoms directly related to the psychological abuse exerted by their partners. Symptoms include constant and generalised body pains, depression and/or anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress. Worst of all is that in many cases the victim does not consider herself as a victim but rather as a culprit. She is the one responsible as soon as she tries to defend herself and, in any case, she cannot survive without the presence of her abusive partner or husband. For many victims of domestic violence, the psychological violence directed against them has become a daily routine that they have become used to, until the day they break into a thousand pieces in the psychiatrist’s surgery or worse, in the car park below their second storey apartment. They are trapped like frogs in a cooking pot whose water gets hotter by the day, not realising that they will be boiled to death and not jumping out in time. So insidious is the nature of psychological violence.

Prevention is also the key.

Whereas it goes without saying that police officials should be aware of the signs related to domestic violence so as not to turn potential victims away, schoolchildren should learn that the differences between men and women are  not so great as to warrant discrimination.

I got a taste of sexist remarks that could affect schoolchildren the other day, when my son’s tennis teacher said to a 14-year-old girl, who was taking too long to put on an extra sweatshirt, that she was acting in a “typically woman fashion.”  I quickly let him know that men do that also. Nothing to do with women, much ado about sexism.

The French education system rightly prides itself in teaching the literary classics of Molière and Racine to sixth-formers, as well as philosophy at the Baccalauréat. Maybe the education minister should now think about explaining the effects of psychological and physical violence on women, in France’s kindergartens.


Dionne Warwick – La Vie en Rose [English Version]

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak angels sing from above
Every day’s words seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose
la la la la de de de de
Every day’s words seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose