With more stories of female harassment and #MeToo initiatives emerging daily, International Women's Day feels even more impactful this year. Here, in collaboration with our partner CHIME FOR CHANGE, is a look at yet another atrocity that is swept under the rug: physical abuse culminating in murder.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nEvery three days In France, a woman is killed by her husband or ex-husband. Miscellaneous news articles are published in the media. Flashy headlines but little content as the press rarely investigates the nature of these violent acts. Over the course of almost a year, the French reporter Laur\u00e8ne Daycard have been looking back on the life of one of the 123 women that disappeared in 2016. By telling G\u00e9raldine Sohier\u2019s story, killed on October 12, 2016 by her ex-husband, Laur\u00e8ne Daycard wanted to give a face and a voice to the many victims of femicide in France.When someone dies, we like to tell stories about how wonderful a person was. In Ge\u0301raldine Sohier\u2019s case, her loved ones talk about a \u201cbubbly, generous and funny\u201d woman, \u201csomeone who brought joy to every occasion\u201d and \u201conly saw the good in people.\u201d On October 12 at 5 pm, Ge\u0301raldine's soon to be ex-husband, E\u0301ric Gallois suddenly showed up at her work place. He had a shotgun which he emptied on her. Their 10-year-old daughter was on the scene. Right before committing suicide, Gallois told the girl, \u201cThe gun is not for you, it\u2019s only for grown-ups\u201d while her mother was covered in blood. The little girl, now an orphan, was hospitalized for 8 days.The murder took place at the municipal library in Villers-Allerand, in the department of Marne. With its ancient stones, its bell tower and war memorial, the village is picture perfect. At the local school, there is only one class for all the children regardless of age and grades. Ge\u0301raldine, a tall, blonde, 49-year-old woman, was very involved in the local community. That August, she'd taken a part-time job as a librarian. She was pleased because for years she had been going from one small job to another.At home, she oversaw her two daughters\u2019 educations. She also had two adult sons living on their own. Her best friend often said to her, \u201cYou will see, the day you achieve financial independence, you\u2019ll have everything.\u201d Until then, E\u0301ric had been the breadwinner of the family, alternating between periods of unemployment and agricultural jobs. He also owned some vineyards. Their separation began in July 2016 when E\u0301ric, known for his bad temper, threw his wife and their two children out onto the streets. The three of them only had time to grab a few things for school and some clothes before seeking refuge at Ge\u0301raldine's mother Brigette's. After the couple separated, Ge\u0301raldine was feeling better, finally taking some time for herself. She went to the hairdresser and started a diet. The day after the murder, the press reported on the story under the heading \u201cIn other news...\u201dThe regional paper, L\u2019Union, titled its story \u201cDrama in Villers-Allerand." The news agency AFP published a short article on the incident. The tone was factual and they spoke of a \u201cfamily drama.\u201d\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nThe story was recounted like this on various sites, including Europe1, Paris Match, and Le Parisien. And then, it just vanished. Three months after Ge\u0301raldine died, at the end of January 2017, I took the bus at Reims train station to meet with Ge\u0301raldine's mother at her home in Tinqueux. My own country is almost an uncharted territory for me as a reporter. I have often travelled outside of France to report on the plight of being a woman in other countries. In Albania, I met women who had been forced to have an abortion because they were pregnant with girls (it\u2019s called selective abortion). I also went to the Middle East to find out exactly what it's like to be a woman in the Islamic State of Iraq and conducted some interviews in Turkey regarding femicide. There, I learned that assassinations of women are most common after a separation or after asking for a divorce. So when I got back home, I started to collect newspaper clippings that reported on these kinds of incidents in France and realized that sadly, it\u2019s almost just as common in my own country. That\u2019s how I found myself aboard that bus.Through the window, Reims, \u2018the city of kings\u2019 as it is called, slowly revealed a landscape of grey concrete. An industrial estate, then some residential roads and low-rise buildings, the name of my stop: \u201cCasanova.