Almost daily, there are stories about a woman getting raped and abused, like the story of Cinderella. Or the story of Ciro Grillo, the son of the famous politician, who is accused of raping a young woman with his friends. While she cried, they laughed. Then, they shared pictures online. But did she look for it? Unfortunately, rape in Italy has always been about victim-blaming. Women fight against stereotypes and obsolete laws.
Through the legal glass
First, rape is a crime against a person, not the whole of society (as it was until 1996). The Cassazione court tries to clear the muddy waters with the concept of “implicit dissent”. This happens when the woman doesn’t clearly and undoubtedly agree to have sex.
Signs that reflect this dissent are crying, being under duress of threat, and if the victim is sleeping. Furthermore, if the person is drunk or under the influence of drugs. Anything that impedes the victim to make a free and conscious decision. However, if the person was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there is no aggravating factor for the alleged rapist.
Also, consent doesn’t have a five-minute expiration date. If the person agrees to any bonding or bondage and then decides to stop, the other person has to stop. The consent has been revoked, so the act turns into rape.
And two Italian codes regulate this crime. One of them is the 609-bis, which regulates violence and threats to force acts. So, this code applies to situations in which the perpetrator exploits the victim’s status and conditions. During and before the act. Also, this code applies when the victim believes is having sex with someone (consensually). Instead, the rapist comes in.
The second Italian code on rape is the 609-ter. This one takes into account aggravating factors, making the sentences harsher. Sometimes harsher by 24 years. One of these factors is alcohol or any substance.
However, the judge can also give lighter sentences or even extinguish them after five years of good conduct. So, Italian law can be punitive. But it can also be up to interpretation and, too often, rely on proof that the victim can’t or won’t provide. Plus, men are often the decision-makers and interpreters.
Rape in Italy, the numbers
And that might raise some red flags, especially since the Italian numbers on rape are clear. In fact, at least 3% of Italian women were the victim of rape, in over 62% of cases the violence came from the partner. And 9% came from friends. No matter the perpetrator, victims are scared to report it. Only 11,4% of them have gone to the police. Of these cases, 64% go to court but they rarely reach sentencing.
So, the law is flawed and so is the system. Instead of punishing the perpetrators, it lets them go. And it interrogates the victims, making them relive their nightmare over and over, just like it happens for the victims of stalking. How that’s fair, it’s difficult to tell.
Interested in the topic? Don’t miss our investigation into violence agains men.