#metoo “There is a gap between the image we have of sexist and sexual violence and their reality”

Scientific directors of the “Repair. Sexual violence: changing representations, rethinking care”, organized in March at Jean-Moulin-Lyon-III University, Bérénice Hamidi, professor of theater studies at Lyon-II University, and Gaëlle Marti, professor of public law at the University of Lyon-III, shed light, through a transdisciplinary approach, on the way in which ordinary representations of sexist and sexual violence constitute a major obstacle to their management, both judicially and therapeutically.

If the voice of women has, to a certain extent, been released, the majority of sexist and sexual violence remains silent or goes unpunished. What, according to your research, hinders the management of this violence?

Berenice Hamidi: These brakes are very much related to our ways of representing this violence to ourselves and of naming it. For example, the expression “freedom of women’s voices” is often used, whereas the change comes rather from the fact that this voice is finally listened to and is no longer systematically discredited or deemed unimportant – even if this optimistic observation is to relativize. Second example: it would be fairer (more exact and less unfair) to name the problems no longer from the victims, but from the perpetrators. This is important to reverse the burden of visibility, which currently weighs only on people identified as victims: no longer say “violence against women”, but “violence committed by men”; speak of “feminicide”, but also of “crime of a patriarchal man”.

Gaelle Marti: With regard to representations too, there is a gap between the image we have of sexist and sexual violence and their reality. The most emblematic example in this regard is of course that of rape, which is often represented as a completely unpredictable event committed by a violent stranger, in an isolated place (the image of the parking lot). This representation prevents victims from recognizing themselves as a victim of rape if it was not committed in such circumstances. However, in nine out of ten cases, rape occurs in the sphere of “very close”, and it is committed by a person known to the victim.

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BH: Moreover, this way of framing the rape scene, even if it is monstrous, is actually very reassuring: by relegating sexual violence to unknown or fantasized places and perpetrators, it puts them at a distance and places us in the position of spectators. This saves us from having to take responsibility. However, we are witnesses, and therefore we have the power and the duty to act in the face of this scene.

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#metoo “There is a gap between the image we have of sexist and sexual violence and their reality”