” Hello ma’am. Are you orange or blue? At the reception of the Rennes police station, the question is now systematic. To improve the care of victims of sexual or domestic violence, the national police has set up a system of color stickers. Victims of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence or intra-family violence are considered “code orange”. At reception, their care is more discreet and given priority. The other facts considered as “blue sticker” remain treated “normally”.
Set up in 2021 in Rennes, the device never took. So to show it, the police posted their vignettes everywhere. On the outside gates of the Police Headquarters, on the walls of the waiting room, on the plexiglass protecting the agents. And especially on the reception desk of all police stations in Rennes. With this color sticker system, the police hope to offer more discretion in the often very noisy reception halls. A lack of intimacy that can put off some victims, fearing having to explain what happened to them to the ears of many strangers. “Our police stations are aging with intercoms that are not always efficient and premises that force us to speak loudly. It is not the best place to respect the confidentiality of the victims, ”recognizes Commander David Flageul.
His office is not the first to have adopted this sticker system. Inspired by an initiative born in Le Mans in 2019, many cities have implemented it, not without difficulty. Last year, a tweet from Gérald Darmanin welcoming this initiative in Orléans caused an uproar. The photo relayed by the Minister of the Interior suggested that a line reserved for victims of rape had been created, accentuating the stigmatization of these. A criticism that continues with this sticker system. “There is no stigma. Code orange simply allows privacy. We have trained our agents to apply it and avoid intrusive questions. Our society has changed, the police have adapted”, assures Céline Touati. When she joined the police more than twenty years ago, the police captain was outraged to see the reception given to certain victims. “I saw the police coming into the lobby asking loudly who the raped woman was, in front of everyone. That doesn’t happen anymore,” she says.
By taking care of its care, the police hope to reassure and encourage the victims to come and file a complaint. Here as elsewhere, everyone knows that the margin for progress is still enormous. A hidden and recently unveiled report had also supported it. Pauline can attest to that. Victim of a sexual assault by a teacher, the young woman presented herself a year ago at the police station of the Tour d’Auvergne, after three days of hesitation. She was not disappointed.
The first time I came, I was told that it was a little too late, that the facts were not serious enough and that it was better for me to come back later. I was hurt that we prioritized the seriousness of the facts in this way”.
Pauline took it very badly but she came back. Many others do not. “A woman, a man or a child who sees that they are not being listened to, they will not come back. It is essential to hear the person, even if they have to come back to complete. It’s systematic now, ”says Captain Touati.
“He asked me if I had had a provocative attitude”
The problem is that when Pauline came back, she was seriously upset again. “The vignette system had just arrived, but I was still asked why I was coming there, to the gate outside. It really bothered me to have to say “sexual assault” in the middle of the street. And then I had to repeat it once at the reception. It made me sad. The young woman was then received by a police officer in an office away from the tumult of reception. “He asked me if I had had a provocative attitude or if I was drunk, it hurt me. He did not hear me, as if he wanted to dissuade me from filing a complaint, ”says the student.
“In France, to convict, you have to provide proof of guilt. Some questions may seem shocking but they are there to shield the file, to close doors. When you ask a female victim of sexual assault how she was dressed, it’s not to judge her. But it will be easier to prove a rape on a woman who was in a skirt than if she was in jeans and a down jacket, ”replies captain Céline Touati.
During this experience with the police, Pauline returned a third time where she met a “very nice” policewoman. “She was able to listen to me, she took my complaint and comforted me,” says the young victim. Was it because she was a woman? “I don’t know, but I felt understood. “His complaint will finally be closed without further action, without the man that Pauline described as her attacker being heard. In France, some sources mention a dismissal rate of nearly 80% for complaints of domestic violence. In Ille-et-Vilaine, the prosecutor explained that this figure was in continuous decline and had fallen below 40%.