Find the right words. To know how to listen. To reassure. And help. When you think you are dealing with a victim of domestic violence, it is often difficult to know how to accompany and help a daughter, a sister or a friend under the influence of a violent spouse.
This is what Me Janine Bonaggiunta, a lawyer specializing in the defense of marital victims, who defended Jacqueline Sauvage and signs today wants to change. And that’s all (ed. Kiwi). “A simple guide, for everyone, with practical advice,” she explains to 20 minutes. On the occasion this Friday of the International Day for the fight against violence against women, the lawyer gives her advice to improve support for victims and enlighten their loved ones on the role they can play.
Why this title, “Un point c’est tout”, and this cover photo representing a palm marked in the center with a small black dot?
First, the book is surrounded by a banner stating: “This book can help you or someone close to you who is a victim of violence. We invite you to throw away this blindfold”. Everything is thought out out of concern for the victims.
This choice on the cover is in reference to the initiative that has been publicized in recent years: that victims of domestic violence can be easily identified, with a simple little black dot drawn in the palm of their hand, and thus be able to ask for help. assistance from merchants, pharmacists, in complete discretion. It’s commendable, but I don’t have the feeling that it was followed up much, most certainly out of ignorance.
With this book, loved ones can become aware of the decisive role they have to play. And entrust it to the victims, so that they in turn realize that they are victims of violence from which they can free themselves, and stop feeling guilty. Hence the importance of defining the different types of violence — physical, psychological, verbal, economic, sexual.
What signs should alert the victims themselves?
It starts with isolation, from family and friends, who will be criticized, gradually kept away. By small remarks to belittle, denigrate the victim. By an injunction or even an obligation to stop working, for more control and influence over her. When you can’t see anyone, you can’t talk.
There is also control: of clothing, of the timetable. It can also be financial: the violent spouse can confiscate the bank card, misuse his money and his property.
The cycle of violence always follows the same pattern: the seduction phase, where the perpetrator shows his best side. Then he establishes a climate of tension, where the victim is worried, tries to smooth things over because he feels the next phase is coming: that of the explosion of violence, which can be psychological and physical, occurring in front of the children. And finally, the justification phase, during which he minimizes his actions, blames his victim, asks for forgiveness. And again, with less and less seduction and forgiveness over the years, and more and more influence.
And the signs that should alert loved ones?
It’s when a woman naturally close to her entourage no longer comes to see her parents or her friends. That we notice a change in his physical appearance: long sweaters or glasses that hide the marks of blows, thinness and signs of fatigue, dark circles that widen. Or a change in behavior, withdrawal, anxiety, sadness or irritability.
At the same time, the author gives the impression very well: he may have yelled and banged on the way in the car and be very pleasant during the family reunion, where his wife will be prostrate or on edge.
What would you advise relatives to support and concretely help a victim?
Even if it’s delicate, you have to dare to talk about it, to say “I’m here if you need to talk. I believe you, I don’t judge you. And I don’t want any harm to happen to you.” We must not trivialize the violence suffered, but understand the victims: like victims of war, they develop a post-traumatic stress disorder, are in a state of amazement and permanent trauma. They have a great need to be listened to and reassured. And don’t hesitate to say so – with the right words – if you notice that children seem affected by this violence, whether they are witnesses or direct victims.
Then, it is a question of proposing all the assistance which one is able to bring: a financial assistance, an accommodation, a vehicle, an accompaniment in the legal and administrative procedures. To get out of this cycle of violence, the victims need outstretched hands, because they are psychologically vulnerable and very often financially precarious: when their spouse has forced them to stop working, when the accommodation is in their name alone, that he confiscated resources and means of payment, it is very complicated to leave, especially if you have children.
And what advice do you have for a victim, how to “properly” prepare for their departure?
It is essential to keep your job, it is a window on the outside and it allows you to maintain a semblance of financial autonomy. If they can, in a very practical way, it is necessary to prepare a bag with the identity papers, the payslips, the health records of the children, money if possible, so as to deal with the most urgent.
But once again, a victim cannot do it alone: the help of parents and friends is needed. And resources: you can’t tell a woman to “leave” if she doesn’t have a solution to relocate with her children. All this must be anticipated. Otherwise, it is at risk of seeing her return to her violent spouse, which unfortunately happens very often.
In the event of physical violence, she can lodge a complaint. But often, overwhelmed by emotion, she can lose the thread of her story, forget decisive elements to characterize the facts within the framework of the legal procedure. Do not hesitate to contact victim support associations, which can help her put down on paper everything she has experienced. So that the magistrate then has all the elements to issue, when possible, a protection order, allowing him to remain in the marital home without the perpetrator of the violence.
On this International Day for the fight against violence against women, a subject set up as a great national cause in France, where are we in this battle?
Even today, I see absurdities: women lodge a complaint without this preventing their spouse from returning to the marital home that same evening. I see women who, in the context of their complaint, are examined by a doctor from a medico-judicial unit who issues a medical certificate with probative value, without the perpetrator of the violence being prosecuted, because the facts are not not considered serious enough. I see women who try to lodge a complaint, who are told to come back the next day because there are no staff available. This case occurred and led to the death of a woman, killed by her companion who then killed himself.
To fight effectively, you need considerable resources, specialized brigades, psychologists and teams trained in the collection of complaints within the police stations. But also trained magistrates: I still see some who do not understand why a victim stays with the person who rapes them, because they do not understand the notion of influence or financial precariousness.
Finally, it would be necessary to be able to expel the violent spouse from the marital home, as in Spain, and thus allow the victim and his children to remain there, in safety. And set up quotas for social housing and priority jobs for the victims, to offer them effective means of leaving.