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NY Post
New York Post
6 Jan 2024

NextImg:We must stop ignoring violence against women in Italy

When the stabbed and battered body of 22-year-old Italian college student Giulia Cecchettin was found in a ditch near Venice in November 2023, police arrested her former boyfriend, Filippo Turetta, for her murder.

Such violence by intimate partners is not uncommon: Cecchettin was one of more than one hundred women in Italy last year killed by either a former or current intimate partner, according to the country’s Interior Ministry.

What was uncommon was the public outcry over Cecchettin’s death, which quickly became a symbol of the nation’s ongoing crisis of femicide — the crime of killing a woman because she is a woman.

The story dominated media in Italy for weeks; Cecchettin’s funeral drew more than 10,000 people and spawned protests and vigils across the country by Italians demanding better legal and social protections for women. 

Giulia Cecchettin, the 22-year-old Italian woman whose murder at the hands of her boyfriend last November sparked a nationwide outcry in Italy, according to reports. Wikipedia

And yet Cecchettin’s death and the protest movement it spawned barely registered here in the U.S., a country that has seen its fair share of intimate partner violence (and a nation obsessed with Italy — a place where more than 6 million Americans visited in 2019.)

According to an analysis of FBI homicide statistics for 2018 by the Violence Policy Center, “for homicides in which the victim-to-offender relationship could be identified, 92% of female victims were murdered by a male they knew,” and of those, “63% of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.”

Although stories of women killed by their partners sometimes spark public attention, such as the murder of Gabby Petito by her boyfriend in 2021 while they were on a road trip across the American West, for the most part, such murders — like the word femicide itself — are rarely if ever mentioned in the mainstream media. 

Protestors at a rally in Milan in November decrying the deaths of young Italian women at the hands of their boyfriends. REUTERS

Why not? 

Rather than examine the complicated cultural and legal challenges of protecting women from violent partners, many observers prefer to politicize the issue, often along racial lines.

This has been a regular feature of stories of violence against women in recent years. In a jargon-laden opinion piece in The Washington Post in the wake of Petito’s disappearance, for example, Julia S. Jordan-Zachery, a gender studies professor at Wake Forest University, complained about the coverage given to Petito (who was white) compared to that given to black women and blamed “society’s systematic marginalization and devaluation of black women.”

A young Israeli woman was kidnapped from her home and brought to Gaza and subject to horrific sexual abuse. Despite endless evidence of such Hamas atrocities, many women’s groups failed to condemn the violence.

Left unmentioned by Jordan-Zachery — perhaps because it did not conveniently suit her narrative — is the fact that while black women do endure higher levels of intimate partner violence than white women, they do so at the hands of black men, not vague “systemic” forces. 

In Cecchettin’s case, she did not fit neatly into the hierarchy of oppression now used to judge the fitness of victims and, by implication, their worthiness for attention in the identity politics-soaked landscape of American mass media. 

Consider another, more egregious case: the claim that the women attacked and kidnapped by Hamas during the October 7 invasion of Israel were not sexually assaulted. As details of the horrifying attack became public, witnesses noted how Hamas terrorists raped and tortured many of their victims, a fact soon corroborated by forensic evidence found at the scenes as well as by videos taken by the terrorists themselves. 

Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdari highlighted Italy’s attack on LGBT rights as an example of patriarchy gone wrong last year but failed to mention the nation’s femicide crisis. Arwa Mahdawi

And yet, international organizations like UN Women failed to issue any statement condemning Hamas until more than 50 days after the attack — and only then in a social media post where it was immediately deleted and replaced with a more anodyne call for the release of hostages.

The progressive media were just as weak-kneed.

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In a Guardian column from last week titled “The Year in Patriarchy,” for instance, Arwa Mahdari saw fit to complain that “a humanitarian crisis unfolded in Gaza, with women and children bearing the brunt of the conflict” and blamed “Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza.”

Left unmentioned? Hamas’ invasion of Israel and the rape, torture, and murder of women and children there.

Also left unmentioned, is Italy’s femicide epidemic, even as Mahdari somehow managed to highlight Prime Minister “Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government’s … crusade to erode LGBTQ+ rights.”

Meanwhile, on social media platforms such as X, former Bernie Sanders spokesperson Briahna Joy Gray denied that anyone had produced evidence that Hamas terrorists raped and assaulted Israeli women and children.

“This isn’t a ‘believe women’ scenario because no female victims have offered testimony,” she posted. That’s because most of those victims were murdered. Later, she added to her rape denialism by writing, “Zionists are asking that we believe the uncorroborated eyewitness account of men who describe alleged rape victims in odd, fetishistic terms.”

The murder of Gabby Petito in 2021 at the hands of her boyfriend Brian Laundrie (r) sparked a major (and rare) public outcry against female-centered violence. Instagram

Israeli women — Jewish women — don’t register on Gray’s and other progressive activists’ victimology scale, and so their suffering is rendered suspect or invisible to further the preferred narrative of Israel as an oppressor.

Even when incontrovertible evidence of the horror of what was done to these women, as outlined in a recent New York Times investigation into the rapes and sexual assaults committed by Hamas, is readily available, deniers are rewarded for their rape denialism. 

This exacts a steep cost: A culture that only challenges violence against women when those women check the right identity box or are politically useful to one’s own tribe undermines efforts to protect all women from violence — and tries to deny the moral power of those, like Cecchettin’s family and the families of Israeli women raped and murdered by Hamas, who seek justice for their loved ones. 

Christine Rosen is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute