17-year old Claudia Caputi had migrated to Rome, by herself. About a year ago she was gang-raped by a bunch of hoods. She recognised some of them, and denounced them to the authorities (an unusual step in Italy). Recently she was gang-raped again, and razor-slashed all over her body, as a "warning", to make her not press the charges. The magistrate in charge of her case reacted in an amazing manner. Our account is taken from Lotta Continua, April 3rd-4th 1977.
THE MAGISTRATES HAVE FOUND THE TRUE GUILTY PARTY - IT'S CLAUDIA
The Rome magistracy have done nothing to arrest the rapists. They have done nothing to carry out investigations into the men who threatened Claudia (whom she has named). And now they are accusing Claudia of having made the whole thing up! She has horrible razor slashes all over her body, and they are calling it "simulation". All because the investigating magistrate finds it inconceivable that the women should have mobilised so quickly in Claudia's defence (10,000 mobilised within 6 hours of hearing the news of the attack). According to the magistrates, it must all have been arranged in advance! Claudia was in a hospital bed when the policeman came into her room, sent her comrades out of the room, and read the judge's statement to her. This new act of violence must not go unanswered.
The feminist movement is drawing up a Bill to he submitted to the women members of Parliament, which will give the movement the right to participate, as an interested party, in trials for violence against women.
Meantime the trial of the rapists continues .
THE WOMEN MOBILISE
The following describes the mobilisation of women, in Rome, in support of Claudia.
Ten, fifteen, twenty thousand women .... the exact figure doesn't matter. What we saw was that there were so many of us, and we were all prepared to take the struggle right through to the end.
The news of this umpteenth act of violence against Claudia arrived late in the evening. We mobilised at once, via chains of phone calls, and radio announcements via Radio Citta Futura (the few channels of communication that the movement possesses today). Thousands of women poured onto the streets in a few hours, and there were many whom we were seeing for the first time. Many women who were no longer young, many from the proletarian parts of the city. So many of us wanted to come and shout our contempt, our anger, and we didn't want to be hampered with the usual kinds of problems - like where to leave the kids. And for the first time we were so strong that the men comrades, with the Radio CF broadcasts, publicly offered to look after the children - recognising that we were determined to handle the whole affair ourselves.
Our march started from Piazza San Giovanni, headed by the banner of the feminist collective of the Appio-Tuscolano neighbourhood (where Claudia lives), with the slogan: "Claudia is not afraid". We marched right through the neighbourhood where she lives, and where her rapists live. The people on the balcony, the women who were clapping as they lined the street saying how right our (and their) demands were. Some hung banners out of their windows, with slogans thought up there and than like " Woman is Beautiful". This confirmed for us, that the women in the area are fed up with the activities of these sordid males, and that they are sick and tired of being oppressed and of being cooped up in the home.
A platoon of the "Padova" crack riot-police battalion was drawn up across the entrance of the street that led to the Via Noto offices of the fascist party to keep those thugs safe and sound ..... but they were incapable of stopping thousands of women shouting “Murderers!” to their faces. A few males on the pavement who allowed themselves to snigger, got short shrift - a quick response wiped the smile from their faces. And once again, the authorities played on the climate of terror that they have been creating for weeks .... so that shopkeepers were pulling their blinds down in front of their shops.
By the end of the march we felt satisfied - satisfied that we had been so many in number .... feeling strong .... but with a bitter taste in our mouths to think
that Claudia's rapists, and the rapists of so many other women are still at large and free from harassment.
THE QUESTION OF RAPE
An Italian sister has explained the situation to us: unlike in France, in Italy rape is a crime - so the women’s movement has not had the problem of having to ask for it to be made a crime. Recently in Italy there has been an increase in the number of rapes - and also in the number of women who declare they have been raped. The legislation is incredible though - within 24 hours you've got to go to the police, get a doctor to examine you , and prove that you have been raped. Rape in Italy is defined as complete sexual intercourse with a violence (excluding rape with the hand). The penalty is 5 years or so, jail - up to 2 years ago the man could annul the crime by offering to marry.
In 1976 there were quite a few cases of women taking men to court- - and some won, while some didn't. The CP Union of Italian Women took a very hard position in one case in Turin - namely they asked for money as recompense ( 500,000 lire, thus putting a price on rape) instead of asking the symbolic one lira which everyone has asked for up till now.
The situation with Claudia Caputi was not an easy one. She had been raped, and she told a lot of false stories about who had done it etc. Then it was discovered that she had been raped because she was trying to break out of a prostitution racket. She'd left her home in the South to come up to Rome, following an advert for a baby-sitter, or something like that .... and she'd wound up in this prostitution racket.
The trial was incredible - the man who was her boyfriend - and therefore had some sort of entitlement, argued that they had only followed suit .... and this was accepted by the magistrate who said: "A woman lying in a field is like after a battle .... What is a man supposed to do when he sees her lying there?".
It has now turned out that this magistrate was actually tied up with the same prostitution racket!
The whole trial has been very important, acting as a-mobilising point for the women's movement, and bringing the question of rape right into the open.
No More Violence Against Women