French court urged to free woman who killed rapist husband

French prosecutors on Friday urged judges to spare any more jail time for a woman charged with murdering the man who raped her for years before becoming her husband and pimp, a case that has sparked outrage in France.

Ahead of sentencing later Friday, prosecutors told the court Valerie Bacot, who was just 12 when the boyfriend of her mother, Daniel Polette, raped her for the first time, should not go back to prison.

The case of Bacot, who wrote a book about her experiences published last month called “Everybody Knew”, has become a rallying cause for feminists in France at a time when more women are breaking their silence on sexual assault.

“Valerie Bacot should not have taken the life of the person who was terrorising her,” state prosecutor Eric Jallet told the court in eastern France.

But judges should “uphold the transgression without incarcerating her again”, he said, asking for a five-year sentence with four years suspended.

That would lead to Bacot’s release, since she has already spent a year behind bars since confessing to shooting Polette and hiding the body in a forest with the help of two of her four children.

A visibly fatigued Bacot, 40, burst into tears and collapsed upon hearing the prosecutor’s request, prompting an intervention of emergency personnel and a brief suspension of the hearing.

– ‘I had nobody’ –

More than 700,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Bacot, who risks life in prison, be cleared by the court after years of suffering.

Polette was imprisoned after the initial rape but resumed his predations upon his release, and Bacot became pregnant when she was 17.

She was thrown out of her house by her alcoholic mother and forced to live with Polette.

“I wanted to keep my child. I had nobody. Where could I go?” she told the court.

Polette became increasingly violent, attacking her with a hammer at one point.

“At first he would slap me, later that became kicking, then punches and then choking,” Bacot said, describing her life as an “extreme hell”.

Polette also ordered her to work as a prostitute for truck drivers, using the back of a van, and gave her instructions through an earpiece she had to wear to make sure she complied with the demands of clients.

Investigators established that Polette threatened to kill her if she refused, pointing a gun at her many times.

– ‘This has to stop’ –

When he started questioning their 14-year old daughter Karline about her budding sexuality, Bacot said she decided that “this has to stop”.

On March 2016, after Polette ordered his wife to undergo yet another sexual humiliation by a client, she used the pistol that he kept in the car to kill him with a single bullet to the back of the neck as he sat in the driver’s seat.

Bacot said she wanted to make sure her daughter would not suffer the same fate that she had. “I wanted to save her,” she said. 

Bacot hid the body in a forest but in October 2017 she was arrested, and later released on bail. 

Her lawyers said ahead of the trial that “the extreme violence that she suffered for 25 years and the fear that her daughter would be next” pushed her to kill Polette.

The same lawyers, Janine Bonaggiunta and Nathalie Tomasini, had already defended Jacqueline Sauvage, a French woman who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her abusive husband but won a presidential pardon in 2016 after becoming a symbol for the fight to stop violence against women.

A court-ordered expert evaluation found that Bacot was “certain that she needed to commit this act to protect her children.”

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