\u201d On the phone, Brigitte became talkative as soon as we started discussing her administrative nightmare. The death of her daughter had triggered an avalanche of paperwork. She needed to become the children\u2019s legal guardian, was appointed a public lawyer and had to make sure the girls received their life insurance money among other tasks. \u201cI have so many papers to fill out it\u2019s basically like writing a book\u201d she said ironically. But she is not one to abandon the fight. Before hanging up, she gave me her email address so that I could tell her about my investigation. \u201cEach year,\u201d I wrote to her before we met, \u201cstatistics state the total number of women killed by their husband or ex-husband without any further details. Victims are grouped under one miserable miscellaneous headline. These women need to be given a voice and redeem their individuality.\u201d\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nBrigitte lives in a small white house in a row of identical houses and winter has covered this Reims suburb with a fine layer of frost. As she opens the door, her smile is hesitant but her pink fleece warms the atmosphere. Her granddaughters, her \u201clittle ones\u201d as she calls them, live with her. Her husband, who was an electrician, died a few years ago from skin cancer. \u201cHis passing has shaped my character,\u201d she tells me reservedly. Having previously worked as an auxiliary nurse in traumatology and cardiology, she is now in her seventies and lives off a small pension.When she invites me into the warmth of her home, her granddaughters had already left for school. \u201cLast night, the eldest dreamed that she saw her dead mother,\u201d Brigitte told me, saddened. The girls each have a bedroom, but they can\u2019t sleep without each other since the murder. The living room is at the end of the hallway, which is decorated with African figurines. Sitting upon the wooden sideboard is a photograph of Brigitte and her daughter, both smiling broadly and leaning on a village sign that reads \u201cSohier," (in Wallonia) like their surname. Next is a photograph of Brigitte and her late husband. It must have been taken in the eighties, when Ge\u0301raldine was just a teenager. \u201cShe always had a huge smile on her face. But she was never happy with men. Lately, her character had changed,\u201d Brigitte says.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nOne of Sohier's grandsons, E\u0301meric, joins us. He wants to meet \u201cthe journalist.\u201d His grandmother, who must be half his height, calls him \u201cmy ragamuffin." This 25 year-old has shaved his head, mourning the loss of his mother. He speaks with a hoarse voice.\u201cI spend my time shut off in my room. Sometimes, I look out the window... but I\u2019m on the ground floor,\u201d he says. E\u0301meric is unemployed and lives with his partner and their baby in a working-class neighborhood. \u201cYou know, my mother wasn\u2019t happy but she always wanted to make everyone else happy. Why would he take our mother from us? Why would he put us through that?\u201d E\u0301meric never liked his stepfather \u2013 not that he calls him that. He doesn\u2019t call him anything at all; he says \u201cthe guy\u201d or \u201cthe other one." One night last year at dinnertime, the two men had an argument. E\u0301meric had made the mistake of writing a text message at the dinner table. \u201cHe had a bottle in his hand, he was ready to hit me," E\u0301meric explained, getting up quickly from his chair to re-enact the scene. \u201cBe careful with the furniture," his grandmother rebuffs immediately.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\u201cHe was getting close to me and was really angry. I had a knife in my pocket so I stabbed him. It was instinctual, a fight or flight moment.\u201d E\u0301meric was given nine months in prison, during which time he turned to Catholicism. \u201cI know that today my mum is safe where she is\u201d he says. Brigitte interjects, \u201cWell, she would have been even better here with us.\u201dGe\u0301raldine is one of the 123 women who was killed by their husband or ex-husband in 2016. The State only started to keep records for these violent deaths from 2006, from which point, at least 153 women had been killed by their partner or ex-partner. The violence that existed before the murder, and the consequential effects it has on the victims\u2019 families is never reported. Sometimes, journalists even write about these stories in a very blase\u0301 manner. The feminist blogger, Sophie Gourion has listed them on her Tumblr account under the title \u201cWords kill," for example, \u201cPissed off in Paris: Partner kills wife and throws her in the trash," could be found on Le Parisien\u2019s website this summer. In May, the magazine 20 Minutes published a story titled, \u201cMorbihan: Drunk Man Throws Wife Overboard.