Italy’s top court has come under fire after ruling aggravated circumstances cannot be applied to a rape sentence if the victim in question willingly drank alcohol on the night she was assaulted.
According to the reports, two men, both aged 50, were sentenced to three years in prison for the sexual assault that took place in 2009 when they shared a meal with their alleged victim. After the dinner, the men allegedly took the woman to a bedroom and raped her.
However, in 2011, the assailants were acquitted of rape by a district court after judges found the victim’s account of events “unreliable,” The Guardian reported.
But in 2017, the judge presiding over the trial determined the men “committed the act with the use of alcoholic substances,” resulting in the application of aggravated circumstances – factors that could increase the severity of a criminal act – to the sentence.
Subsequently, along with applying aggravating circumstances, the court handed down a three-year sentence to both men.
However, just recently, the perpetrators appealed the verdict and the court of cassation found because the survivor had willingly consumed alcohol on the night of the rape, the aggravating circumstances were not applicable.
Hence in light of that revelation, the court which although agreed the defendants took advantage of the woman, ordered a retrial to re-determine the sentence.
The publication pointed out the judge presiding over the 2017 trial convicted the two men because he reviewed medical reports, which showed the woman had “tried to resist the attack.”
For obvious reasons, the latest decision was criticized by women’s advocacy groups and politicians as a “huge step back” for women in Italy.
“The position by the court is extremely serious because it makes it even more difficult for a woman to come forward and report a rape,” said Lella Palladino, the president of Italy’s Women Network Against Violence.
“When they do find the courage they are regarded as not being credible and in many cases they are the ones victimized – it’s a very alarming decision for women in our country, especially during this critical [political] period,” she added.
“The ruling from the supreme court takes us back decades … it is a sentence that risks nullifying years of battles,” said Alessia Rotta, a politician with the centre-left Democratic Party.
The court’s decision really seems to be a typical case of victim blaming, where just because the woman was in a vulnerable position the assailants apparently could exploit her and get away with it.
However, this isn’t the first ruling of its kind which came to light in Italy.
In 2017, a judge in Turin acquitted a man of sexual violence charges because the woman had not yelled enough during the assault. According to Italy’s National Institute of Statistics, 43.6 percent of women between the ages of 14 and 65 have suffered some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.
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