France: Feminists Pay Homage to Victims of Violence at #MeToo Rally
Nice, France — For the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against women, several feminist organizations gathered in Nice for the first, annual #MeToo Rally on Saturday, November 25. Around 160 feminist activists of all ages from the Collectif du Droit des Femmes, Stop Harcèlement de Rue and #MeToo France chanted slogans, handed out flyers and wrote their personal stories of rape and violence, posting them on a mounted board called “Le Mur #MeToo” (the #metoo wall).
Women and sympathetic male allies held hands in a circle as several women revealed, some of them breaking their silence for the first time, accounts of being raped and beaten at the hands of their intimate partners. Many of the women watching broke down in tears.
“I waited my whole life for this moment,” an elderly and blind woman told me, as she reached out to touch the Mur #MeToo. She asked me to read some of the stories to her and I asked her if she wanted to dictate one for the wall. “Horrors,” she said. “I lived nothing but horrors.”
Instead of the customary minute of silence, the organizers decided on a minute of screaming — in rage against a government which has not done nearly enough to protect women from the shocking statistics of violence against us. “I’ve decided to scream,” said co-organizer Caroline Camus, “because silence is in fact the greatest crime of humanity.”
In the Place Massena, activists from the Collectif du Droit des Femmes drew chalk outlines of women killed by their intimate partners, writing out their names and the dates they were murdered.
Worldwide, a conservative estimate of 700 million, 1 out of 3 women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence. 38% of all murders of women are committed by an intimate Partner. According to the UN, 70% of women have experienced physical/sexual violence. 120 million girls have been forced into sex and at least 200 million women and girls have endured genital mutilation before the age of 5. 71% of the victims of human trafficking are girls forced into prostitution.
Every year in France, at least 216,000 women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate Partner. 53,000 women have undergone genital mutilation and 9 out of 10 victims were genitally mutilated before the age of 10. Yearly, an estimated 84,000 women between the ages 18 and 75 are victims of rape or attempted rape. In over 90% of the cases, the perpetrator was known by the victim. Only 11% of rapes are reported in France. Women face inequality on the job, in retirement and face discriminatory economic hardship. We are underrepresented in positions of authority and power, economically and politically.
“I kept my silence for over 30 years. I was raped by a dentist in Paris in 1979 and he continues to work with impunity. When I went to the police at the time, they made fun of me. In 1986, in a rehearsal for a major motion picture I was to star in, one of the biggest directors in Hollywood assaulted me and I was told by my professional entourage to shut up or never work again. This man continues to be one of the most revered Hollywood directors. Energized by the #metoo movement and our march in LA, which assembled over 750,000 women, I decided to found the #MeToo France org since I live in France part-time. Misogyny has no borders and our tears could fill the Baie des Anges. We told our stories and dried each other’s tears in the middle of Place Massena in Nice.” Carole Raphaëlle Davis, Collectif #MeToo France
“My personal hell lasted 20 years of psychological and physical violence. I endured it just as my own mother had by her husband. My 3 children and I lived under a reign of terror — a violent husband with narcissistic personality disorder. I lived in constant fear that my husband would take my children away from me and bring them back to his native Afghanistan forever. For them, I suffered the insufferable. In 2007, he attempted to strangle me to death right before he committed suicide. I survived because of my then 8 year old son who came to my aid. With #Metoo France, I want to fight for the elimination of violence against women.” ~ Emmanuelle Sultani, Collectif #MeToo France.