The Rome court reasoned incorrectly, he said in an interview, both because intent was “difficult to assess,” and because it presented “a very strong burden of proof for the molested person.” He was waiting for the prosecutor in Rome, who asked that the defendant be sentenced to 42 months in prison, to appeal.
The case may have touched a raw nerve in Italy because of its uneven record when it comes to the issue of violence, abuse and sexual harassment against women, and a mixed public attitude to the issues.
The national statistical institute, ISTAT, said in 2019 report that almost a quarter of the population felt that women could provoke sexual assault by the way they dressed, while almost 40 percent felt that women could avoid intercourse if they really didn’t want it.
However, many court cases have drawn outrage, including an infamous 1999 ruling that suggested a woman could not be sexually assaulted if she was wearing jeans because, according to the ruling, the pants were impossible to remove unless she helped – what became known as the ” alibi of jeans.” A Court of Turin last year acquitted a man of sexual assault because the woman left the bathroom door open, which the court ruled was an “invitation.”
But Italy’s highest court often overturns such decisions, said Elena Biaggioni, a DiRe lawyer and vice president. national anti-violence network led by women’s organizations. “Its decisions are very complex in their reasoning, especially when it comes to sexual violence,” she said.
International institutions have repeatedly reprimanded Italy on this front. After seven men were acquitted of charges of sexually assaulting a woman, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italian court, saying it confirms assumptions and stereotypes of female sexuality and essentially victim blaming. The European court wrote that the reasonings of the Italian court were “guilty, moralizing and conveyed sexist stereotypes.”
A Group of the Council of Europe which monitors violence against women found that convictions for sexual assault are very low in Italy. And last year, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a United Nations-affiliated group, said an Italian woman who accused a man of assaulting her had been discriminated against, as a result of “deep-rooted stereotypes” that led Italian courts to favor the male defendant above her.