Nonot just barrel. Violence by men against women has many forms. It can be physical, sexual, or stalking. But there are other more subtle ways to exercise power and control over the other, from money management to psychological manipulation. Often these modalities intertwine and coexist. It is violence, for example, even when the partner persuades the partner that home banking on the internet, or the management of common money must take care of him, because she is not capable. But even if she spies on her movements by installing software on her cell phone.
Cadmi for women victims of violence
Manuela Ulivi has heard many similar stories. Lawyer, since 2011 she has been the president of the Shelter for Abused Women (Cadmi) in Milan, founded in 1986, which has nine shelters (the tenth is on its way). She started dealing with the legal desk in 1991, so for over thirty years she has been on the side of women victims of violence. «In the 1990s, it was believed that the battles for emancipation had already been won. Instead, Cadmi has uncovered Pandora’s box, bringing the truth to the surface: many “emancipated” women continued to live a relationship of domination, from an economic and psychological point of view. Today, the gap has been filled in education, girls graduate with honors and get masters, but the cultural and patriarchal aspect of male dominance remains. It happens in couples in which her partner is not valued: if she has more chances and abilities than him, she is mortified ».
Has there been a change in the way of being of women?
Yes. Women have acquired the idea that they are free to do as they please. Once upon a time, they tried to do what they wanted in the spaces they managed to carve out, today this is no longer acceptable. Still too many males, however, do not understand and do not want to give up a position of dominance.
Yet today’s young men are often the children of the women who fought to change that.
But they are also children of their fathers. When law 54 of 2006 proposed shared custody, the associations of separated fathers underlined the importance of the father’s presence in the education and life of their children. In my opinion, on a formal level, and not on a substantive level. When one asks “how are these children educated?”, reference continues to be made to the mothers. And the fathers, where are they? Let’s not forget that children look up to both parental figures. This is the battle for the next few years: all men will have to make an effort to make the situation really change. It’s not enough to call yourself out, saying you’re not violent.
Why still violence against women?
What is the identikit of the violent?
Does not exist. The violent can come from any social class, can be rich or poor. He is often unsuspected: a university professor, a manager, a person with a high social role who vents his frustrations in the family. Violence is transversal, even if sometimes the most cultured people manifest it in a more subtle way, they are skilled manipulators and try to make women appear crazy.
Are these men salvageable?
I don’t believe much in this possibility. There are psychological paths, but for them to be successful it is not enough to attend them: the violent male must first of all acknowledge that he was wrong. Women must not delude themselves about the possibility of recovery, because it is this belief that drives them to stay and suffer abuse for a long time. Perhaps someone changes, but change means questioning one’s whole self. Instead, there is a lot of work to be done on education, from kindergarten to middle school.
What impact has Covid had?
Women who have found themselves living with a violent person 24 hours a day, and not just in the evenings and on weekends, have become aware of the need to do something, because they have seen the danger they were living in with endless contrasts, always being neighbors. And so that for some that tiring process of choice – whether or not to leave a partner to whom one is still tied by feelings – was faster.
Who are the women victims of violence?
How old are the women who come to you?
Once they were around 40-50 years old, today we also have twenty-somethings. It is as if we are witnessing the backlash of patriarchy. Sometimes it happens to me, when I discuss these issues, to feel the impatience of young men. As if they were saying: “You had equality, now what more do you want?”. Sex education remains a taboo in schools, parents are alarmed if an expert talks to kids about their personal relationships but they don’t care what their children see on social media. Porn that conveys the idea of a woman being the object of pleasure has been frequented by kids since middle school. Elsewhere, the marriage that “completes” the woman is mythicized. There is a need for love, but which recognizes the freedom of the other. Instead, we also see it following the feminicides, the prevailing idea of love is possessive, exclusive, that of “you are mine”.
How are today’s young women reacting?
There is a lot of audacity, and in almost all women, because to break out of a difficult situation requires considerable strength. Audacity is also rethinking one’s life by rebuilding it in a better way than before, not only because there is no more violence, but also by looking inside oneself. Audacity is reaching the point of saying “I am worth more than what I have recognized myself up to now” and throwing oneself back into the world by setting oneself important goals.
Can you get out of this tunnel on your own?
It is best achieved through the relationship between women. The great strength of our work lies in the methodology of reception: we confront each other, we reason together on the lived experience of the woman victim of violence and we give value to her story, recognizing the strength that was necessary to live with a violent person. Once out of the tunnel, the future road that can be followed is evaluated. It’s working on yourself through the eye of another who values you and doesn’t judge you. The answers are found together.
Is work an important dimension?
Of course. Among other things, our job desk coordinates with companies to do internships and build a network for the benefit of the women we work with. To equip them with greater skills, for example, in information technology or languages. We collaborate with the Kering group which finances the work reintegration project for women victims of violence. We also work on curricula and how to focus on the goal you want to achieve. Many partner companies support us financially and have issues related to gender equality and violence on their agenda.
Cadmi and Pomellato, the event
Audacity will be at the center of the Cadmi evening, organized together with Pomellato, on November 22 at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan.
Yes, the event is inspired by the story of a woman we followed: she had a small pastry business, after working with us she proposed to a large company, in a very important role, which actually hired her. We were surprised that so much emerged from her audacity! This quality is typical of women who free themselves from psychological constraints, which we sometimes build ourselves, before others place them on us. We work for women’s freedom.
The fundraising event in support of Cadmi is held at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan on Wednesday 22 November starting at 18.30. Moderated by Danda Santini, director of iO Donna. To participate, registrations subject to availability by email [email protected]
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