In the car, back from summer vacation, a 6-year-old girl denounces, to her mother, the sexual assaults allegedly inflicted on her by her father. The mother rushes to the nearest police station. Two years later, nothing. Alternate custody is maintained. Such stories, Isabelle Aubry, president of the association Face à inceste, can tell dozens. Today, she hopes that the book by Camille Kouchner, who accuses her father-in-law, the lawyer Olivier Duhamel, of having raped his brother thirty years ago, will help free the words of the victims but also of those close to them who perpetuate the omerta.
Because the number of complaints filed, compared to the estimated scale of the phenomenon, is derisory. According to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, in 2018, only 7,260 complaints of sexual violence against minors committed in the family context were recorded … while an Ipsos study of 2010 indicates that one in ten French people, or 6.7 million people claim to be victims of incest.
Few proceedings end in trials
“Incest is extremely difficult to denounce, decrypts Aude Darsonville, professor of criminal law at Paris-Nanterre and specialist in sexual violence. It often takes years after coming of age, therefore removal from the family circle, to get there.” The lawyer notes “torn families, with one part supporting the child, and the other the author”. Sometimes, the revelation of the rape (s) is beyond the limitation period (thirty years after coming of age since the Schiappa law of 2018).
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And when the victim speaks, “we do not believe her”, storms Martine Brousse, president of “La Voix de l’Enfant”. Its association is at the origin, following the Guigou law of 1998, of pediatric reception units-Children in danger, where professionals listen to the child. But Martine Brousse regrets “a very strong decline in the presence of the police in these units”. Echoing this, Isabelle Aubry denounces the lack of training of investigators, magistrates and lawyers. Legal proceedings are therefore often “an obstacle course”.
And it generally ends in a classification without continuation. According to data from the State Secretariat for Children, 73% of procedures for sexual violence against minors do not go to trial. Lack of evidence, most often, according to Aude Darsonville. In a study conducted in Lille in 2012, it also noted “somewhat rapid rankings or complaints not properly taken”.
Incest is not a specific offense
Why does justice not reflect the banality of these crimes or misdemeanors? Incest has only been named in the Penal Code since 2016, and it is not a specific offense; the fact that a rape or a sexual assault is committed by an ascendant is only an aggravating circumstance. Incestuous rape is punished by a maximum of twenty years of criminal imprisonment. But in 80% of cases, according to Face à incest, the facts are judged as misdemeanors and not crimes; the authors therefore risk only ten years’ imprisonment. At the chancellery, we qualify: “Either it is because of the congestion of the foundations, or it is because we could not demonstrate the penetration. Rape is then reclassified as sexual assault.”
Finally, very few cases result in a conviction. In 2018, says the Chancellery, there are 199 convictions for intra-family rape, for sentences of eleven years on average; 620 for sexual assault, and 26 for sexual assault, for average lengths of thirty-one months in prison. Or less than 1,000 convictions! Figures probably underestimated, specifies the Chancellery, because the word incest is not always mentioned in the decisions.