Italy's Stiletto Murders

By Nadeau, Barbie Latza | Newsweek International, October 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Italy's Stiletto Murders


Nadeau, Barbie Latza, Newsweek International


Byline: Barbie Latza Nadeau

Amid social change, domestic homicides are on the rise.

"Giuliana," 46, who does not want to give her real name for her own safety, has been hiding in a shelter for battered women in a dingy Roman suburb since July, when her husband tried to kill her with a 12-inch kitchen knife. She received more than 50 stitches on her hands from trying to fight off the attack. She miraculously escaped when a neighbor heard her screams and called the police. Her body gives testimony to more than 20 years of hell. Her arms are scarred from the cigarettes her husband extinguished on her bare skin. Her nose is twisted from being broken three times. She is missing a toenail from when he ground her foot into the marble floor with his work boot. But despite all her visible cicatrices, her internal scars are worse. She is insecure and terrified he will find her and finish her off. "He is waiting for me out there," she says, chain-smoking nervously. "I can't go back home now because he will kill me for running away." Like 90 percent of Italian victims of domestic violence, Giuliana has refused to press charges out of fear of retaliation. But Giuliana is lucky to be alive.

Vanessa Scialfa, 20, made a fatal mistake last spring when she accidentally called her 34-year-old boyfriend, Francesco Lo Presti, by the wrong name. In a fit of jealous rage, he took the cord from the DVD player and strangled her to death in their home in Sicily. A few days later in Milan, Raffaele Fratantonio beat up his 64-year-old wife, Leda Corbelli, then doused her with gasoline before setting her alight because she went shopping without asking permission. The following week in Turin, Alfina Grande, 44, was thrown off a top-floor balcony by her boyfriend after arguing about what to watch on television. A month later near Naples, Carmela Imudi, 52, was shot with a Beretta 7.65 in the stomach when she asked her husband for a separation after years of his abuse, for which she had been hospitalized with broken ribs, a broken nose, and fractured wrists. Around the same time near Rome, Annamaria Pinto, 50, was shot in the head with a Smith & Wesson by her husband who thought she was spending too much time in church with a women's group--he thought they were making her question his authority. Outside Milan, Antonia Bianco was beaten senseless and then stabbed through the heart with her own stiletto heel by her ex-boyfriend after he discovered she had found a new lover.

Since Jan. 1, at least 100 women have been killed in Italy by men who once loved them. The figure breaks down to a chilling average: one woman is murdered every other day. Femicide in Italy has been increasing by around 10 percent a year for the past three years--faster than any other European country, according to Non Siamo Complici, or We Are Not Accomplices, a group that is working to empower women to stand up to domestic violence. Nearly 70 percent of the women were killed by men they lived with; most of the rest were killed by former boyfriends and ex-husbands; a tiny fraction were killed by their own sons or strangers. But it is not a manifestation of strength that is behind the growing number of casualties. It is a manifestation of weakness as men come to terms with a societal change in which women are finally rising to positions of power. Giorgia Serughetti, a doctor of cultural studies who helped form the women's empowerment group Se Non Ora Quando? (If Not Now When?) says some men fear that the women they once considered as possessions will feel empowered by seeing examples of strong women around them. "This violence is because of the profound changes this country is going through regarding the roles of women in society," Serughetti told Newsweek. "It's because of women's liberation."

To be fair, Italy is a country often unfairly shackled to its stereotypes, and the hot-blooded Latin lover often gets blamed beyond his due. …

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