Feminists and anti-domestic violence campaigners in France have reacted angrily after politicians jumped to the defence of an MP who admitted slapping his wife.
The scandal broke last week after information leaked to the French press that Adrien Quatennens, a senior figure in the radical left La France Insoumise (LFI, France Unbowed), had been reported to police by his wife, Céline.
In a statement on Sunday, Quatennens said his wife had not intended to bring legal action or speak to the media. He added that he had no idea what was in his wife’s declaration but that she had wanted to “leave a trace of our arguments”.
He admitted the couple’s relationship had become “strained” and they were planning to divorce after 13 years together. He said that in one argument he had “seized her wrist” and had taken her mobile phone.
“To get it back, she jumped on my back. I got away and in getting away she hit her elbow,” he wrote. He described an earlier dispute in which “in a context of extreme tension and mutual aggression, I slapped her … I profoundly regret this action and I have said sorry many times”.
Quatennens announced he was withdrawing from his role as LFI coordinator.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a presidential candidate earlier this year for LFI, praised Quatennens for his “dignity and courage” and blamed the police, “media voyeurism”, and social media for intruding on the crumbling marriage. Another LFI MP, Sophia Chikirou, praised Quatennens for his “honesty and self-sacrifice” and called on people to “leave them [the couple] alone”.
Their support was immediately condemned by women’s groups. Anne-Cécile Mailfert, the president of the Fondation des Femmes (Women’s Foundation) said Mélenchon needed to educate himself about marital violence. “It’s not a conflict, it’s violence,” she wrote.
Caroline de Haas, of the feminist movement Nous Toutes (All of Us), wrote: “The violence at the heart of a couple is unacceptable, whatever conflicts are present … I send all my support to women victims everywhere in the world.”
Anne-Laurence Petel, from the centre right Renaissance party, said: “If Adrien Quatennens’ statement could be viewed with a certain amount of sympathy (not for the slap of course), Jean-Luc Mélenchon has just ruined that.”
Sandrine Rousseau, an MP for the green Europe Écologie Les Verts party, called on Quatennens to withdraw from all public speaking. “Violence against women has many faces, none of them is acceptable,” she said.
A statement from LFI said the party “reiterated its relentless engagement in the fight against violence to women”.