who is this “mother courage” who has become the face of the fight against domestic violence?

She is in the dock, but she is the victim. This is the whole paradox of the trial of Valérie Bacot, a small, small woman, long blond hair, big childish blue eyes, a beautiful face that has taken too many beatings.

This Friday, June 25, is the last hearing day. The Attorney General concludes his indictment. Valérie hears: “5 years in prison”, she doesn’t even listen to the sequel, she’s horrified. Prison means no longer seeing his children, and his children are his life. And then she sees the smile from her lawyers. We explain to him that it is 5 years, 4 of which are suspended. If the jury follows the requisitions, she’s free!

The feeling overwhelms her, the tears rise and it is the black hole where she collapses. She had been preparing to return to prison. She had repacked her prison suitcase: warm sweaters without hoods or laces, runs and the album with all the pictures of the children. For them she had arranged everything, she still told about it the day before. The youngest wants to become a dog handler. “I paid for his studies, I made his bus pass”. The youngest is a mechanic, he will be moving in July. “I don’t want to be there, but I found her the ad for her new apartment.”

She had organized everything, planned everything… except the mildness of the court

She had organized everything, planned everything… except the mercy of the court. The verdict comes late at night: 4 years in prison, 3 of which are suspended. She is free. The suitcase that his son Dylan is wearing will not be used. Valérie Bacot finds hers. And try to forget the man who ransacked his existence, Daniel Polette.

When he enters her life, she is 11 years old, she is still in childhood. Already a hard childhood. The father is constantly absent, the mother, Joëlle, is aggressive, addicted to alcohol and drugs. “Mom is never hurt, but she only hits me” writes Valérie Bacot in her book Everyone knew that (Fayard, 2021). Nothing is normal with Daniel Polette. She was only 12 when he raped her for the first time. He won’t stop.

When Daniel finds himself in prison, the mother cries and Valérie feels guilty. After his release, an incomprehensible fact, Polette returns home and the ordeal begins again. “I don’t care as long as she doesn’t get pregnant,” said the mother. This is exactly what happens. And Valérie then becomes Daniel Polette’s new companion. They have 4 children, three boys and a girl, all from rape. Their everyday life consists of beatings, shouting and insults. The worst is yet to come: Daniel forces her into prostitution in the back of the family car, which he has decorated. She is corporeal. “I am a robot, a thing I no longer think.”

There is something alive left in her, it is motherly love

And yet, if there is anything alive in her, it is motherly love. One morning, her 14-year-old daughter brings her this funny question that Daniel asked her: “How are you doing sexually?” Valerie understands immediately. She knows her daughter will be next and she can’t bring herself to do it, it upsets her. She looks for a solution, tries to pour sleeping pills into the tyrant’s coffee, to no avail.

That night, Daniel planned a pass for her with a particularly sadistic and violent client. There’s a gun in the car, just in case. The report goes badly, Valérie struggles, the client leaves. Polette is furious, he gets behind the wheel and shouts: “You have to pay me!” She sits in the back, almost naked, in tears and bleeding. There is this revolver at hand. She doesn’t think. She closes her eyes. She shoots. It is over.

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