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We know how cases of violence against women must be covered, but we continue to make the same mistakes

A man shoots and kills his wife and two children and then commits suicide: the newspapers describe him as very dedicated to work. Another man sets fire to his partner: the media reports on his jealousy. A third man is arrested for sexual assault against a girl kidnapped, drugged and tortured for hours: he is spoken of as a volcanic entrepreneur.

These three sentences summarize a few days – between 9 and 12 November – of media representation of cases of violence against women, including femicides and rape. Retracing it is not just a horror tour, it is also distressing and at times frustrating. That the way in which the media talks about these cases is a problem, in fact, has been denounced and repeated for years. Tools, decalogues, guides, workshops, courses, meetings, dozens of books have been developed. Nonetheless, certain narratives, certain words and certain patterns persist.

Before talking about representation, some data: according to Istat, in Italy 31.5% of women between 16 and 70 years have suffered some form of physical or sexual violence in the course of their lives. We are talking about about 7 million people who have had to deal with tugging, harassment, mistreatment, up to beatings, attempts to strangle, rape. Not to mention the cases of psychological abuse or stalking. To commit the most serious violence are partners, relatives, friends, people known. These are downward estimates, which hide very submerged, unreported and unspoken.

There are still no univocal and systematically collected data on femicides. But we know some things. For example, always drawing on the findings of the Institute of Statistics, it emerges that of the 133 women killed in 2018, 81.2% were killed by someone they knew: a partner, an ex, a family member, a friend, a colleague. . Despite the fact that in the last ten years the number of voluntary homicides has significantly decreased, that of female victims – lower than male victims, who are mostly killed by strangers – remains stable over time.

We also know that femicide is the only crime that did not stop with the lockdown. In the first half of 2020, the total number of voluntary homicides fell by 19%, from 161 in 2019 to 131, but the number of women killed went from 56 to 59, climbing by 5%.