The murder trial of a woman who killed her abusive husband got underway in the French city of Burgundy on Monday.
In her bestselling book Tout Le Monde Savait (Everyone Knew) published in May, Valerie Bacot, 40, admitted to shooting Daniel Polette dead in self-defense in 2016. She faces a life sentence for murder.
“It’s with that same gun, in another forest one day and so he wouldn’t kill us that I killed him,” Bacot wrote.
Bacot said Polette, 25 years her senior, first raped her when she was 12 years old. At the time, Polette was her mother’s boyfriend, but Bacot refers to him as her stepfather in the book.
In 1996 Polette was convicted of rape of a minor and spent two and a half years in prison, Bacot’s lawyer Nathalie Tomasini told CNN.
Bacot wrote in her book that after Polette was released he started abusing her again and she was impregnated by him at the age of 17.
“One morning in the dining room he starts screaming because I haven’t put the baby’s toys away properly. He turns to me and slaps me hard without warning,” Bacot wrote, recalling one of the countless times when she was hit by Polette.
Over the course of 18 years, Bacot and Polette had four children together, two of whom helped bury their father’s body after Bacot shot him. In 2019 they were each handed a 6-month suspended prison sentence for concealment of a human corpse, Bacot’s lawyer said.
During the course of the investigation the children spoke about the relentless abuse their mother suffered at the hands of Polette. According to court documents, the court-appointed psychiatrist said Bacot was “clearly under Polette’s control.”
Bacot told the police she was subjected to repeated beatings by Polette and that he forced her to prostitute herself.
On multiple occasions, Polette allegedly told Bacot that if she left him, he would kill her and their children.
“Don’t worry: one day you’ll be leaving here,” Polette said when he first made such a threat, as Bacot recalled in her book.
“But it will be feet first, and the kids too!”
The prosecutor has said that Polette’s murder was premeditated; Bacot’s lawyers deny this.
A petition not to imprison Bacot was launched online by advocates in January, which has so far received more than 580,000 signatures.
The trial is expected to last five days.
Bacot’s case is reminiscent of Jacqueline Sauvage, a French woman who was sentenced to 10 years in jail after she was convicted of fatally shooting her husband three times in the back with a hunting rifle in 2012 — just one day after their son hanged himself. After serving three years behind bars, Sauvage was released from prison in 2016 when then-president Francois Hollande granted her a pardon.
NGOs have been raising the alarm about femicides in France. This year alone, 43 women have lost their lives at the hands of their partners or husbands, according to advocacy group “Feminicides par compagnon ou ex,” compared to 90 women in 2020, according to French Justice minister Eric Dupond-Moretti. France’s interior ministry recorded 146 femicides in 2019.