PARIS (AP) – France is launching a new process to allow women to formally report abuse, bypassing police stations, where many victims are uncomfortable with filing such complaints.
Undersecretary of the Interior Marlene Schiappa said alternative locations could include a friend’s house or another place where abused women feel safe.
“There are women who tell us that they do not dare to come to the police station because they are afraid that they will not be accepted, because it is difficult to talk about things that are taboo (with) an unknown person in military uniform in a foreign environment. “She said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is why we are removing one obstacle after another that they face.”
An annual survey conducted by the national statistical institute INSEE found that only 10% of victims of sexual violence in France file a formal complaint.
Police said this week that reports of domestic violence increased by 10% in the past year. INSEE estimates that over 200,000 women experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner or ex-partner every year.
A recent government initiative will attempt to send police officers to places where women have found shelter so that they can make formal complaints. This will allow victims to remain “in an environment where you feel safe, in a friend’s house, in your lawyer’s home, in a hospital, in your doctor’s home,” Schiappa said.
She added that this complements other efforts made in recent years, including training more police officers, creating a list of questions to ask for hazard assessments, and the ability to alert police via text message or an internet platform.
The junior minister is responsible for the relationship between the police and women victims of violence. On Tuesday, she visited a refurbished police station in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, which now includes a privacy office for those who file complaints and a room for children with toys and books.
The visit was part of other events this week to celebrate Thursday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.…
The 13th arrondissement has been selected, along with other districts in the country, to implement the new grievance process.
The move came after a viral online campaign on French social media condemned the shocking police response. blaming women as victims or mishandling their complaints when they reported sexual assault. The hashtag #DoublePeine (#DoubleSentencing) quickly counted at least 30,000 reports of alleged police brutality, activists said.
“I want to appreciate and support the actions of the police … and once again remind everyone that in the vast majority of cases complaints are dealt with with great sympathy and great support,” Schiappa said. “But for a minority of cases where things go badly, this is clearly unacceptable.”
The Interior Ministry has issued instructions to the police in recent months regarding the legal obligation to accept all complaints after women reported they were discouraged from reporting ill-treatment, sometimes citing insufficient evidence.
“It is illegal to refuse to receive a complaint,” Schiappa said. “We want complaints to go to the prosecutor’s office so that the justice system can take them over.”
Axel Garnier de Saint-Sauveur, a psychologist who works with the Parisian police to assist victims and train police officers, said there are a number of obstacles to women reporting abuse.
When their partner holds them, he “blocks everything.” This prevents (them) from going in defense, filing a complaint, ”she said. “You also have the fact that traumatic situations completely interfere with the victim’s thinking.”
Another reason is that “there is definitely some fear, not knowing what to do when you are being insulted. How you will be treated ”when filing a complaint.
“It’s scary (for the victim) to think:“ They won’t hear me, they won’t welcome me. ” And there is also an obstacle to overcome: to enter the police station. “
Tens of thousands of people came out on Saturday. through Paris and other cities to demand additional action from the government on this issue. “We remembered that violence is everywhere. It’s not necessary, “right-wing girl group NousToutes tweeted.
Activists want the government to spend € 1 billion ($ 1.1 billion) annually on violence against women, instead of the $ 360 million ($ 406 million) now being spent – in part on creating more shelters.