A French mother of four who said she was “afraid to die every day” at the hands of her abusive husband will walk free despite being convicted of killing him, in a high profile murder case that sparked a conversation around domestic violence in France.
The courthouse of Chalon-sur-Saone in central France on Friday sentenced Valérie Bacot, 40, to four years in prison with three suspended, over the 2016 killing of her husband Daniel Polette, who was also her step-father. Since Bacot has already served one year in detention, it means she will not face any further jail time.
The verdict has set a precedent and is a major conversation point around society’s silence about domestic violence — still a taboo topic in many families — happening in plain view.
A Washington Post report said Bacot recounted the details of her husband’s death in the best-selling novel “Tout Le Monde Savait,” describing “how she shot him outside the French village of La Clayette and then buried him in the nearby woods with the help of two of their children”.
“At first it was slaps, then kicks, punches and he would strangle me,” the New York Times quoted Bacot as telling the French court. She said she was “afraid to die every day”.
According to the testimony she gave to the court, Bacot was 12 when Polette coerced her into having sex with him. Even after he was jailed for her sexual assault, he returned to the family home after three years in jail and continued the abuse “while her mother turned a blind eye”.
“He told my mother that he wouldn’t start again. But he did,” she said.
Bacot had four children with Polette and lived with him under a reign of terror as the alcoholic and abusive man threatened her and eventually forced her into prostitution. She conceived her first child at 17 and was allegedly thrown out of the house by her mother, following which she went to live with Polette. According to Al Jazeera, Polette would not allow her to use contraception.
He had allegedly started to turn his eye on their 14-year-old daughter when Bacot decided that “this has to stop”.
Bacot’s children told the court their mother had been forced into prostitution by Polette for 11 years, and that they learned about it when they found business cards their father had made with the words “escort girl” written on them, the NYT reported.
She shot her husband in the back of the head after she was raped in 2016 by a client. “Yes, I killed him but if I had not done it, my children would have,” Bacot told the court.
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