in the book, 30 years of fighting against sexual violence
AFP, published on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at 05:00
It is a story dedicated to the “forgotten since #MeToo”: in “Sambre” journalist Alice Géraud follows the “mechanics of indifference” in the treatment of sexual violence against women and the long way that French society has come over thirty years.
Published in mid-January by JC Lattès, this in-depth research was born from the question: “How could a man attack and rape so many women for so long in such a small territory?”, the author describes in detail in an interview with AFP.
This man is Dino Scala. Dubbed the “rapist of the Sambre”, he was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2022 for more than fifty rapes and sexual assaults (or attempts) committed between 1988 and 2018 in the north of France.
An extraordinary case in terms of its scale and duration, which makes it a “fact of society”, assures Alice Géraud.
A fact of society that she told only through the testimony of the victims. “The first thing that struck me was the extent of their pain and how their lives were stopped by the side of the road,” she says.
– “Denial” –
But something bigger emerges from the intimate story of these women: “the way our society and its institutions have treated victims of sexual assault and rape in the past 30 years,” says the journalist.
Across the pages, Alice Géraud – who was one of the co-founders of the Internet media “Les Jours” – points to the accumulation of mistakes, police, judicial or journalistic, that allowed Dino Scala to attack and rape women with impunity.
The lack of resources, the absence of DNA studies, the sexist climate of the 80s, the weight of shame… If the dysfunctions are multiple, the journalist also points to the climate of minimization” at work in those years.
“For a long time, we did not measure the weight of the facts and their consequences for the victims because we were not interested in them. It was indifference,” she said.
“There was denial. Everything happened as if we didn’t want to see it,” concludes sociologist and statistician Alice Debauche, who was co-responsible for the national Virage survey in 2015. According to AFP. 14.5% of women experienced sexual violence during their lifetime.
And let us remind you that the first national data on sexual violence date from the 1990s.
– “Never acquired” –
Changes also begin during this period. Like the abolition of the concept of indecent assault in 1994 in the criminal code, which was replaced by the concept of sexual assault.
“Symbolically, it was fundamental even if, on the ground, this change took years,” the sociologist analyzes.
If feminist movements and the #Metoo wave (2018) participated in raising awareness of this scourge, the road “is still very long,” sociologist Véronique Le Goaziou, author of a rape manual, assures AFP.
“Could the case + of the Sambre rapist + be repeated today? No. The progress of DNA and the evolution of society make it seem impossible,” notes Alice Géraud, for whom “However, the management of this violence remains “imperfect”.
And especially to call for a “semantic revolution of justice”: “The letters that the victims receive are incomprehensible, the procedures for legal aid are a mountain, and let’s not even talk about the support for the victims”, the journalist enumerates.
Above all, points out Alice Debauche, “what we notice in the fight against sexual violence is that nothing is gained in advance. There are moments of improvement, but there can also be setbacks”.