A mother of four is on trial in France for killing her husband after decades of sexual, physical and psychological abuse that began when she was a teenager. The case that has attracted wide attention and support for her amid a national reckoning with long-standing taboos surrounding domestic abuse.
Valerie Bacot, 40, admitted to shooting Daniel Polette to death in 2016. Polette was first her stepfather before becoming her husband and forcing her into prostitution.
A verdict is expected Friday at the Chalon-sur-Saone courthouse in central France.
The prosecutor requested a year in prison and a suspended sentence of four years, which means that Bacot could be released from court because he has already served a pre-trial sentence. The prosecutor said he does not consider her a danger to society.
Bacot fainted while listening to the prosecutor’s requests on Friday morning, causing the trial to be suspended until noon.
The trial showed the degree of control and influence that Polette, 25 years older than Bacot, had over her.
“Yes, I killed him, but if I hadn’t, my kids would have,” Bacot said.
Polette came into Bacot’s life in 1992 as his mother’s partner. A few months later, the sexual abuse began. She was 12 when he started raping her, she said.
Polette’s sisters approached a social worker and he was arrested in 1995 and convicted of sexual assault, spending two years in prison.
Later, Polette returned to the family home and began abusing Bacot again.
“When he came back, he said he would leave me alone. My mother had forgiven him. But it started again. After a rape I got pregnant, ”Bacot said. She was 17 years old.
Her mother kicked her out of the house and began living with Polette, whom she described as having full control over her life.
He did not allow her to work or use contraception. He had three other children.
“He was hitting me, slapping and punching me, he strangled me. I was hitting and then things got better, ”he said, adding that he also threatened her with a revolver.
In 2002, he forced her into prostitution, still controlling all her actions.
In March 2016, after a violent situation related to prostitution, he shot Polette with the revolver. Her children helped her bury her body, an act for which they were sentenced to conditional prison.
Bacot was arrested by police the following year and jailed, before being released under judicial supervision in 2018 pending trial.
The psychologist who examined her said that protecting her children was key in Bacot’s reaction. In 2016, she feared that Polette would assault her 14-year-old daughter and force her into prostitution.
A petition advocating for Bacot has gathered more than 680,000 signatures.
Family members went to court to say they do not regret Polette’s death. His brother and sisters described him as a “monster”.
“The person I am most grateful to in the world is Valerie, because she killed him. He did what he should have done for a long time, ”said Polette’s 59-year-old sister. Said he raped her when she was 12 years old.
Dr. Denis Prieur, a psychiatrist, said that at the time of the domestic abuse, Bacot no longer had free will. “She was unable to turn to the law (for help) because her husband was always there.”
Now, “she has become someone” and is no longer “a thing,” he said.
Bacot’s case echoes that of another French woman, Jacqueline Sauvage, who was convicted of shooting and killing her allegedly violent husband. Sauvage was granted a presidential pardon in 2016, which allowed him to get out of jail.
Sauvage had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting her husband three times in the back with a hunting rifle in 2012. During the trial, she said that her husband had beaten her for 47 years. The couple’s adult daughters also said he had abused them.
The Associated Press does not typically name victims of extremely serious abuse, but Bacot, like Sauvage, has told his story publicly.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism