It’s a film about “I” and “we”. The “I” is Arnaud Gallais, now 42 years old, raped at the age of 8 by a great-uncle, a missionary priest in Gabon, then at the age of 12 by two cousins. A man, and they are still rare, who speaks to the camera about what he suffered without looking down.

A look that is sometimes difficult to bear as it still expresses suffering and dismay. But a frank look that says determination, commitment. That of getting through it, of rebuilding self-esteem and choosing collective combat.

“When I decided to make this documentary on Arnaud’s story,” explains director Guy Padovani, “I didn’t know that it would take me more than three years and that I would see this fragile man transform before my eyes into a defender. of the rights of the child. » This is one of the qualities of this film: making us see, beyond the portrait, that integrating the “we” of collective commitment can also repair the “I”.

Culture of silence

Arnaud Gallais grew up in the Paris region surrounded by his two sisters. His father is a sales director in an import-export company, his mother takes care of the household. The family seems united. “Moments of happiness staged, which everything else has erased,” he sums up in the film. Because, behind the walls of the suburban house, a tyrannical father is unleashed who humiliates his wife and children, particularly targeting his son, whom he beats. “Our great-uncle knew what was going on at home. Everyone knew, and no one did anything. In fact, it made me vulnerable. »

When he was in France, the missionary great-uncle stayed in the house, which had a guest room. However, it is in that of the 8-year-old boy that the priest is invited to sleep. He then takes advantage of the child’s bedwetting problems to, under the pretext of explaining to him how his body works, rape him for several years. To the point of making him believe that he was consenting.

What the documentary dissects is the ordinary nature of family violence which paralyzes, isolates and marks out prey. “I did what I could,” explains Arnaud Gallais’ mother in a stifled sob. It’s not that I was deprived, but, in my education, you made choices, you must assume them. » Culture of silence and acceptance, to the point of making aggression possible.

Several years of traumatic amnesia followed for young Arnaud, until the evening when, at the age of 19, watching a television report on a child molester priest, he became aware that what other victims were saying was what ‘he lived.

It’s the start of a long road of reconstruction, while what’s left of his family explodes. After an adolescence punctuated by risky behavior, Arnaud Gallais managed to pursue brilliant studies, graduating in anthropology from the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences. In 2010, he met Alexandra and became a father five years later. “When our son was born, he was able to tell him that he would do everything to be the dad he needed and never be like his father,” she says. He was building his own family. »

The release, in 2021, of Camille Kouchner’s book, La Familia grande (Threshold), shifts the academic’s life into activism. His story is publicized, he is invited on television sets to raise the victims’ demands, in particular on the end of the statute of limitations for sexual crimes, he creates an association and travels across France to meet other collectives, other stories . Guy Padovani follows each of his steps, with his family, in the radio studios, on the streets of Paris, at the Ministry of Justice, in the diocese of Annecy.

But, despite society’s awareness, Arnaud Gallais’ anger remains intact. The observation is bitter: an independent Commission on incest and sexual violence against children (Ciivise) decapitated after three years of work and a historic report revealing the extent of the evil; recommendations ignored; a Billon law supposed to protect minors under the age of 15 which includes a special clause, known as “Romeo and Juliet”, authorizing sexual relations between adults aged 19 and minors aged 14; 73% of complaints filed were dismissed, a Catholic Church that is reluctant to submit to the law.

“Activist engagement makes me feel good. It prevents me from remaining too stuck to this reality, which is unbearable, says Arnaud Gallais. But it’s a fight bigger than yourself. Together, we are the Republic, one and indivisible. »