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“The influence is not reprehensible in itself”: how justice deals with the phenomenon


Highlights: Family law lawyer Sophie Soubiran: "The influence is not reprehensible in itself" The courts have been trying for several years to put a legal framework on it, although with difficulty. "We speak of control when two people are no longer on an equal footing, when one has the ascendancy over the other," she says. “It is the tool that can enable violence, whether psychological or physical. It's a conditioning, if you prefer,” says psychologist Anaïs Vois.

INTERVIEW.- Does the law make it possible to define influence and prove it? Although the term may seem vague, the courts have been trying for several years to put a legal framework on it, although with difficulty. For Madame Figaro, family law lawyer Sophie Soubiran brings her...

It’s a term that we now hear everywhere.

Vanessa Springora had already mentioned it in 2020 in her book

Le Consentement


Later, Judith Chemla and Judith Godrèche will also use it, to better describe and denounce the violence of their previous relationships.

On February 22, Isild Le Bescot in turn used it in

Le Parisien

, about her union with the director Benoît Jacquot.

This term is "control", a concept that is both vague and yet so current, which would consist of gaining ascendancy over someone - "often within a couple or at work, and mainly over women », sighs family law lawyer, Sophie Soubiran.

But what does this word mean, exactly?

To discover

  • The keys to supporting women in their working lives

The question divides, ignites the debates.

Some speak of manipulation, of domination, while others minimize the neologism, simply calling for the passion of feelings.

But if everyone can, on the terrace of a café, try to qualify the phenomenon and sketch its contours - according to their beliefs, their limits and their own morality - the legal field, for its part, better regulates its definition.

Is the influence really perceptible, quantifiable and definable in the law?

Reprehensible and reprehensible?

Maître Soubiran, who initiated training at the Paris Bar to train lawyers in the mechanisms of domestic violence, answered

Madame Figaro

's questions in order to better understand the meaning of this term and its use.

Also read: Muriel Salmona, psychiatrist: “By freeing her words, Judith Godrèche takes the full measure of the horror she suffered”

Madame Figaro.-

Last December, Judith Godrèche shed light on the phenomenon of control within the couple.

As a reminder, the actress denounced her relationship with the filmmaker Benoît Jacquot, when she was 15 and he was 40. The term is widely used in the public sphere today.

But what about in the legal field?

Sophie Soubiran.


There is no legal definition but we speak of control when two people are no longer on an equal footing, when one has the ascendancy over the other.

This can be proven by several things: guilt messages, denigration, isolation.

On the victim's side, a loss of productivity at work, frequent sick leave, loss of weight, loss of self-confidence, etc. In fact, we will be able to speak of control when a person no longer has of free will in the face of his situation, nor room for maneuver in his relationship.

Control is the establishment of total domination over the other.

Is control considered violence?

Legally, no.

But it is the tool that can enable violence, whether psychological or physical.

It's a conditioning, if you prefer.

Understanding influence means understanding a climate and why a person reacted in such a way to certain situations.

Unfortunately, in cases dealing with violence against women, the focus is reversed, and proving control means better understanding the apparent contradictions.

That's to say ?

For an attack, such as a theft or violence in the street, the judge rarely questions the victim's behavior.

On the other hand, for a sexual assault or violence that took place within the couple, this will be examined: how did she react, did she say no, did she scream?

In the same way, when we want to organize the children's residence or want to request a protection order, we will ask ourselves: why did she not refuse to allow her husband to manage her bank account?

Why did she send him a loving message when she accuses him of verbal abuse against her and her child?

Why didn't she tell her family or friends?

Why not leave when the children were in danger?

Taking into account the mechanism of control means answering these questions and trying to refocus the legal debate on the essential which is the aggression suffered.

Also read: Anaïs Vois, psychologist, on influence: “It is “easier” to control a young girl, in the process of building her identity”

Grenelle on domestic violence

Has the term influence been legislated?

No, it is not defined by law.

She gradually takes it into account but it is not reprehensible in itself.

The notion of influence always comes in addition to other elements.

Because although it can exist without violence, it rarely stagnates.

As we said, it is the preparation for a whole climate which will become more and more hostile for the person over time, often giving rise to physical, sexual and psychological attacks.

