In a case that has been hailed a rare “victory” for victims of marital rape, a French court on Wednesday sentenced a man to three years in prison after finding him guilty of beating his wife and then forcing her into sexual relations.
On the night of December 6, 2010 in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, a small suburb southeast of the French capital, Samia Jaber was beaten by her husband in front of her four-year-old daughter and then raped twice.
The next morning as she stood waiting for the train that would take her to work, Jaber was detained by police who had noticed her bruised face. No stranger to domestic violence, Jaber was well acquainted with the fear that her story might not be believed. But under police advice, she decided to file a complaint.
Now, nearly four years later, a French court has found Jaber’s ex-husband guilty of marital rape. He was sentenced on Wednesday to a partially suspended five-year sentence, three of which will be served in prison.
The case has thrust the sensitive issue of domestic violence and marital rape into the spotlight in France. The ruling comes not only as a major victory for Jaber, but also sets a precedent for other victims of such abuse.
Sexual abuse in the home
Although marital rape is largely considered a taboo issue in French society, Danièle Lanssade, who works for the organisation Le Planning Familial, said that it is a common form of domestic abuse.
“Sexual violence is an almost systematic part of domestic abuse, just like verbal and physical aggression,” she told FRANCE 24.
Because of the intimate nature of such abuse, Lanssade said, many women struggle to confront it.
“The victims don’t broach the issue at first, you have to wait awhile…When they do, they don’t use the word ‘rape’. Instead they say that they have been coerced into sexual relations, or that they do not experience any sexual pleasure.”
Lanssade hopes, however, that Jaber’s case will help other women to break their silence.
“It’s very rare for women to file a complaint like this, so the ruling is a victory. It will allow other women to say ‘I can also be heard,’” she said.
‘The page has been turned’
Lanssade’s view was echoed by the lawyer for the organisation Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores, Nor Victims), who defended Jaber during her trial and said that the case allowed for “marital rape to be considered a crime”.
The sentence handed out, however, was far less than the eight to 10 years sought by the attorney general. While the accused acknowledged that he had hit his wife, he never admitted to raping her.
Regardless, Jaber greeted the ruling as a welcome end to a long ordeal.
“It’s an ending, the page has been turned,” she said.
Date created : 2013-10-17