François Devaux, victim and activist, France, 2018

François Devaux is a victim of sexual abuse by a priest and is co-founder of the association La Parole Libérée. He describes his abuse like this: “I was 10 years old that day. I had already been with Scouts St Luc for 2 years and I loved this group, its vitality. We were a tribe. Granted, Father Bernard was a ‘screamer’, he sometimes had that uncomfortable touch, but he was a priest. In essence, in my mind, he could not be malicious. That afternoon we were in a room at the back of the big meeting room. We were given one of those badges which we proudly took to our admiring mothers to sew on our jumpers. At the end of that meeting, when Father Bernard released us, he asked me, grinning, to stay for a moment. I remember my friends running out of the room. Some wore grins as if they knew what was waiting for me, others looked uncomfortably at their shoes and others seemed jealous of the special attention Father was giving me. I was blond, tall and thin … The perfect profile. When everyone was outside, he closed the door and said softly, “Come closer.” His kindness was boundless. Then he pressed me against him. A strong embrace, as he used to do them in these intimate moments. “Our father Bernard must be lonely to need these moments so much,” I said in my innocent head. Then he took off my glasses, he took off my beret and put them on himself to hug me better. I remember his sighs, almost a rattle. Even the colour of his grey shirt. Then, bending slightly, he took my right leg with his left hand and lifted it to lean me against his hip. His hand supported my thigh in this position. “Hey … strange, he doesn’t usually do that …” Then he gently pushed my thigh up with his hand. The hand climbed very high under my short shorts. He must have sensed my discomfort because at some point he finally eased my foot back to the floor. Then he took my head in his hand and kissed me on the cheek. And as he went from cheek to cheek, it burned on my mouth.

Copyright Simone Padovani

initiator of justice initiative