Violence against women

French woman who killed rapist husband goes on trial for murder

French protestors calling for an end to violence against women.
French protestors calling for an end to violence against women. AFP/Boris Horvat

A woman who killed the man who raped her for years as her stepfather, before becoming her husband and pimp, goes on trial for murder on Monday. The case has mobilised defenders of women victims of male violence, with hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for the accused woman's release.

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Valérie Bacot, who is now 40 years old, was 12 when her mother's partner, Daniel Polette, raped her for the first time. He was 25 years her senior.

He was sent to prison, but after his release returned and continued to rape Bacot.

At 17, Bacot became pregnant, was thrown out of the house by her alcoholic mother, and went to live with Polette.

Polette, also a heavy drinker, became increasingly violent, attacking her with a hammer at one point.

He later ordered her to work as a prostitute for truck drivers. Investigators established that Polette threatened to kill Bacot if she refused, pointing a gun at her many times.

When Polette started questioning her 14-year old daughter Karline about her budding sexuality, Bacot said she decided that "this has to stop".

One sexual humiliation too many

In March 2016, after Polette ordered his wife to undergo yet another sexual humiliation by a client, she used the pistol that he kept hidden in his car to kill him with a single bullet to the back of the neck.

Bacot hid the body with the help of two of her four children. In October 2017, she was arrested, confessed to the killing and was released under judicial control pending trial.

Her lawyers have said "the extreme violence that she suffered for 25 years, and the fear that her daughter would be next" pushed her to kill Polette.

The same lawyers, Janine Bonaggiunta and Nathalie Tomasini, defended Jacqueline Sauvage, a French woman who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her abusive husband but won a presidential pardon in 2016 after becoming a symbol for the fight against violence directed at women.

More than 500,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Bacot, who risks life in prison if she is found guilty of murder, be cleared of the charge.

The trial in Chalon-sur-Saone, in France's central Burgundy region, is expected to continue all week.

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