A portrait of Marie Trintignant during a demonstration against a concert by Bernard Cantat at the Zénith, June 7, 2018 in Paris (AFP / ALAIN JOCARD)
Described 20 years ago as a “crime of passion”, the murder of actress Marie Trintignant by her companion is now considered a feminicide. The sign of a societal evolution on the way of apprehending violence against women, although there is still a long way to go.
On the night of July 26 to 27, 2003, Bertrand Cantat, the singer of Noir Désir, dealt a series of blows to his partner Marie Trintignant, during an argument on the sidelines of a shoot in Lithuania. The 41-year-old actress died on August 1 in Paris from cerebral edema.
The media immediately seized on the affair: AFP described a “love story that turned to tragedy”, Le Parisien insisted on “jealousy at the origin of the drama”, while Paris Match displayed on the front page the portrait of the actress, “victim of passion”.
The press has tended to describe marital murders as “a form of excess of love” since the beginning of the 20th century, an explanation “linked to a certain conception of love”, declared to AFP Giuseppina Sapio, mistress of conference at the University of Paris 8.
This is the case in France, but also abroad: “Male violence exists at all times, in all countries. And the means to euphemize it too”, specifies this specialist in the media treatment of domestic violence.
The coverage of these social facts has however evolved, she says: the majority of the media today speak of “feminicide” and no longer of “crime of passion”, a term now considered inappropriate.
– “Zero tolerance” –
During the murder of Marie Trintignant, the press also widely relayed the speech of Bertrand Cantat, French pop-rock icon of the 1990s.
Actress Marie Trintignant on stage at the Hébertot Theater on January 10, 2001 in Paris (AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)
“We spoke little about her, we minimized the facts to develop empathy towards him. And this is still the case today in certain articles” concerning cases of domestic violence, regrets Fabienne El Khoury, member of Dare feminism.
During the defamation lawsuit last year between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, the American star received strong support from the public despite being denigrated. “The tolerance threshold for violence against women has certainly dropped, but we must achieve zero tolerance,” adds Fabienne El Khoury.
Feminist associations have been denouncing this violence for a long time. But it was the #Metoo movement in 2017 that allowed a “collective awareness” and a real “changeover”, historian Christelle Taraud told AFP.
The term “feminicide” has gradually imposed itself in the public debate since. These murders of women correspond to “the tip of the iceberg of domestic violence”, underlines Christelle Taraud, who published a collective work last year which refers, “Femicide, a world history”.
– Countdown –
Associations have contributed to publicizing this subject. Including, in France, the collective “Feminicides by companions or ex”, which has been carrying out a daily count since 2016 of women killed by their spouse.
Demonstration against violence against women, November 25, 2021 in Paris (AFP / Thomas SAMSON)
About 120 women are victims of marital feminicide each year in France, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.
“The number is scary, it means that there is bound to be someone who looks like us among the victims”, notes Isabelle Steyer, a lawyer specializing in domestic violence for 30 years. “We now realize that this violence affects all types of women, whereas it was previously thought that it concerned people who were socially more fragile”.
The tendency to blame the violence on the victim has also faded. “The grip and the other brakes that prevent a woman from leaving a violent spouse are now known mechanisms”, underlines Françoise Brié, director of the National Federation Solidarity Women, who manages the 3919 helpline.
However, she still deplores “too many disparities” in the paths of female victims: “Some are well received in the police stations, while others see their complaint refused” for example.
To improve their care, it pleads for strengthening the training of police officers and specialized magistrates.
The government has recently provided for the creation of a “pole specializing in domestic violence” in the French courts.