Emanuela Di Vito was herself stabbed five times, and is alive today by a miracle, “and thanks to the doctors.” She pressed charges against her ex-boyfriend for it, got him convicted (although “the beatings he gave me with a belt fell outside the statute of limitations”), but he was soon out of prison, ambushing her in front of her car, mocking and threatening. “I was the one sentenced in the end, to my very own narrow prison, with no clemency in sight.”
Next to tell her story was Concetta Raccuia, the mother of Sara Pietrantonio, who was burned alive by her ex in May 2016 on the outskirts of Rome. Then there was Maria Teresa Giglio, the mother of Tiziana Cantone, who committed suicide last May after a pornographic video of her, filmed without her consent, had been circulating on the internet, and after she was sentenced, at the end of her fruitless legal battle to have the video taken down, to paying the legal fees for five websites — “forced to take her own life just to gain the right to be forgotten.” Blessing Okoedion followed with her own story, a Nigerian victim of human trafficking, whose captors, “in the span of only a moment, reduced me to a mere slave.” She ran away and told police, and there she found someone truly willing to help.
These stories are very hard to listen to, and difficult to tell. And with the telling comes the further torture of the information being reported, with a “re-victimizing” effect, as journalist Luisa Betti next explained. In Venice on Saturday, the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana, together with the GIULIA association of female journalists, released a manifesto calling for responsibility in handling stories involving violence in the media.
Just like the Argentinian “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,” when their children are killed, mothers become relentless fighters for the freedom of others. The social sociologist Linda Laura Sabbadini speaks about this phenomenon in terms of numbers. “We must not bend the numbers to our beliefs, but build our beliefs around the reality of the numbers,” she says, particularly about the fact that the vast majority of the violence in question is perpetrated by a boyfriend, not an unknown stranger. “But the numbers also say that nowadays there are twice as many women who report the violence, and that the number of girls who end a relationship at the first signs of danger is increasing. The strength of women lies in their unity, we are aware of the progress already made, but we know that the road ahead is a long one.”
Memory has a crucially useful role, as the women of the “Renata Fonte” shelter in Lecce also recounted. Renata was a local councilperson who opposed the division into lots for development of Porto Selvaggio, which is now a natural oasis. And the women bearing the tricolor scarves of the ANPI (National Association of Italian Partisans) also made this point.