PARIS – A French courthouse erupted in applause late Friday, after it was announced that Valérie Bacot – who admitted to killing her stepfather-turned-husband who raped her at the age of 12, fathered her four children, and forced her into prostitution – was free to go home and be with her family.
Visibly exhausted and weakened, propped up on either side of her two lawyers, Bacot emerged from the courtroom to a phalanx of TV cameras and thanked the court in a small, quiet voice before saying slowly: “Now, there’s a new fight. A fight for all the other women and against all abuse.”
As she left the courthouse, a crowd waiting outside also erupted in a chorus of applause and cameras captured Bacot’s facial reaction as she scanned the crowds: a mix of surprise and wonder at the public support that awaited her.
After about five hours of deliberation, following an intense week of grim and disturbing testimonies, the jury returned to the courtroom and declared Bacot guilty of murder, and sentenced her to four years in prison, with a suspended sentence of three years, after public prosecutor Eric Jallet asked the judges and jury to show clemency towards Bacot earlier that morning. In his final address, Jallet called Bacot the clear victim of brutality and pointed out that she poses little danger to the public.
“Today, Valérie Bacot’s children need her,” Jallet told the court, as live-tweeted by LCI reporter Thibault Malandrin.
Because Bacot had already served a year in pre-trial detention, she will not have to serve any more jail time.
For five days, Bacot was forced to remember the 25 years she lived under a reign of terror, in which her mother’s boyfriend Daniel Polette, raped her at the age of 12, then became her husband and pimp, forcing her into prostitution.
At the Chalon-sur-Saône courthouse in Burgundy, three of her four grown children testified on behalf of their mother, telling the court that if she hadn’t shot and killed their father in the back of the neck on the 13th of March, 2016, after having been forced to commit a sex act with a client, it was only a matter of time before he would kill her.
They described growing up with a man with a violent, unpredictable temper, being beaten regularly and for no reason and how twice they went to police seeking help, and twice they were turned away.
In a side development, lawyers for Bacot said they have filed a separate complaint against the state for “serious misconduct” and gross negligence in failing to protect the family and taking action.
Polette’s ex-girlfriends, his brother and sisters, also testified on Bacot’s behalf, painting a portrait consistent with Bacot’s experience: “a monster”, “inhuman.” In tears, Polette’s 59-year-old sister took the stand to share how he raped her repeatedly from the age of 11, threatening to kill her and their mother if she said anything. She attempted to end her life at the age of 13.
And psychiatric experts agreed that Bacot lived in a state of perpetual terror, trapped under the tyranny of her husband who used her like a marionette. One psychiatrist described her condition as “battered wife syndrome.”
“This trial is a big burden for me,” Bacot had said in her final address to the court before the judges and jury retired to make their decision. “I hope to move on to something else and take a new step forward. I can't wait to be with my kids and my granddaughter. "