The country’s largest anti-child abuse investigation in decades is asking for a chance to continue its work to combat intra-family abuse in particular.
France’s national Incest Commission has published a major report containing around a hundred recommendations for protecting children from paedophiles and helping adult victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The Independent Commission on Incest and Child Sexual Abuse (Ciivise) is arguing for improved detection, judicial treatment, reparation and prevention – and also expressed its wish to continue its work beyond 31 December this year.
Despite the support of elected representatives, associations and public figures, it is still uncertain whether the commission’s work will continue.
The commission was launched after the publication in January 2021 of the book “La Familia Grande” by Camille Kouchner, which sparked a wave of testimonies about incest on social networks.
The latest report, which is supposed to be Civiise’s last, has been handed over to Charlotte Caubel, the French Secretary of State for Children, and will be presented in full to the public at the Maison de la Radio in Paris on Monday, which marks International Children’s Rights Day. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is due to unveil an inter-ministerial plan to combat violence against children.
According to Ciivise’s findings, 160,000 children in France are victims of sexual violence every year, and 5.4 million men and women have suffered such violence during their childhood.
The commission estimates the cost to society of the consequences at nearly 10 billion a year: impact on health, legal treatment, risk behaviour, etc.
Sexual violence has a long-term impact on its victims, including alcoholism, addiction, depression, eating disorders and suicide attempts, as the Ciivise has emphasised in its previous reports.
With no fewer than 82 recommendations, Ciivise’s report lays out a comprehensive and ambitious public policy agenda to protect children from paedophiles and support adults who have been victims.
It includes prescriptions on how professionals should interview child victims, recommending that efforts be made to check for abuse when minors require care for abortions and any early pregnancy, or following a suicide attempt by a child or adolescent.
More fundamental are Civiise’s recommendations for legal reform. It proposes that cousins be brought under the criminal definition of incest, that sexual crimes against children be freed from the statute of limitations, allowing cases to be brought against child abusers by adults survivors.
It also recommends the suspension of parental authority and visiting and accommodation rights for parents prosecuted for rape or incestuous sexual assault against their child.
And along with guaranteeing victims compensation that takes account of all the consequences on their lives, it also says the government should legislate to bar sexual aggressors from claiming parental rights over children born of rape.
“We’ve heard enough from you”
For several months now, there have been calls for the Commission to be allowed to continue into 2024 and even beyond, gathering evidence, advising public authorities and monitoring the implementation of its recommendations.
On Monday, the Senate’s Women’s Rights Delegation called on President Emmanuel Macron to “maintain” the commission in “its current structure” with its two co-chairs, children’s judge Edouard Durand and Nathalie Mathieu, director general of the Docteurs Bru association, which takes in victims of incest.
Last month, 26 feminist and child protection organisations sent out the same message in a letter to newspaper Le Monde.
“Its role is crucial and its work colossal,” they wrote. “The Ciivise must be maintained, because it takes much more than two years to put an end to a phenomenon of such magnitude”.
“There will be a follow-up to Ciivise’s work. Should we move towards a form of Ciivise 2? (…) The decisions will be made in a few days’ time”, government spokesman Olivier Véran told the Senate on Wednesday.
“The figures are terrifying and true: a child is sexually abused every three minutes in our country,” he added. “When we hear that, we all want to vomit and scream.”