\u201dThey invoke a \u201ccrime of passion,\u201d as if putting a bullet in your partner\u2019s head had anything to do with love. When I broach the subject with my various relatives and friends, they often respond with, \u201cmen get killed as well.\u201d And they do. In 2016, 34 men were killed by their partner or ex-partner — one every 10 days. Among the 28 men killed by their official partner (wife, civilly partnered), at least 60% of the victims were themselves violent, which leads us back to question the roots of male violence.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nPeople also say: \u201cLaure\u0300ne, this ain\u2019t Bagdad!\u201d But, considering it\u2019s always worse elsewhere is a cowardly way out. Each year in Simone de Beauvoir\u2019s country, 218,000 women are victims of sexual and/or physical violence from their (ex-) partner. Only 14% of victims press charges. More than finding themselves alone on the street at night, it\u2019s the intimacy these women share with their partners which makes them vulnerable to psychological and physical violence. And it gets worse when they are financially dependent: On average, French men receive a salary that is 18.5% higher than their female counterparts, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee).For now, according to Article 222-4 of the Penal Code, a murder charge is extended to life imprisonment when the perpetrator is the spouse, partner or ex-spouse. This is the penalty faced by Mamadi Camara, who killed his ex-partner Maryline Blondeau, another of the 2016 victims whose family I interviewed. The murder took place on July 23, 2016 in Carmaux, in the department of Tarn. Mamadi Camara is currently in prison, awaiting a trial that will take place at some point in 2018. Maryline was a baker in this village of 10,000 inhabitants, an old mining town on the outskirts of Albi. Having recently separated from the father of her two children, Maryline, a tall, athletic blonde started going out with Mamadi, a 51-year-old laborer. The two were very much in love. Until the first blow. It was the evening of Maryline\u2019s birthday and as they were leaving a restaurant, the mother of two started talking to another man. Mamadi couldn\u2019t stand it. On the ride home, he became aggressive. She swiftly broke up with him but one morning Mamadi stabbed her, behind the bakery.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nAfterwards, Thierry Kowalski, her ex-husband and the father of her two children, tried his best to keep a level head. He is a very sweet, reserved man. His house is built right next to the railway line. He lived there before with Maryline and his family. Little by little, their love began to dissolve into routine and they made a mutual decision to separate.When Thierry found out that she had been getting close to Mamadi, he was wary. Not because he was jealous or because he had suspected this man was capable of such a crime, but because, \u201cshe trusted people too much and didn\u2019t think about how they would abuse that.\u201d Shortly before her death, Maryline had begun to seek contact with the father of her children. \u201cI would see her more and more when I was jogging around the village\u201d he reflects. Before dropping me off at the train station, Thierry makes a detour through the cemetery. The low afternoon sun warms the gravestones. He silently makes the sign of the cross, before whispering, \u201cwhat a waste.\u201dWith Ge\u0301raldine, it was more difficult to retrace the history of violence. Since the murderer had committed suicide, there was no trial, and many aspects of their relationship remain undisclosed. In her police statement, her eldest daughter, born from a previous marriage, said that she had been witness to scenes of domestic violence. Brigitte, Ge\u0301raldine\u2019s mother, knew nothing about it. \u201cI read it whilst I signed her statement. Maybe my daughter didn\u2019t tell me anything to protect me.\u201d On July 20th, just a few days after taking refuge at her mother's in Tinqueux, Ge\u0301raldine had gone to the courthouse in Reims to meet a women\u2019s association specialized in legal advice. \u201cShe was afraid,\u201d recalls Nade\u0300ge Bezard, the employee who received Ge\u0301raldine. \u201cI explained how someone would go about pressing charges.