Patrice Evra has opened up on the sexual abuse he suffered as a child growing up in France, and has called for smacking children in England to be made illegal.
The former Manchester United defender and French international recently revealed in his autobiography how a school teacher abused his position of power while Evra was staying at his house.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme on Tuesday, he said: “When I was 13 I was in a school too far form home, so I have to take a train, a three-hour trip. So my teacher proposed I sleep in his house, he was living inside the school. At the beginning it was like a dream, he was cooking for me, letting me play video games. But every time when I was going to bed it was a nightmare, that’s when he was trying to sexually abuse me. Every night it was fighting, and then one night he succeeded. I told my mum: ‘I don’t want to sleep any more in that teacher’s house.’ She asked my why and I didn’t say why.”
Evra kept the abuse from family and friends through his teenage years and his hugely successful football career, until recently confiding in his fiancee, Margaux Alexandra.
“I lived with that until I was 24 years old, when I was playing for Monaco, and the police called me and said: ‘This man has had a lot of complaints about other kids being sexually abused, did he do anything to yourself?’ And I said no. I lied because first of all you feel shame about yourself, you feel guilty, and also you’re scared about what people will think – I was already a famous person. I regret, because it’s not about me, it’s about the kids.
“That’s why in my autobiography I’ve been open about it, and thanks also to the woman of my life, Margaux, she helped get rid of that toxic masculinity and feel safe. I felt like I could trust her, I opened myself and I talk, and you release something. I decided to put it in my book. My book was already finished and I called the publisher and said: ‘I need to add something really important.’
“The most devastating moment was when I see my mum and telling her face to face, after I was 13 years old, at the age of 40: ‘I’ve been sexually abused.’ Of course she was devastated, and I tell her: ‘I’m going to put that in my autobiography.’ She said: ‘No, that is too personal,’ and I said: ‘No, mum, it’s not for me, it’s for the children.’”
Lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic is thought to have exposed at least 85 million more children around the world to physical, sexual and emotional violence, as well as increasing exposure to groomers online.
Evra has now joined the Together To End Violence campaign aiming to raise awareness and bring an end to child abuse. He has also called for smacking children, which is against the law in Scotland and Wales, to be made illegal in England.
“I want kids to be protected by the law,” he said. “We know in the UK and every country smacking in your kids is wrong, but when you’re not protected by the law it is difficult. But the most important step is education. Every time I say to people, no one is born as a violent person or a racist, it’s about the way you’ve been growing up. My dad used violence and you couldn’t even cry because the way I grew up, crying was a sign of weakness.
“The main problem is society, the culture, the way people have been educated. But being protected by the law is very important.”
In his book, titled I Love this Game, Evra directly addressed fellow victims suffering abuse.
“If you are a child reading this and you are being abused, you must talk,” he wrote. “Don’t carry your shame because there is no shame. Deal with your nightmare by talking about it. I look at my own son and think, ‘If something happens, I hope he would tell me.’ A lot of shit things happened in my childhood. The people I know and love will read this and I don’t want to put them through more pain, but it’s important that I tell my story honestly. I’m 40 years old and telling the truth.”