Italian court’s rape decision ‘huge step back’ for women
Court rules aggravating circumstances not applicable because woman drank alcohol
The court said even though the defendants took advantage of the woman’s drunken state to have forced sex, aggravating circumstances were not applicable because she had voluntarily consumed alcohol. File photograph: Getty Images
Italy’s top court has been widely condemned after it ruled that aggravated circumstances cannot be applied to a rape sentence if the victim voluntarily drank alcohol before the attack.
The court of cassation on Tuesday ordered a retrial to review the three-year sentence for two men convicted of raping a woman in 2009.
A lower court had applied aggravated circumstances – factors that could increase the severity of a criminal act – to the sentence because of the use of alcohol in the attack, but the higher court ruled that this was inapplicable.
The decision was castigated by women’s associations and politicians as a “huge step back” for women in Italy.
“The position by the court is extremely serious because it makes it even more difficult for a woman to come forward and report a rape,” said Lella Palladino, the president of Italy’s Donne in Rete Contro la Violenza (Women’s Network Against Violence).
“When they do find the courage they are regarded as not being credible and in many cases they are the ones victimised. It’s a very alarming decision for women in our country, especially during this critical [political] period,” she said.
Alessia Rotta, a politician with the centre-left Democratic party, said: “The ruling from the supreme court takes us back decades. It is a sentence that risks nullifying years of battles.”
The two defendants, both aged 50, were initially acquitted of rape by a court in the northern Italian city of Brescia in 2011 after judges found the victim’s account of events unreliable.
They were then found guilty on appeal in January 2017 by a court in Turin after judges there evaluated a medical report showing evidence that the woman had tried to resist the attack.
The court handed down a three-year sentence to both men while also applying aggravating circumstances because the defendants had “committed the act with the use of alcoholic substances”.
However, the court of cassation has ordered a retrial in order to revise the sentence. It said that even though the defendants took advantage of the woman’s drunken state in order to have forced sex with her, aggravating circumstances were not applicable because she had voluntarily consumed alcohol.
The case dates back to 2009, when the men took the woman into a bedroom after eating together and raped her. A few hours later she went to the emergency wing of a hospital and is said to have described what happened “in a confused manner”.
Italian courts have made similar decisions in the past regarding rape cases. In February last year a man was acquitted by a Turin court of raping a woman on a hospital bed after the judge ruled that the woman did not scream loud enough or push the man away. – Guardian service