Pleading this element can allow courts to better judge attacks and protect victims and their children.

Since when has justice been interested in influence?

In the Civil Code, we started talking about control during the last Grenelle on domestic violence, in 2019. Why?

Because when there is a separation between two parents, the justice system calls on family mediation before ruling on a dispute.

However, when there is control within the couple, mediation cannot work.

It is even dangerous.

And of course, it often extends to children, who become a means of pressure and who are exploited.

In the Penal Code, control does not appear as such, but it has been almost ten years since psychological violence was legislated in the same way as physical attacks.

They are an integral part of the offenses and crimes punishable by law (fine and prison sentence).

And here again, things are quite concomitant, when there is psychological violence, there is often control.

We plead it to support the point.

What do we mean by psychological violence?

Like influence, we must understand all of this in a certain global way.

Everyone can one day have an outburst of anger, make a jealous scene with their partner, lie.

Just like power relations, they exist everywhere in society.

But there are behaviors which abuse this power, which hinder the freedom of others, which bring them into a violent climate, and this becomes reprehensible.

Harassment, repeated insults, suicide threats, lack of consent, even within the couple, emotional blackmail, all of this added together amounts to real psychological torture.

Also read When the victims meet the aggressors: “I no longer have anger in me, I have found peace”

A bundle of clues

How do we prove all this?

There is what we call the UMJ – Medical-Judicial Unit.

When there is a complaint, victims are normally seen by psychologists and psychiatrists to provide an initial analysis of their psychological state.

We will also be able to gather evidence.

What we call, in law, a bundle of clues: small things, banal or excessive, which, put end to end, will shed light on a context.

For the denigration, the insults, we will collect testimonies from relatives to record the scenes which they would have witnessed, the same for the isolation.

Often, physical and mental degradation will be noted by a loss of weight, joy, or by increasingly regular work stoppages.

Today, we also have written exchanges which are very valuable.

You need to know the difference between violence and conflict.

We can understand the mechanism of an argument: two people opposing their opinions, very different, certainly, but where everyone expresses themselves.

Disputes are not punishable by law.

In violence, we will see on the contrary that the lady never responds to text messages, for example, and receives tons of insults and threats.

We will notice that as soon as she expresses her opinion, Monsieur loses patience and does everything to silence her, to belittle her.

The result may be that she no longer dares to express herself anywhere as a human being.

Those around her will often be denigrated too, she finds herself isolated.

Justice is therefore there to combine all these elements and shed light on a situation that is more serious than it appears.

Often, physical violence ends all this, and the victim then finds the strength to file a complaint and leave.

Does all this evidence really lead to convictions?

Even if we have elements, what is easily perceptible, such as bruises, will always be better collected.

This is a real problem, because we know today that psychological violence is latent, and often more destructive in the long term than physical violence.

And if in theory, the law does not differentiate between physical and psychological violence, in practice, it is harder to demonstrate.

It is essential to be well supported in your efforts by your lawyer.

Also readVirginie Efira in a thriller about control within a couple: “I didn’t have to look very far for the character, I know the subject”

For what ?

Because it is very rare that a victim without assistance manages to put together all the evidence that I have just cited to you.

Furthermore, the first thing to keep in mind is that it is not easy to file a complaint to denounce what is happening at home.

Not a week goes by without my clients talking to me about their fears, their guilt, their hesitation, even though they are victims of very serious things.

I think we don't realize enough how long, trying and expensive a procedure can be.

You are told that you must put forward all your accusations factually, but it is often complicated.

Yes, it can be proven, but then we would almost have to anticipate it, something we don't think about when we are in a position of survival in a toxic and devastating relationship.

You are told that you have to ensure the daily life of your children, while taking screenshots of each exchange with your ex-spouse, asking for certificates... in short, it takes time and a lot of energy to create a legal file.

Normally, this is the job of investigators, but they are too busy for that.

You must therefore be well supported.

What do you say to those who speak of influence as a loving feeling specific to each story?

That there are nuances everywhere.

I'm not saying that it can't exist, but in practice, very few victims will ask for protection or file a complaint if the situation is not already very serious.

Source: lefigaro

All business articles on 2024-02-22

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