The Woman Facing Life in Prison for Killing Her Incestuous Stepdad-Turned-Husband

Courtesy of Clémence de Blasi
ROM - Few would argue, as Valérie Bacot rationalized to pull the trigger, which put a fatal bullet in the neck of her stepfather and future husband Daniel Polette on March 13, 2016. She had previously tried unsuccessfully to poison him with a sleeping pill, and she said she knew he was preparing her 14-year-old daughter for serial rape. She was tired of years of molestation and being pimped up with strangers in the family minivan, so she did what she thought she was doing.
"I took the gun," she said in an emotional interview with Le Parisien ahead of her June 21 murder trial, which could bring her to prison for life. “There was a loud noise, the flash, the smell. I got out of the car, opened the door, he fell. I only thought of saving myself because I was sure that he would kill me. "
Bacot then told her eldest children - who she says were rape - that she killed the monster they called their father. They admitted that they helped bury his body in a forest. Meanwhile, she was packing dirt on the hastily dug grave - she said she was afraid it would come back to life. "The only thing I thought about was putting dirt on it," she said. "Because I was afraid he would come out and kill us."
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The 40-year-old and two of her children were arrested in October 2017 when Polette's body was found after the mother handed her over to her son's friend, who was involved in the hasty funeral. Since then, more than 400,000 people have signed a petition asking Emmanuel Macron for a presidential pardon that could save Bacot, despite opponents saying presidents have no place in court. Interest in her case has sparked those fighting domestic violence, not just in France but across Europe, where, on average, a woman is killed by an angry partner every three days. A television interview in France before her trial reached 4.5 million viewers, and her terrifying memoir Tout le monde savait, or Everyone Knew It, is a national bestseller in France.
Bacot's attorneys told The Daily Beast that they were "withdrawing from the media" in the weeks leading up to the trial to focus on their defense, saying, "We will not be giving interviews or statements in the coming weeks."
The case dates back to Jacqueline Sauvage, another French woman who fatally shot her husband after years of abuse against her and her children. Sauvage received a presidential pardon after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder. Bacot's supporters believe their case deserves the same consideration, even though the women in both cases were abandoned by a system that did not protect them from years of documented abuse. In Bacot's case, her children went to the police to help their mother more than once, but the police turned them away because they were minors.
"Although she committed murder by killing her torturer, and given the 25 years of suffering and general indifference she has endured, we ask for her freedom," said a spokesman for the support group that supports the petition.
Polette, a truck driver, married Bacot's mother in 1992 and immediately began caring for her, insisting that he put body lotion on her prepubescent body and watch her bathe, according to her memoir. She says he then started rape her when she turned 12, after her first period. Bacot reported the rape by a teacher at her school to the authorities, and Polette was sentenced to four years in prison for raping his stepdaughter. Meanwhile, her mother let her visit the man who raped her in prison. When he got out, he moved back in with Bacot's mother and the abuse started all over again. "Every night after school he said to me, 'Go upstairs," "she said in the interview. "I knew what that meant."
When she became pregnant at 17 and had the first of four children he would father with his stepdaughter, her mother sent her away to live with the ogre. "My mother helped me pack my boxes," she said. "At first I thought my mother didn't know, but over time I realized that she knew but never did anything."
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After several years of relationship, they got married. Then it got worse. Bacot says Polette always physically and emotionally tortured her, but then threatened to kill her and the children with a gun. Sometimes he pulled the trigger as he aimed an unloaded gun at her head. "You're lucky, it's not today," he would say. "There's nothing in it, but next time I won't miss it."
Then when money was running out, Bacot said, Polette started picking her out of the family's Peugeot minivan, talking to her in an earpiece, all the while threatening the men who paid for the sex not for help to ask.
That too, she says, she could have tolerated. But just before killing him, she said he asked her 14-year-old daughter how she was sexually. She knew exactly what was going to happen next. At that point she knew she had to stop him.
Bacot knows she could spend the rest of her life in prison but says it is better than the rest of her life with him. “I deserve to go to jail for a very long time, that's normal. But this process is not just mine, it's that of the other, ”she told Le Parisien, referring to Polette. "I hope that I can be stronger than him and win against him once in my life."
Bacot's story mirrors the story of countless women trapped in violent relationships and prepared to believe that they cannot walk. "I've believed all my life that I deserved it," writes Bacot in her book. "That it was because of me."
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