As the #MeToo movement and the nature of sexual assaults against women have become more prevalent in news and media coverage, a new court ruling from Italy is outraging women’s rights activists and assault survivors from all over.
As reported by Time, Italy’s Justice Ministry is currently investigating an appeals court ruling that overturned a verdict on a rape charge, based on the notion that the alleged victim was too ugly.
It seems the aforementioned ruling was handed down two years ago, though the reasons behind the final decision only came to light recently. On March 5, Italy’s high court annulled the decision, ordering a retrial.
Originally, an all-female panel argued that an alleged rape victim — whose name has not been published, for the sake of protecting her identity — was deemed too ugly and “masculine,” which cast doubt on her credibility as a victim of rape.
Two men from Peru were originally convicted of raping a Peruvian woman in 2015, in the seaport city of Ancona, situated in the Marche region of central Italy. Cinzia Molinaro, who served as the unnamed woman’s attorney, explained that her appeal to the Court of Cassation challenged numerous procedural problems with the acquittal, but also noted the “absolute unacceptability” of the court passing judgment on the victim and her physical appearance.
Rape convictions of two men were tossed in 2017 in part because three female judges in Italy thought the alleged victim looked “too masculine” to be sexually assaulted. https://t.co/Vsh2jkvkue— HuffPost (@HuffPost) March 12, 2019
During the appeals process, one of the suspects went on the record, saying that he found the victim unattractive, and even noted that he referred to her as “Viking” on his cellphone.
As People reports, once the reasoning for the appeals verdict was made public, a massive group of protesters assembled at an Italian courthouse earlier this week, in order to protest the ruling, with nearly 200 people convening in the town of Ancona. Molinaro weighed in on the protests, noting that the country as a whole is beginning to take these issues more seriously.
“It’s shameful, but to get almost 200 people at the protest was a miracle for Italy,” Molinaro told The Guardian. “Fortunately, it shows that sensitivity towards such topics is becoming stronger.” The victim’s lawyer also explained how sickened she felt from the acquittal.
“It was disgusting to read; the judges expressed various reasons for deciding to acquit them, but one was because the [defendants] said they didn’t even like her because she was ugly,” Molinaro explained to The Guardian. “They also wrote that a photograph [of the woman] reflected this.”
As Molinaro recounts, her client’s beverage was spiked at a bar, where she met the two suspects. She also notes that doctors thought the victim’s injuries were “consistent with rape,” and that the unnamed woman’s blood contained a high level of benzodiazepines.