Domestic violence, a very timely plague
“Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace” – Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize
The 25th of November was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a date chosen to commemorate the Mirabal sisters, who were tragically assassinated in 1960 for their identity as women and activists fighting against the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo.
When addressing violence against women, our thoughts often gravitate towards the distressing cases of feminicide dominating headlines. Considering the alarming statistics, as reported by Istat in 2022 for Italy, where 314 voluntary homicides occurred, 126 of them involved female victims, with 106 within the family/affective sphere and 61 at the hands of a partner/ex-partner.
However, violence against women encompasses a broader scope, as defined by the United Nations: “any act of gender-based violence resulting in, or likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women.” This definition includes acts occurring in both public and private life, expanding beyond physical harm to encompass the mental sphere.
Since gender-based violence can manifest itself in numerous forms, this article zooms in on domestic violence, occurring within family or partner relationships, regardless of shared residence. This form of violence, encompassing physical, sexual, psychological, or economic abuse, stands as the most prevalent.
Istat reveals that one in three women experiences some form of violence in her lifetime, primarily within the family context. Unfortunately, a small percentage of these cases are reported, attributed to various reasons. Mental manipulation plays a significant role, where victims endure a pattern of actions fostering fear, self-doubt, and guilt. These feelings of self-bias and helplessness can develop responses of anxiety, stress, and depression; and when victims lose their autonomy they tend to take a passive role and remain in abusive situations. Economic violence further entraps victims by controlling access to economic resources, generating a sense of dependence that leads the victim not to break the relationship with the abuser. Another factor inhibiting women from reporting aggression is the apprehension that ending the relationship or attempting to do so might escalate violence. There’s a fear of potential consequences, such as stalking or harm to children and other family members, after the complaint.
Overcoming these challenges demands a multifaceted approach. Education emerges as a pivotal tool, instilling respect and gender equality in the next generation, to reach this goal schools and public opinion must condemn severely such episodes.
Crucially, there’s a need to dismantle the stigma surrounding reporting incidents: society must provide unwavering support, ensuring victims feel heard and validated.
Moreover, information and awareness campaigns can guide individuals on how to respond to violence and recognize mistreatment.
Additionally, reforming the justice system is imperative: a lack of trust and the fear of secondary victimization often discourage women from reporting. Building confidence in the system and ensuring proper attention is given to cases will contribute to a more just and supportive environment for victims.
Red shoes represent the battle against abuse and feminicide, and their story originated in Mexico, where a local artist, Elina Chauvet, placed 33 pairs of women’s shoes, all red, in a city square in 2009 to remember women victims of violence.
The red bench today is used to say no to violence, with particular reference to domestic violence, and is a reminder that mistreatment of women also occurs systematically in our communities, in our familiar places, in small and large towns.
Mural by Italian street artist TvBoy, posted shortly after the news of Filippo Turetta’s arrest following the November 11, 2023 murder of Giulia Cicchettin.