\u201d They suggested that she request a \u2018remote-protection\u2019 device from the prosecutor available to victims of rape or domestic violence.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nThis portable device would allow her to call a dedicated helpline at any moment. Ge\u0301raldine had refused, thinking it wouldn\u2019t do any good. Her best friend, Corinne Venturi, knew Ge\u0301raldine was unhappy in her marriage, but she never heard her complain about threats or violence. The two women met in the eighties when they were both working at the Hector sausage factory. Corinne was 27 years old, and Ge\u0301ge\u0301, as she called her then, was 19.In the evening when they clocked off, they always left together. It was the era of the pop singer E\u0301tienne Daho and The Communards\u2019 songs were all the rage. \u201cHer parents called her \u2018the gust of wind!' She came in to take a shower at dawn before heading back out again to work," Corinne tells me, smiling over her espresso at the Buffalo Grill in Tinqueux. When E\u0301ric came into Geraldine\u2019s life, Corinne had to take it upon herself to not lose her best friend. \u201cSometimes I would say to myself, damn it, what is she doing with this guy?\u201d she said, irritated. The Ge\u0301raldine she knew when she was younger \u201cwasn\u2019t the type of girl who let people push her around. She always knew how to stand up for herself.\u201d As she drives me back to the station, Corinne is still contemplative. At a red light she turns to me, although it seems like she is talking to herself. \u201cThinking back, perhaps we should have said something to Ge\u0301raldine, \u201cFor God\u2019s sake, what are you doing with him?\u201d But did we even have the right to do that?\u201dI have often asked myself that same question. At school, in the small village by the sea where I grew up at the beginning of the millennium, we thought that feminist struggles were things of the past, that we had achieved equality. But when I was studying Political Science, one of my classmates was going out with a guy with a bad temper. She sometimes told me about his jealous spells, when he would insult her and call her a bitch. One day, he even broke his wrist by punching a wall.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nAnother of my friends \u2013 let\u2019s call her Le\u0301a — was severely hit by her boyfriend. Both of them were studying in the same business school. To pay for her studies, Le\u0301a worked all summer as a waitress in a beach bar, from our home region. One evening, her partner picked her up from work. He was drunk and angry. He punched her many times and made her fall out of the car. \u201cAs an apology, he offered me a luxury hand bag a few days after," recalls my friend. She never reported it to the police. Isabelle Steyer is a criminal lawyer and has studied this question at length. She has been defending victims of domestic violence for more than 20 years. She sent an accused husband directly to prison with one of her first defense speeches. However, the wife came back time and time again to demand his release. \u201cNot because she was afraid, but because he was sending her letters of apology, saying that this time he understood he was in the wrong. That he was the best husband in the world.\u201d It was her who helped me realize that it\u2019s all about control.\u201d This form of psychological imprisonment causes the victim to downplay their sufferings and give excuses to their perpetrators which makes it even more difficult for her family to notice the danger\u201d Isabelle explains. \u201cViolence happens in stages. One day, the husband is going to be verbally, and maybe even physically abusive. The most ordinary detail can trigger fury. The meal is rubbish; the house isn\u2019t clean enough or the table isn\u2019t set properly. The complaints escalate over the course of an hour, two hours, sometimes a few days. When the perpetrator realizes that his wife cannot take it anymore, he gets down on all fours and tells her that he cannot live without her, that she is the mother of his children. In short, the opposite of everything he said before. Isabelle Steyer interprets this as the honeymoon phase. By blowing hot and cold over a fragile person, you make them think that they are the problem.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nDuring our interview at the Buffalo Grill restaurant, Corinne had mentioned something along the same lines: \u201cE\u0301ric would buy her amazing presents, like a state-of-the-art treadmill.