Italy’s highest court rules that a woman’s appearance is irrelevant in rape cases

Rome’s Supreme Court of Cassation overruled an appeals court decision that a woman could not be the victim of a rape because she was “too masculine” and “unattractive.” 

Victoria Wystepek
Victoria Wystepek NewsMavens, Europe
Italy’s highest court rules that a woman’s appearance is irrelevant in rape cases - NewsMavens
Woman, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

In 2017, a three-person panel in an Italian appeals court acquitted two men convicted of raping a woman claiming that she was not feminine enough to be raped. Italy's highest court has now overruled that decision, stating that a woman’s physical appearance is “wholly irrelevant” and a “non-decisive” element in assessing a rape charge. 

Even though doctors confirmed that the woman’s injuries were consistent with rape and that she was found with a date rape drug in her system, the appeals court did not find her story completely convincing. They reasoned that she may have staged the events because one of her alleged rapists “stored her number in his phone under the nickname ‘Viking,’ an allusion to an anything but a feminine figure…” 

The high court annulled the ruling and ordered a new appeals trial, which reversed the two men’s acquittals. So far, the ruling has been widely praised.

Luisa Rizzitelli of the feminist group Rebel Network said, “The Supreme Court has given justice not only to the women, but to all Italian women. Rape is a horrible crime that does not depend on the appearance but on the contempt and cruelty of those who commit it.” 

Details from the story:

  • The alleged rape happened in 2015 when a Peruvian woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, went to a bar in Italy with a group of people. 
  • The woman claims that she was drugged and raped by one man, while the other stood guard. 
  • After the decision of the appeals court to acquit the two men accused of raping the woman, a mob of protesters surrounded the Ancona court. They carried signs such as, “Stop justifying male violence on women.” 
  • In 2018, 8.2 million Italian women said that they have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives, many of the instances occurring in public.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at