The fight against domestic violence against children must become a national priority

A child dies every five days following ill-treatment inflicted by his parents (IGAS census). This figure is underestimated, with many of these child murders going undisclosed. Inserm estimates it at two deaths per day.

Violence against children is pervasive. Containment linked to the Covid-19 epidemic is further increasing it. The number 119 Allô Enfance en danger receives more than 1,300 calls per day. Faced with these figures, it is clear that there is an asymmetry in the consideration of violence carried out in the family context.

→ INVESTIGATION. How to better protect children who are victims of domestic violence

The fight against violence against women was elevated to the rank of Great National Cause in 2018-2019. It is a major step forward. But why are child abuse and infanticide not denounced with as much force as domestic violence? Should not infanticide, which cannot be reduced to the murder of the newborn, be fought as much as femicide?

What taboo even stronger than that of violence against women continues to look the other way and maintain silence?

According to the medical journal Lancet, 10% of children would be abused in developed countries. The forms of this abuse are distributed as follows: 31% physical violence, 24% sexual violence, 26% serious negligence, 19% psychological violence.

Sexual violence against minors is taken into greater consideration

The words of the victims, in particular of incest, begin to be released and know an unprecedented media impact. But it is not the same for physical violence and serious negligence on minors, including those which lead to death or severe disability.

The phenomenon of physical violence against children is a massive and yet largely overlooked phenomenon. He knows a limited media coverage, relegated to the rubric of the news. It is the subject of little academic work. Criminal prosecutions in this area are rare and in public debates the issue of violence against children is often reduced to the issue of the right to correction. The debate on the slap shields the most serious violence.

The legacy of a patriarchal society

This occultation expresses the fear of a society which, in order not to see the horror, veils its face and exonerates itself from its responsibility by considering that it is a social fatality, born of misery and with difficulty detectable in the privacy of homes.

→ THE FACTS. Violence in homes, how to fight against the law of silence

This occultation has historical roots. Violence against children and the silence that surrounds them are the legacy of a patriarchal society which placed paternal power on the child deprived of rights.

This form of violence against minors is also a contemporary taboo because it calls into question our idealized vision of the family and in particular of the mother. However, according to a study based on the analysis of convicted criminal records, 70% of child murders are perpetrated by women. Female violence is also a social taboo, especially when it has a sexual dimension against children.

Yet violence against children, whether physical or sexual, is the source of considerable harm, both somatic and psychic. Post-traumatic stress disorder is comparable to that caused by war. Some children live in a family environment that can be described as totalitarian or even concentration camp. The repercussions on the future of these future victims are devastating: depression, suicide, addictions, disability, mental illness, reproduction of violence. Having been a victim of child abuse is a key factor in the emergence of psychopathy. The extreme forms of this violence can lead to neuronal destruction.

→ ANALYSIS. Prescription of rape on minors: what is the government really considering?

The repercussions are not only individual but also social and political. Because from Hitler to Stalin, most tyrants have been beaten, abused children, who reproduce on their people the violence they have suffered.

The criminal plan

Prescription of rape of minors: what is the government really considering?

Our legislator, on the penal level, considers the importance of violence against minors through the penal notion of aggravating circumstances. The penalties are increased when the rapes, sexual assaults and murders are committed against them. A new aggravating circumstance has emerged, that concerning violence against a spouse or partner, in the presence of a minor. This recent recognition of the particular gravity of domestic violence that is committed in the presence of the child places the latter as a collateral victim, whose moral damage and psychological trauma are recognized. The legislator thus expresses the close link that exists between domestic violence and violence against children, within the framework of a tyrannical family system. 140,000 children would thus be collateral victims of domestic violence each year.

→ ANALYSIS. The particularity of incest better taken into account in the law

Still on the criminal level, voices have been raised to make crimes against minors imprescriptible, and not only sexual crimes against them. A white paper was written in this sense by the association L’Enfant Bleu. The statute of limitations in matters of rape of a minor has been extended, as from the majority of the victim; these more favorable provisions for victims should be extended to all crimes against minors.


In the field of prevention and detection, it was not until 2017 that a first interministerial plan to mobilize and fight against violence against children issued important recommendations. A May 2018 interministerial report, titled Mission on violent deaths of children within families, completed it. A mobilization plan against violence against children was presented by the Secretary of State for Child Protection on November 20.

→ READ ALSO. Containment: child protection in the face of an unprecedented situation

Other measures should be taken within the framework of a comprehensive plan to combat violence against children, not only at the national level but also at the departmental and municipal levels. Paris, in November 2020, thus embarked on a reorganization of social assistance for children.

Even more, for society to take the full measure of this long-silent violence, raising the fight against violence against children to the rank of a Great National Cause would be a strong political signal, up to this capital issue.


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