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Revealing Sexual Violence Within the Family: Support for the Visibility of Sexual Violence in French Statistics?

Alice Debauche

Sexual violence was recognized as a social problem in the 1970s and 80s thanks to efforts by feminists on social and legal fronts. Various statistics in France on sexual violence—whether from administrative sources (police, courts), from survey data, or from organizations that assist victims of sexual violence—all show an upward rise since the early 1980s. A detailed analysis of these data highlights the central role that sexual abuse of minors, especially within the family, plays in this increase. This type of violence—which, since the mid-1990s, has received increasing attention from both the media and politicians and is often deemed the ultimate crime—seems to be more frequently reported than other forms of sexual violence, both by victims and by various child protection workers. The significant increase in convictions between the early 1980s and the 2000s is therefore primarily due to an increase in convictions for rape by a relative or by a person of authority and for rape in which the victim is under the age of 15.