Medea and Agamemnon

Francesco Martin
Current events

However, are we sure that there also are no cases where the roles are switched?

I know, and let me start by saying that, this article, could annoy somebody, who could turn up their nose, or even trigger a lively controversy. Sometimes, we need to face the reality surrounding us, striving to abandon our entrenched and comfortable point of view to expand our horizons.

 It is common knowledg that the 25th of November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women instituted by the United Nations General Assembly, with resolution 54/134 of December 17, 1999.

Now, in Italy, for this occasion, we question if the current regulatory landscape can adequately contrast violence against women and provide them with protection.

Recently, in my profession, I have encountered a delivery by the Cassation Court that concerned a case of a felony of domestic violence against a woman.

However, after reading the verdict, I was hit with a thought: are the “victims” always women?

If we analyze the felony of domestic violence ex-art. 572 of the Criminal Law, it is clear that it is a felony that can be committed in any way, perpetrated exclusively within precise family relationships, and generally referred to any behavior that, in time, leads to committing acts of oppression such to offend the individual’s personality and cause the degeneration of the existing relationship. 

The typical conduct, which can manifest in an active form as well as through omissions – like in the case in which the acting subject fails in maintaining a certain given behavior –, is characterized by being a habit, meaning that we can notice a continuity and a repetition of the harassment since the legislator decided to sanction the damage to psycho-physic integrity, moral heritage integrity, and to the freedom and dignity of the passive subject. 

The tenets [1] and laws of legitimacy [2] have often stated that harassment within the family circle concern alleged crimes, which are typically habitual, that characterize the act of a series of misbehaviors, for the most put into action actively that, when isolated, could even not be considered as punishable (like, for example, acts of infidelity), but become relevant when repeated in time.

Article 572 of the Criminal Law also considers aggravating circumstances like the committing of the misbehavior or the damage in the presence of a minor, of a woman while pregnant, or a subject affected with disability.

 Having briefly highlighted the features of the felony we analysed, we immediately recognize a fundamental fact: such a crime can be committed by anyone, independent of their gender.

Therefore, abstractly, even a man could experience such a form of mistreatment, wanting to see his rights safeguarded in Court.

Certainly, I anticipate, the statistics show a clear majority of female victims, and the way a male expresses his violence is primarily physical – hence more visible.

However, are we sure that there also are no cases where the roles are switched?

If we want to begin from the mere data we have from coverage on this subject, the first aggression  involving acid (vitriolage) in Italy was committed in September 2012 having a male as its victim, and a woman as its perpetrator [3].

Another case that occurred in 2019 with the same method and particularly impressed me: from an interview, it appears that a man had already reported the woman for her obsessive behavior, but his call for help was not taken seriously[4].

And again, in 2012 the University of Siena [5] studied the subject arriving at an alarming statistic: 5 million men are victims of violence.

According to this survey, female violence would take the form of threatening violence (63,1%); scratches, bites, hair pulling (60,05%); throwing objects (51,02%); kicks and punches (58,1%).

Much less (8,4%), differently from what is experienced by women, are the actions that could put a man’s personal safety at risk, or even cause his death.

Similar numbers are reported on behalf of the GESEF, an association for separated parents with help desks throughout Italy, that was based on a sample comparable to the one used by ISTAT (Italian national statistical institute) for the survey in which women are the victims.

 We also should not forget the cases in which the lawsuit for alleged abuse becomes instrumental to obtaining child custody or other facilitations during the judicial process for separation or divorce.

By broadening the scope on a European scale, in Germany, in 2020, there were almost two thousand calls for help from male victims managed by operators of the predisposed service, that, up to now, has only covered two regions of the country, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia[6].

Therefore, if male violence is characterized by the use of force and physical brutality, a female violence is more subtle, almost psychological, but equally dangerous and with deleterious effects.

Now, you might be asking, what am I getting at after this explanation of the law and these statistics?

What I am saying is a very simple thing: I am inviting you to meditate and examine the problem of domestic violence in all of its forms with no preconceived notions.

Because in case of abuse there is no strong gender, all people deserve the same access to counseling and protection of the law, with no obvious stereotypes, and, finally, because the wolf is not always the bad guy in fables.

The characters of Medea and Agamemnon teach us this with historical clarity.

[1]  Sources from the following Italian Textbooks: F. Antolisei, Manuale di diritto penale. Parte generale, Milano, 2003, p. 270 .; S. Canestrari, L. Cornacchia, G. De Simone, Manuale di diritto penale. Parte generale, Bologna, 2017, p. 292; G. Cocco, Manuale di diritto penale. Parte generale, Padova, 2012, p. 53; G. Fiandaca, E. Musco, Diritto penale. Parte generale, Bologna, 2019, p. 215 ss.; F. Mantovani, Diritto penale. Parte Generale, Padova, 2020, p. 497 ss.; G. Marinucci, E. Dolcini, G.L. Gatta, Manuale di diritto penale. Parte generale, Milano, 2020, p. 284 ss.

[2]  Rep. pen., sec. VI, 19.10.17, n. 56961; Rep. pen., sec. III, 22.11.17, n. 6724; Rep. pen., sec. III, 20.03.18, n. 46043; Rep. pen., sec. VI, 09.10.18, n. 6126; Rep. Pen., Sec. VI, 10.03.2022, n. 8333.

[3] Link 

[4] Link

[5] Link

[6] Link

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