It is worth re-reading and possibly re-listening to -the award-winning film Rape trial, 1979*, you can see it again here in unabridged version- the formidable plea by lawyer Tina Lagostena Bassi, plaintiff's counsel in defence of a young woman raped by 4 men who had lured her to a villa in Nettuno under the pretext of a job offer. The trial ended with a conviction but the defendants were given conditional release.
It is worth listening to that argument again because In the words of Tina Lagostena Bassi you will find all the reasons why the interrogation to which -in the ongoing trial in Tempio Pausania against Ciro Grillo and three other young people- the alleged victim of violence was subjected to, reportedly in unacceptable tones, very reminiscent of that trial almost 25 years ago.
"Why didn't she break free?"
"Why didn't he shout?"
"Why didn't he use his teeth?"
"Why wasn't it lubricated?"
"Did you lift your pelvis?"
"How were her panties removed?"
"What kind of trousers was he wearing?"
The possible guilty' passivity of the girl would be brought by defence lawyer Antonella Cuccureddu (photo at top) as possible proof of his consent. Forgetting that in most cases of violence, even when perfectly conscious at the moment of abuse, the woman does not react precisely by virtue of a well-known and instinctive self-preservation mechanism to which the name of tanatosis is given, reflex also studied in other animal species, the purpose of which is reduce the damage and accelerate the end of the violence. A woman knows that if he reacted at that moment his life would be at risk.
Sure the right of defence can never be denied, as well as the presumption of innocence up to the third instance. But even the exercise of this right finds limits in respecting the woman who denounced, taking into account the fact that those who resolve to denounce know that they will have to face a difficult and painful path, with the risk of finding themselves in the dock, particularly when someone among the accused is a public figure or family member.
Denouncing violence requires great determination, and the progress of many trials risks discouraging women from defending themselves in the courtroom, pushing them to suffer abuse in silence.
Keep acting in the background the idea that if a woman is raped she has somehow brought it on herself, that she has not been able to defend her honour and that of the family, of which she is supposed to be the guardian, and that she should be punished for it, as is the case in many patriarchal societies and as also happened in our country only a few decades ago.
* the film, broadcast by RAI and seen by many millions of viewers, contributed to the approval of the Law No. 66 of 15 February 1996, 'Regulations against sexual violence', in which rape is finally defined as a crime against the person and no longer against public morality.
HARANGUE OF TINA LAGOSTENA BASSI, PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER (followed by those -really incredible- of the defendants' lawyers)
"President, Judges, I think first of all I have to explain one thing: why we women are present at this trial. By women I mean first of all Fiorella, then the companions present in the courtroom, and me, who I am here first of all as a woman and then as a lawyer. What does this presence of ours mean? Here, we we demand justice. We are not asking for a severe, heavy, exemplary sentence, we do not care about conviction. We want justice to be done in this courtroom, and that is something different. [...] I assure you, this is the umpteenth trial that I am doing, and it is as usual the usual defence that I hear: the defendants will tell you, they will carry out that defence that we have already broadly understood. I hope to have the strength to feel them, I do not always have it, I confess, the strength to feel them, and not to have to feel ashamed, as a woman and as a lawyer, for the toga we all wear. Why defence is sacred and inviolable, is true. But none of us lawyers-and here I speak as a lawyer-would dream of setting up a defence for robbery in the same way as one would set up a trial for rape. None of the lawyers would say in the case of four robbers who violently enter a jeweller's shop and take away the jewellery, the assets to be defended, well no lawyer would dream of starting the defence, which begins with the first suggestions given to the defendants, of saying to the robbers "Alright, say that the jeweller has an unclear past, say that the jeweller has basically been fencing, has committed offences of receiving stolen goods, say that the jeweller is a usurer, who speculates, who profits, who evades taxes!"
Here, no one would dream of making such a defence, besmirching the injured party only. [...] And so I ask myself, because if instead of four gold objects, the object of the crime is a woman in the flesh, why do we allow ourselves to put the girl on trial? And this is a constant practice: the trial of the woman. The real defendant is the woman. And excuse my frankness, if you do that it is macho solidarity, because only if the woman is turned into a defendant, only then will it result in complaints of rape not being made. I don't want to talk about Fiorella, in my opinion it is humiliating to come here and say 'she is not a whore'. A woman has the right to be what she wants, without the need for defenders. I am not the defender of the woman Fiorella. I am the accuser of a certain way of doing trials for violence [...]"
"What happened in here speaks for itself, and is the reason why thousands of women do not report, do not turn to justice. [...] I read in the newspaper of further violence done to a 17-year-old girl, who will not tell lies because she is deaf and dumb, and who was very, very badly beaten because she perhaps made the resistance that is denied here.
I ask myself, what would have been the reaction? They are four men. Sure, one can take a bite, one can risk his life, and he would have risked it. And each of the women remembers what happened to those who tried to rebel against violencei"
HARANGUE OF GIORGIO ZEPPIERI, DEFENCE LAWYER
"The facts? Look at the facts. This is about a girl, no offence intended, because gentlemen, I don't have a bad opinion of prostitutes at all [...]. this is about a girl who has lovers for hire [...]
My Lords, rape with fellatio can be interrupted with a clamp. The act is incompatible with the hypothesis of violence. All four would have recklessly left the member in their victim's mouth, part that is quintessentially defined as the delicate part of man. And on which, may I say, oral coitus is performed with a function that is technically a series of intentional acts. Yes I can abandon myself, but I do not abandon myself there, it is I who possess. There possession was exercised by the girl over the boys, by the female over the boys. It is she who takes, it is they passive, helpless, abandoned, in her greedy jaws!
But what does the young lady practise with the Vallone of whom she is, was, the lover, the amorous friend, fu on that occasion the lover, the beloved friend? It is practised cunnilictus by her loving friend, who kneels before her, and kisses her tenderly on what the divine Gabriele, her illustrious co-religionist, calls 'the second and most trembling mouth'.from which she sucks pleasure. So, what is the cunnilictus? It is more than love, it is sexual adoration, and tends to the pleasure of the female. And who practices it, the rapist? Here is the physiological, sexual incompatibility! It is the lover who can make these gestures'.
HARANGUE OF ANGELO PALMIERI, DEFENCE LAWYER
"Violence has always been there [...] Don't we men suffer it? Don't we also suffer it from our wives? And how do we not suffer them? Me I had to take two texts with me today to go outside! Lawyer Mazzucca and lawyer Sarandrea, witnesses I used to go to lunch with them, otherwise I would not leave the house. Isn't this violence? Yet my wife doesn't hit me. Is it true that you are witnesses? Are you witnesses? So, Mr. President, what did we want? What did you want? Equal rights. You started to ape man. You wore robes, why did you want to wear trousers? You started by saying, "We have equal rights, why do I have to be at home at 9 o'clock at night, while my husband my fiancé my cousin my brother my grandfather my great-grandfather go around?" You put yourselves in this situation. Then everyone unfortunately reaps the fruits they have sown. If this girl had stayed at home, if they had kept her by the fireside, nothing would have happened".