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Woman who killed rapist husband goes on trial in France

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Accused Valerie Bacot (C/yellow scarf) arrives flanked by her family and surrounded by journalists the Chalon-sur-Saone Courthouse, on June 21, 2021, central-eastern France, prior to the opening hearing of her trial on charges of murdering her stepfather turned husband, who she claimed abused her since she was 12. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)


A French woman went on trial on Monday for killing the man who raped her for years as her stepfather before becoming her husband and pimp.

The case has mobilised defenders of women against male violence, with hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for her release.

“I had to put an end to it,” Valerie Bacot, 40, wrote in her book published last month called “Everybody Knew”, adding: “I was afraid, all the time.”

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The trial, which opened in Chalon-sur-Saone in France’s central Burgundy region, is due to run through Friday.

Bacot was 12 when her mother’s partner, Daniel Polette, who was 25 years her senior, raped her for the first time.

He was sent to prison, but after his release returned and resumed the serial rapes.

At 17, Bacot became pregnant, got 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 passing through, using the back of a Peugeot people carrier, giving her instructions through an earpiece that she had to wear.

Investigators established that Polette threatened to kill her if she refused, pointing a gun at her many times.

‘This has to stop’

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

On March 2016, after Polette ordered his wife to undergo yet another sexual humiliation by a client, she used the pistol that 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.

The circumstances of the shooting rule out any possible claim of legitimate self-defence.

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Bacot hid the body in a forest with the help of two of her four children. In October 2017 she was arrested, confessed and one year later released pending her trial while remaining under judicial control.

She made no comment as she arrived at the courthouse Monday, appearing intimidated by the crowd of reporters awaiting her.

Her lawyers said ahead of the trial that “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, had already 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.

“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.

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

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