With arrogant weakness, violent men disfigure and kill their female partners

by Elisabetta Pina - 2017.01.30
With arrogant weakness, violent men disfigure and kill their female partners
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Gessica Notaro (28), disfigured with acid; Ylenia Grazia Bonavera (22) leg burned by her partner; Rossana Belvisi (50), knifed to death by her husband; Teresa Cotugno (50) cruelly gunned down by her boyfriend and shot 3 times. With this documentation in hand, of the violence perpetrated towards women in 2017, we initiate our conversation with Isabella Merzagora, tenured professor of Criminology at the University of Milan and President of the Italian Society of Criminologists.

Acid, knives and guns. Men’s hatred of women continues to grow?
We need to hold off on an outright declaration that the phenomenon is increasing. But, it is shameful that these homicides and violent acts still occur, despite all of the efforts that have been taken.

What type of efforts are we talking about?
Until only 10 years ago, domestic violence between a married couple, was considered a private concern. To the point that Law and Order professionals actually advised against any action, so as not to ruin the family. Now, thank goodness, the social perception has changed considerably.

Have male and female roles changed?
Equal opportunity will exist only when family responsibility is equally divided. Compared to many generations ago, roles have changed, but between men and women, a certain dynamic still exists. For example, I direct a project that provides therapy to the abusive, male partners, many of whom, when explaining their violence, will come up with statements like: “I was just creating some order, in my own home”.

What is it that triggers the violence?
There is a male sub-culture that cannot deal with discovering any weakness in front of a female partner. For example, if a man is convinced that he has more power than his woman, but, at the same time, recognizes that he is dependent on her, it is a dangerous situation. Someone who burns the face of a woman is the typical possessive-dependent male in crisis, that gets back at her, thinking: “if she can’t be mine, then no one else can have her either”.

Why do some women put up with so much violence for so long before they end up being killed?
We cannot repeat enough to these women, how important it is to press charges. But, at the same time, it is hard for us to appreciate the sense of panic that overcomes them, when they start fearing all of the negative consequences of speaking out: possible repercussions for children or difficult economic conditions. Not to mention losing a house and a job.

What should these women never do?
They really need to stop waiting for better days to come, repeating continuously: “with patience, he will change”. And, most of all, they need to stop trying to be the one to keep the family together, always, and at all costs. Especially with a violent partner.

Are there women who hate men?
There are women who mistreat men, and get away with it because the men are ashamed to denounce their partner. I suspect that this exists also within the dynamic of homosexual couples. But, at this time, we still know too little about this in Italy.

Does all of the media attention create models for violent individuals to emulate?
No, I don’t think so. If someone wants to commit an act of violence, he won’t do it because he saw it on TV. But, I have to admit that the media should change the morbid approach that we see all too often when domestic violence cases are being presented. Years ago, people would never talk about what went on at home, behind closed doors. The victims were more isolated and they thought that having to put up with violence was just part of a normal, day-to-day routine.

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