A seventeen-year-old girl from a humble family was abducted one evening by a man inside her home, under the eyes of her father, mother and siblings. She was the first woman in Italy to report a rape
Well known is the revolutionary history of Franca Viola, the brave young Sicilian girl who defied the patriarchal mentality that still reigned in rural Sicily in the 1960s. Franca rejected – after the abduction and the violence suffered – the marriage with a shotgun, becoming a symbol of the emancipation of Italian women and the rebellion against male abuse. On December 26, 1965, the 17-year-old girl was abducted by Filippo Melodia – a rejected suitor – with the help of twelve accomplices. The thugs entered the house of Viola, beat her mother and took Franca, who was segregated for eight days, at the mercy of the kidnapper, in a rural house: raped, beaten and left to starve.
When the New Year arrived, Franca’s father was contacted by Melodia’s relatives, to agree on a “reparation” marriage that would have extinguished the crime of rape; but this was not the case: Franca’s parents went to the police and pretended to accept the marriage only to find out where their daughter had been imprisoned.
Franca was released by the carabinieri on the morning of January 2, 1966, and Melodia and her accomplices were arrested. According to the morals of the time, a girl who did not marry her kidnapper was considered a bad boy, a “shameless woman.” Supported by her family and especially by her father Bernardo, Franca decided not to accept the repair marriage, instead she denounced her kidnapper and went to trial. “I do not belong to anyone,” said Franca, and those who accuse her of being “dishonored” replied, “Honor is lost to those who do certain things to them, not to those who suffer them.” His case soon became of national interest, arousing deep debate and above all numerous controversies.
Less aware is the story of another young Sicilian, Maria Rosa Vitale, that almost thirty years before the case of Franca Viola, he showed great strength and temperament, also challenging the hypocritical morality of the time that condemned the victim and not the executioner, without bowing to male arrogance and violence.
A Cinisi, Maria Rosa, a seventeen-year-old girl from a humble family, was abducted one evening, inside her home, under the eyes of her father, mother and siblings, by an 11-year-old man who works in the lands with his father, helped by his father. brothers. Like Bernardo Viola, Maria Rosa’s father decided to support his daughter and denounce the fact, challenging the country, facing scandal and the shame of shame, not to see the life of his beloved daughter forever tied to that of her tormentor.
Maria Rosa finished her studies in the classical baccalaureate, she enrolled in the University but only a few exams of the mathematics degree, for family reasons she was forced to interrupt her studies because her beloved father died and Rosa, as a daughter great, he was in charge of providing financially to his family. In 1962, she became secretary of Cinisi High School. She also took an active part in the life of the community: she was the first woman municipal councilor and later also councilor for public education.
He was the protagonist of another revolutionary act, tying himself to a separate but not divorced man, the principal of his school: in the 1960s, divorce did not yet exist in Italy. The couple moved to Palermo and the fruit of that mature love was an unexpected daughter: Truenow an archaeologist and mother of three.
The story of Maria Rosa Vitale is a story that emerged from oblivion just a few years ago, thanks to the contributors to the newspaper Alcamo ALPA 1. Vera, she didn’t know anything about it …
A couple of years ago, the ALPA 1 boys knocked on Vera’s door to interview Maria Rosa. Vera imagined that they wanted to talk about the first woman councilor of Cinisi and instead the questions focused about the first woman in Italy to report a rapenot accepting marriage with a shotgun.
The archaeologist thought the journalists were wrong: they asked him about Franca Viola? No, no … it was really his mother, Maria Rosa Vitale. The story of the journalists had also found immediate confirmation in the words of Vera’s uncle (mother’s brother) who had revealed the whole truth to the young woman: it was a real tragedy, which had made them suffer so much, but that he had recorded in his story.
The words that his brave mother often repeated to him had also come to mind: “you must believe in yourself, my daughternothing is impossible for you to remember, you will often be alone and you will have to remember it especially then, to defend yourself and to defend what you believe in and want to become and do ”.
A brave third woman is also added to the story of Maria Rosa and Franca. Girolama Benenati, that at the age of 23, in January 1963, also in Alcamo, she denounced the man who had kidnapped and raped her, suffering the same fate of insults and offenses as the other two girls: shameless, not good, infamous. so they put it in the public spotlight by their villagers. Along with the kidnapper, who was sentenced to 5 years and two months in prison for these crimes, five more people related to the kidnapping were reported. Girolama after the trial lived in silence and solitude, never married.
His rapist asked the woman to grant him pardon, to give him a sentence discount, but she, with firm determination, never granted it.
Although the change started from the bottom, from the young Sicilians, we will have to wait until August 1981. for the passage of law 442 which will repeal barbaric customs such as honor killings and shotgun marriage and even in 1996, because with the repeal of the Rocco Code, which dates back to the fascist era, rape is considered by law a crime against the person and not against public morality and morality.