\u201d According to Brigitte, her daughter had made the decision to end the relationship when a fine came through the mail because her husband had forgotten to confirm his address at the Police Station. She had no idea that E\u0301ric had been given a suspended 3 month prison sentence in 2004 by Reims Court for sexual aggression towards a vulnerable person. This fact was not mentioned in the news after Ge\u0301raldine Sohier\u2019s death either. In this previous case, the proceedings had initially been opened as a rape allegation before being reclassified as attempted murder charges. A journalist from the newspaper L\u2019Union had covered the proceedings. He wrote that E\u0301ric Gallois had joined the victim in their bed and wanted to have sex, she had skin cancer and was exhausted. In his article, he wrote, \u201cShe refused. He insisted, grabbed her, harassed her, tried to abuse her,\u201d and it goes on. The victim ended up with bruises on her legs, her thighs, her wrists and her shoulder. Per the report, E\u0301ric had denied everything and stated that she \u201chad hurt herself by falling down the stairs.\u201dIn the L\u2019Union archives, I found other press cuttings that relate to E\u0301ric Gallois. One of them is from 2007 and reports a violent altercation with a winemaker from the Marne. A different article highlights a letter E\u0301ric Gallois sent to a magistrate in January 2010: \u201cYou are all pigs and Mafiosi who act out of spite and for money,\u201d he wrote, according to the local paper. By all accounts, E\u0301ric Gallois was a difficult person, \u201ca violent man.\u201d But does that make him a monster? On August 4, 2014, France introduced awareness courses that were finally directed toward offenders of domestic and sexist violence. Up until then, such courses were only available for perpetrators of violence against children, infractions of the Highway Code, or drug abuse. It is the participants\u2019 responsibility to attend and they generally last one or two days. It\u2019s a small step in the right direction inspired by the recommendations of psychologist Alain Legrand. Legrand is the President of the National Federation for Associations and Centers for Apprehension of Perpetrators of Domestic and Family Violence. He believes that a long-term treatment needs two or three years of monitoring on average, with at least one meeting a week. \u201cWe will not eliminate domestic violence without helping the perpetrators,\u201d the practitioner insists. He monitors around 150 people annually from his apartment in Paris where he holds his consultations. Of this group, 2% to 3% are women. \u201cI do not work on violence itself, but on what causes violence,\u201d he explains. Because for these violent men, there\u2019s always a legitimization. 'She\u2019s the one who provokes me by saying things, by not doing what I ask' they\u2019ll say. The majority have very low self-esteem. The doorbell rings. A new patient arrives. The session costs 25 euros, a much lower price that the market average. \u201cThe Office for Women\u2019s Rights has just reduced our grant because their budget is stretched too far,\u201d he says regretfully. \u201cI keep my own fees down so we can keep running.\u201d\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nAt the beginning of October 2017, I go back to Tinqueux. On my way to the bus I stop at a florist. I know that the following week will be one year since Ge\u0301raldine\u2019s murder. The vendor assures me that the flowers will last. He calls them \u201ceternal." Brigitte accepts them with pleasure. She sits over a coffee around a large wooden table covered with a Christmas tablecloth. She is pleased to have finally achieved legal guardianship of her youngest granddaughter, who has just started school and is still being monitored by a psychologist. \u201cShe seems to be doing well," her grandmother reassures me. The eldest is now in her first year of Sixth Form and wants to be a lawyer. \u201cShe has good grades but a teacher has told her that he doesn\u2019t like her. They are difficult sometimes. I\u2019ve told her not to pay any attention to him — she should work hard for herself.\u201d Since coming back from their holidays, the girls have managed to sleep in their respective bedrooms. \u201cThey might still have nightmares, but they don\u2019t mention them to me anymore.\u201d Brigitte\u2019s voice trembles. \u201cDo you have any more questions? It\u2019s all a bit emotional. I try to be strong, but occasionally I break down as well...\u201dWalking back to the Casanova bus stop, my legs are shaking and I can still sense Brigitte\u2019s pain, so palpable in her trembling voice. I think about Ge\u0301raldine, Maryline, and all the others. I wish I didn\u2019t have to write this article.