Right around the time I began my foray into researching the Italian judicial process, that rapscallion of a Prime Minister, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, was making headlines of his own, about rape:
“Silvio Berlusconi criticised for ‘pretty girl’ rape comment …” – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/4339817/Silvio-Berlusconi-criticised-for-pretty-girl-rape-comment.html
Berlusconi, known for his legal troubles and a knack for railroading self-serving legislation through Parliament, was at it again, flapping his gums and making pretty much everyone cringe with his sexist remarks about the origins of rape. A handful of rapes had taken place against Italian citizens by Roma (gypsies) and immigrants – two groups that already bear the brunt of a xenophobic climate brought about by Berlusconi. And boy did Berlusconi whip up a frenzy in the media about how they must be stopped. The articles gave voice to the fears I had about the cultural divide of the US and Italy. It’s one thing to hear your fellow man say ignorant things about rape, it’s another to know they came out of the mouth of your country’s leader. I could never see our President, political views aside, speaking about rape this way
Unfair as it seemed to blame the actions of a few on the greater whole (Italian police begin razing Roma camps and threatening them with deportation), the rapes actually set in motion emergency legislation to tighten rape/sexual assault laws in Italy. Just one month after the prime minister’s unfortunate comments, the punishment for sexual assault became more severe due to the passage of “emergency rape laws” in March 2009:
The irony here was unbelievable. Berlusconi was railing against “outsiders” for attacking Italian citizens, and here I was, going after an Italian citizen for sexually assaulting an “outsider.” I awaited news to see if this new development would affect my case against Marco. It was a silver lining in a seemingly cloudy situation, and I clung to it.
NOTE: Months later, in June 2009, Berlusconi became embroiled in a scandal where prostitutes he paid to entertain him and his guests (foreign heads of state) at his vacation home came forward with pictures and lurid details. Berlusconi is still in office.