Pope Francis Tells Survivor He Can See Her Dignity

Italy’s Domestic Violence Problem

Recent comments made by Pope Francis towards a survivor of domestic violence have helped to shine a light on the epidemic of abuse in Italy.  This has been a rising trend in the country for a number of years.

An article in “Italics Magazine” back in September of 2018 was already talking about the alarming rise in gender violnce.  The story stated that between August of 2016 and July of 2018 that women accounted for almost 70% of victims of familial violence, and almost 90% of domestic homicides.  Almost 86% of those homicides were at the hands of a former-partner (Lazzareschi, 2018)..  

As with abuse numbers all over the world, Italy’s domestic violence problem has only increased exponentially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In November of 2021, Italy was experiencing ninety instances of violence against women every single day.  62% of those cases were domestic violence incidents.  This comes from official police statistics that were shared by many global news organizations, including Reuters (Reuters, 2021).

Pope Francis Speaks to a Survivor

An Italian woman named Giovanna had the opportunity to address the Pope as part of a television program broadcast Sunday, December 19th on Italy’s TG5 network.  Giovanna is a survivor of domestic violence, and like many survivors of abuse, she was concerned about taking care of her four children who escaped the abusive home with her (Reuters, 2021).

Francis acknowledged that, “The number of women who are beaten and abused in their homes, even by their husbands, is very, very high.”  He added, “The problem is that, for me, it is almost satanic because it is taking advantage of a person who cannot defend herself, who can only (try to) block the blows.  It is humiliating. Very humiliating” (Reuters, 2021).

Domestic violence has been a consistent topic for Pope Francis, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.  With these most recent comments, has come a flood of attention to the problem.  It goes to show the importance of prominent world and religious leaders speaking out on the topic.  

Pope Francis also said something to Giovanna which should resonate with everyone involved in Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence.  He said, “I see dignity in you because if you didn’t have dignity, you wouldn’t be here” (Reuters, 2021)

That is something that every survivor needs to hear.  The fact that someone still battles every day to make a life after escaping an abusive situation, proves that she has dignity.  There is pride in being a survivor.  There is a strength in raising awareness of the women who are still trapped in abusive relationships.  

The Secular Ramifications

In August of 2019, new legislation went into effect in Italy that enhanced the already existing domestic violence laws.  This legislation included provisions on revenge porn, forced marriage, or mistreatment of a family member or cohabitant (Library of Congress, 2029).  

The point of mentioning Pope Francis’ comments is not remotely a religious one.  Every prominent celebrity, politician, or religious leader can use his/her/their platform to make a difference.  Since Pope Francis is all three of those things, and his words hold big sway over two-billion world-wide Catholics, it is a big deal for the movement.  

The public pressure being created by this broadcast is tangible.  The Italian government has already shown some willingness to address the problem, but more pressure is never a bad thing.  

References

Lazzareschi, C (2018). Violence Against Women is Most Serious Crime in Italy. Italics Magazine, https://italicsmag.com/2018/09/21/violence-women-italy/

Library of Congress (2019). New Law Enters into Force to Protect Victims of Domestic and Gender Violence. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2019-09-09/italy-new-law-enters-into-force-to-protect-victims-of-domestic-and-gender-violence/

Reuters (2021). Pope Francis says violdnece against women is ‘almost satanic, MSN.com. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/pope-francis-says-domestic-violence-against-women-is-almost-satanic/ar-AARZkl0