‘Deeply sexist’ French culture blamed for domestic assault deaths

‘Deeply sexist’ French culture blamed for domestic assault deaths
Copyright 2019 CNN
Survivors are often left to deal with the trauma of domestic violence.

Marie-Alice Dibon and Luciano Meridda’s relationship began with poetry.

The pair met during a taxi ride through Paris in 2004. Dibon, then 38 and a cosmetics and pharmaceutical specialist who split her time between Silicon Valley and the French capital, had grown curious about her driver’s reading material.

She wanted to know about the poetry book that lay by his side. Meridda, then 51, told her of his enthusiasm for literature and Dibon was captivated.

“He was always reading, trying to get more cultured, more savvy. And she kind of respected and admired that, I guess,” Dibon’s sister, Helene de Ponsay, told CNN.

Things moved quickly. Within a few weeks of meeting, they moved into an apartment in Courbevoie, just outside Paris.

At the start of their relationship, her sister said, the couple seemed happy. But five years in, Meridda revealed a darker side, and became increasingly possessive and manipulative.

De Ponsay remembers one visit with her sister in 2014 which left her worried.

“I went to her — to their — place one day to grab coffee and it was the end of the day, and she went into a sort of panic because she hadn’t purchased bread. You know, what kind of a feminist woman would do that? And she was a feminist,” de Ponsay recalled.

Dibon also discovered that Meridda had lied about his past.

“He had lied about the fact that he was single, but he was married! He had lied about the fact that he didn’t have children, but he had children!” said de Ponsay.

Over the next decade, Dibon tried to break up with Meridda several times, her sister said. But leaving proved difficult. He often resorted to emotional blackmail and would stop eating in a bid to get her to stay.

“She probably felt a bit responsible for his mental health. She was worried that he would hurt himself,” de Ponsay said.

On the morning of April 22 — some 15 years after they met, and two days after she tried to leave him once and for all — Dibon’s body was found stuffed in a suitcase floating in the Oise river in the suburbs of Paris.

Versailles police said Meridda had drugged her and then smothered her to death. He spent two weeks on the run before killing himself.

Dibon is one of at least