A recent New York Times article by Steven Erlanger discusses the French Parliament’s unanimous decision to make “psychological violence” a criminal offense as part of a law to help victims of physical violence and abuse.
Erlanger states that the law defines psychological violence as “repeated acts that could be constituted by words”, including insults or repeated text messages which “degrade one’s quality of life and cause a change to one’s mental or physical state.” In order to get context for the scope of the domestic violence situation in France, Erlanger consulted…Nadine Morano, the Secretary of State for the Family (a French office) told the National Assembly that the primary domestic violence hot line for French women got 90,000 calls a year and 84% of involve psychological abuse. Those found guilty face up to three years in jail and a fine of 75,000 which roughly equals $90,000.
This legislation is incredibly progressive and responsive to the immense damage that emotional abuse inflicts upon victims. In the United States, often the only legal recourse a victim of domestic violence can take is to file a Domestic Violence Protective Order(DVPO), which orders abusers to have no contact with their victims. Protective orders can last up to a year. It can be difficult to obtain a DVPO and challenging to prosecute solely based on evidence of emotional battering. A DVPO may not always be the safest option for victims especially if abusers are highly lethal.
France’s legislation illustrates their commitment to ending all types of abuse by taking into special consideration the often ignored impact of emotional abuse on victims. What do you think about France’s new legislation? How might the United States create more progressive legislation concerning domestic violence? Leave us a comment with your thoughts!