Incest is an ogre

It consumes our children. It is a poison at the root of millions of battered and traumatized lives, a source of suffering, addictions and sometimes reproduced violence. We would like to believe that this evil is confined to a few perverts in raincoats or cassocks. But it is within our homes that we are most at risk, where the majority of pedocriminal rapes take place. How many of us have had our childhood abruptly ended by these monsters?

The first time I heard of an ogre was at school.  A classmate, who had been oddly silent and reclusive for a few days, confided what she suffered through at home. Her father was not the head of Le Siècle or the magazine Pouvoir. He was a locksmith. A few of us helped her to talk about it. The school did its job. And our friend was taken away from her father. Without us ever knowing if we really did help her.

Of our small group, the first to understand what was going on suffered under a father, an artist this one, who was as fascinating as he was twisted. My friend could flee without giving up on the world that made up her entire life, with its bright moments, and its darker ones. A cruel contrast expertly depicted in la Familia grande, in which a man full of self confidence and enthusiasm becomes the worst of threats, looming over those he cherishes and destroys all the same  . The most brutal abuse of power. The most common also.


Pretty much every time a woman confided in me, it was to tell me about sexual abuse they suffered through. Very often inflicted by a family member, a father, an uncle, or a father-in-law. For a few years, as I awakened to feminist ideas, I started believing that all men raped save my father, eternally respectful and loving. The exact opposite of a peculiar man of my extended family, who always played around boundaries, and of whom I know I had to be wary.

We would love it if we could never cross paths again with even one of these abusers. But they are everywhere, they live among us, and we all know one. Which doesn’t mean that “everybody knows”. Or that we can substitute ourselves for the victims to denounce them. Or that every individual that ignores those abuses should wind up on a list.

Enabling free expression about incest is an absolute necessity. It is where literary works such as Le Consentement and La Familia Grande shine. But they also constitute a failure. Books made tribunal in the absence of proper justice. Which the shortening prescription delays in incest cases must address.

In the meantime, only famous rapists will wind up one the front pages of papers. It is a good thing if those cases set precedents. But let’s not get fooled. If the voice of all the victims reached as far, every household, every social world would have to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Caroline Fourest