Paris, France: A French lady went on trial, Monday, for the murder of her stepfather, who abused her for years before becoming her spouse and pimp.
Valerie Bacot’s story has inspired anti-domestic-violence activists, with hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition calling for her release.
“I had to put an end to it,” Bacot, 40, wrote in a book published last month called “Everybody Knew”, adding: “I was afraid, all the time.”
The trial, which began on Monday in Chalon-sur-Saone in central Burgundy, is expected to last through Friday.
Bacot was 12 years old when her mother’s partner, Daniel Polette, raped her for the first time. Polette was 25 years her senior.
He was sentenced to prison, but upon his release, he returned to his serial rapes.
“He told my mother that he wouldn’t start again. But he did,” she told the court.
Bacot fell pregnant at the age of 17, was kicked out of her family by her drunken mother, and moved in with Polette.
“I wanted to keep my child. I had nobody. Where could I go?,” she told the court.
Polette, who was also a frequent drinker, got increasingly violent, at one time hitting her with a hammer.
“At first he would slap me, later that became kicking, then punches and then choking,” she said, describing her life as an “extreme hell”.
Polette compelled her to work as a prostitute for truck drivers in the back of a Peugeot people carrier, giving her orders through an earpiece he forced her to wear to ensure she followed the demands of clients for whom he charged between 20 and 50 euros ($24-$59).
Polette threatened to kill her if she refused, according to investigators, pointing a revolver at her several times.
‘This needs to come to an end’
Bacot said she determined “this needs to end” after Polette began probing their 14-year-old daughter Karline about her developing sexuality.
Polette’s wife used the pistol he kept in the car to kill him with a single bullet to the back of the neck while he was in the driver’s seat in March 2016, after he ordered his wife to face yet another sexual humiliation by a client.
Bacot stated that she wanted to ensure that her daughter did not experience the same fate as her. She stated, “I wanted to save her.”
Any claim of justified self-defense is ruled out by the circumstances of the incident.
With the help of two of her four children, Bacot hid the body in a forest. She was caught in October 2017, confessed, and was released on bail a year later.
She was a small woman with a ponytail and a black jacket who appeared terrified by the gathering of media as she arrived at the courthouse Monday.
“The tremendous brutality she had undergone for 25 years, and the dread that her daughter would be next” prompted her to kill Polette, her lawyers argued ahead of the trial.
Janine Bonaggiunta and Nathalie Tomasini, the same lawyers, had previously defended Jacqueline Sauvage, a French woman who was sentenced to ten years in prison for killing her abusive husband but was granted a presidential pardon in 2016 after becoming a symbol of the fight against domestic violence.
“These women who are victims of violence have no protection. The judiciary is still too slow, not reactive enough and too lenient towards the perpetrators who can continue to exercise their violent power,” Bonaggiunta told AFP.
“This is precisely what can push a desperate woman to kill in order to survive,” she said.
Bacot was “certain that she needed to commit this act to protect her children”, a court evaluation found.
Around 588,000 people had signed a petition urging that Bacot, who faces life in prison for murder, be acquitted of the accusation by Monday afternoon.