Report. The organization Di.Re. presented data for 2020, showing that men continue to abuse and kill women and children at alarming rates: over 20,000 people in a single year.

In Italy, violence against women – and children – persists alongside dearth of shelters

One of the latest femicides in Italy took place on Friday in Montese, in the Modena Apennines. A man stabbed his wife and then tried to take his own life. Not far from there, in Sassuolo, another man, Elisa Mulas’ ex-partner, killed her, his ex-mother-in-law and their two children aged 2 and 5.

We see daily in the news how many women are dying at the hands of men (some data can be found on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, which produces reports weekly). The stories show that the intensification of this phenomenon, structural and systemic, is victimizing young children more and more: such as in Vetralla, in the Viterbo area, where a man who was prohibited from approaching his ex-girlfriend and her son killed the 10-year-old child.

There is a common denominator in these cases, namely the deliberate desire of the women to escape from a condition of violence by ending the relationship. In more than one case, the individuals who killed them, or killed their children, violated restraining orders and got in the presence of their victims without apparent difficulty.

Something doesn’t seem to be working, and this fact has been discussed for some time. Anti-violence centers, such as those of the Di.Re. network, are talking about this too. On Friday, they presented some data (concerning the number of women who are turning to the centers) together with the initiatives planned for November 25 (the International day for the elimination of male violence against women) and the demonstration organized by Non Una Di Meno for Saturday, November 27.

The report presented on Friday, edited by Sigrid Pisanu and Paola Sdao, covers the whole of 2020. Eighty-one organizations belonging to the Di.Re network took part in the survey, for a total of 106 anti-violence centers, 60% of which offer at least one accommodation facility, i.e. refuge homes: essential facilities in cases of when removal from the family home is necessary, not only for women but also for children.

It is striking but not surprising that the refuge homes (together with semi-autonomous houses), numbering just 64 in total, are insufficient throughout the country, as one cannot accomplish miracles with little funds that are distributed in an inconsistent manner.

Seventy-two percent of the centers benefit from public funding from regional sources (with the most funds available in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy and Tuscany); more than half benefit from municipal funding (those in Emilia Romagna are the most generous); and about a third get funds from the Department of Equal Opportunities.

Then there is private funding, which is a source for 75% of the centers. The work of Di.Re., which provides accommodation, legal and psychological and work-related counseling, together with parental advice, self-help groups and advice to immigrant women, is largely done on a volunteer basis. For 2020, with a total of 20,000 women assisted, including 13,000 for whom Di.Re. is the first point of contact, it was mostly volunteers who supported the activities of the centers: only 32% of the more than 3,000 workers were paid.

The data about the profiles of women who are turning to an anti-violence center is similar to previous years: 54.7% are between 30 and 49 years old, most of them are Italian and one woman out of three has no income. The types of violence range from psychological to economic violence (which often appear together), from sexual violence to stalking.

The profiles of the perpetrators of the violence also remain similar: in 76.4% of the cases they are men of Italian nationality, between 30 and 59 years old, of which half have a stable job. They are the women’s partners in 60% of the cases and ex-partners in 22.1%.

An important part of Friday’s press conference was about the Observatory on Secondary Victimization. Nadia Somma spoke about this initiative, focusing on the “most painful consequences of the judicial paths that women have to face to end the violence they are suffering: that they are turned into victims once again because of procedures and approaches that do not recognize or minimize the violence they suffered, questioning their credibility, blaming them for the violence they have suffered, underestimating the impact of witnessing violence on their sons and daughters, and forcibly imposing forms of two-parent arrangements that allow abusive men to repeat abusive behaviors towards them.”

On Friday, a note from Donatella Conzatti, secretary of the Commission of Inquiry on Femicide, said the Council of Ministers had approved the National Strategic Plan on male violence against women for the three-year period 2021-2023. The last one had expired in January 2021, and this had prompted complaints from the anti-violence centers, which a few days ago published an open letter to Minister Bonetti entitled “Forma e sostanza, i finti percorsi partecipati (Form vs. substance: the fake participatory paths)”, in which they said there had been no public engagement regarding the method of developing the plan and some of its content, while hoping that their concerns would prove unfounded when the details of the plan became known.

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