Choralyne Dumesnil, attorney at law licensed in Paris and California

Thank you Christine Angot

Thank you Christine Angot, for your breathtaking courage in your documentary "A Family", thank you for getting your foot in the door of the denial of the incest of fathers against their daughter.

Denial is the screed of lead, concrete and steel that the aggressors and those around them impose. It locks in the silence.
A great deal of research exists on the role of denial in the psychological survival mechanisms – traumatic memory – of victims of sexual violence.

Your documentary reveals how denial is at work in the "environment": in the mother, the father's wife, the husband.

The empathetic spectator can only shudder for you, whom we know is there, sitting in this living room, in this kitchen, facing this person who does not even seem to realize what he is saying and even less the consequences it can have on you. To bring the other person back into the present and the reality of pain, you go so far as to place your hand on your heart to remind you of what it is to be human: to have a beating heart.

The figures of denial are:

- the wives of fathers who "can't imagine" that the man they loved – and admired – could have done "that" is not the man they knew;
- mothers who do not "understand" how, despite their "mother-daughter relationship", "it" could have happened and continued, why their daughter did not say anything to them at the time when "it" happened;
- husbands, companions who declare: "But you were so strong! To me, you knew what you were doing... »
In front of them, in front of them, the victims repeat, you repeat: "I was a child" "I was raped by my father."
You've already written it, you've been working, you've been talking about "it" for a long time.
On the ruins left by a bomb, a time bomb that has exploded multiple times, the reactions in fine are:
-It's ancient history;
- Life is ahead;
- It's over, let's not talk about it anymore;
- You're strong.

In response to these attitudes of denial, you ask, "Is this all that 'it' – incest, that happened to me, and that I have since spoken to all of you with confidence – does to you?"

It's unbearable.

Courageously, you continue to speak, to say and to show. What you show in this documentary is the denial of sexual violence committed against children and even more tenacious in cases of incest by a father against his daughter.

There are mothers who don't see. There are children who don't speak, we are so often told; But if they had been spoken to when the flame of recklessness had been extinguished in their eyes, would they not have confided in them?

Children Speak, Mothers Believe

There are children who talk and show their mothers – statistically, they confide in their mother first – what Dad did.

And there are mothers who seek to protect their children, girls or boys, from incest.

They are addressed to the judicial institution, certain that they will be received with competence and benevolence.

They can't imagine the obstacle course that lies ahead of them.

At each stage, they receive a new blast.

But they are not in denial. They explain in what context, under what circumstances, under what conditions the child said what, how, what actions were committed. Too often, the child is not protected from the father who commits incest.

I hope your documentary will change the lives of these children.

Neige Sinno's book made the headlines, but, that's different, it was her stepfather, not her father, and he was convicted by the judicial system, so he's "really guilty, him".

There is a huge amount of work to be done, all over the world. It is the entire judicial chain that must be questioned.

The denial we see in your documentary, we also see in the justice system:

"Well, ma'am, stop telling us about the violence of the gentleman against you, it's been two or two years that you've been separated, it's over. We're here to take care of your child's home. She (or he) says she was a victim of incest, you say, but to us, she (or he) doesn't say that! »
"She (or he) tells us that you were the one who told her to tell this!"
There, the mother falls out of her chair.
"I was the one who told him to tell you what happened!"
What's next?
But no, no, nothing happened, the father didn't do anything, it was another mother who told her child to tell "that". Come on, we're giving the child to the father...
An impact study? Carried out in the United States, it gives frightening results. In France, such a study has never been launched before and, given the difficulties of access to files by researchers, I doubt that none will be launched for a very long time.
Clarification: I indicate "he or she", because I have been able to observe the same device, whether the child is a girl or a boy, whether he or she is 4 or 9 years old.
To sum up, in the words of a 4-year-old child sexually assaulted by his grandfather – I know, it's not his father – in response to a police officer's – mind-blowing – question:
"Why is he doing this, grandpa?
"Because he can." »
In the end, "it" can stop. Let's open our eyes and help them!
Incest will cease when we agree to look it in the face.
When we protect children.
When the perpetrators are unmasked and put out of action to harm children.
Because violence is cyclical, if it is not stopped, it continues.
And it's up to the justice system to do that.

Rape is a crime. Incest is a crime.

This article was published on Club de Médiapart:

Comment from a professional

Comment received on March 23, 2024 at 2:02 pm - Toussaint 973 on Club de Médiapart

"I've been confronted with sexual assaults on children and teenagers throughout my career, having suffered some myself, albeit far less than what I've heard, what I've listened to, for over 40 years. 

The vast majority of these assaults, without a doubt, take place within the family circle.

Throughout my career, of the dozens of cases I've dealt with, paedophile assaults - by teachers, clergy, doctors - come a long way behind incest. Very, very far. And almost all of them were committed by men: fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, stepfathers... In one case, an orphan who had lost both parents in an accident, it was both grandfathers... The damage is appalling, literally appalling.

And there's nothing marginal about the incidence of pedophilic and incestuous violence. It's a minority of children, but it's not a tiny minority, far from it. It's time to recognize that pedophilic incest is a social norm, not a marginal deviation or transgression. It's also high time we stopped thinking that paedophilia is the exclusive preserve of the Catholic Church.

The truth is that the vast majority of society refuses to acknowledge this violence and to tackle the problem head-on. It's a form of child abuse in which almost all of us are accomplices, by action or omission.

Thanks to Ms Angot, thanks to the children who speak out, and often pay dearly for it. Terribly dearly. Thank you to those who fight with children and for children. Now I'm retired, and that's probably what I appreciate most, I no longer hear them, I no longer see them confronting me with my helplessness and cowardice."


I'd like to thank this professional for sharing his or her experience. I fully understand what he/she is feeling and expressing in his/her last sentence. I think it's important for all professionals who find themselves confronted not only with sexual violence committed against children, but also with the denial of the judicial institution and its dramatic and inhuman consequences (while we're drowned in campaigns for child protection and human rights and blah, blah, blah, we're going to act without actually doing anything), to always nourish hope in them.

We're doing everything we can, and describing it the way you do is extremely valuable. Let's persistently continue to :

1. Document inappropriate/unjust/violent judicial responses (there is so much to analyze in order to qualify them)

2. Denounce them.

Witness professionals, find out what you can do from victims' associations and specialized lawyers.

Thank you "Toussaint 973".

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