So much for that vacation in Venice...

By Lara
Featured Rightgrrl November 1998
February 23, 1999

"Italy’s highest appeals court on Wednesday overturned a rape conviction against a 45-year-old driving instructor saying there was not enough evidence that he raped his 18-year-old student.

"In its ruling, the court said: 'It is common knowledge... that jeans cannot even be partly removed without the effective help of the person wearing them... and it is impossible if the victim is struggling with all her might.'" --

This court ruling frightens me. I may not be in Italy, but who is to say that judges anywhere else may not take a cue from such a terrible decision?

I guess things like gang rape, a large rapist overpowering a smaller woman, and Rohypnol just don't exist in their world. They must think that a gun or knife isn't scary enough to force even the toughest person to do whatever the weapon holder says. They must not know of men who physically abuse before raping. They must not have wives, daughters, or sisters who have ever worn a scrap of denim. Are these guys from Italy or a distant galaxy?

"Women in jeans can't be raped"? Tell that to the women rendered unconscious by Rohypnol. Say it to the face of a woman who removed her jeans for an attacker only because she was staring down the barrel of a gun. Look in the eyes of a five-year-old child held down by two teenage attackers. State your case to someone whose jeans were cut off by one or more rapists.

The judges had other insulting things to say about the defendant, known only as "Rosa", as well. According to the "Sunday Times" (, the defense claimed that Rosa made up the rape story to justify to her parents what had happened. They said she did not want to appear as a "loose woman". According to, a big fuss was made about the fact that she had waited several hours before telling her parents what happened. They also had the gall to say that "'it was difficult to imagine' anything worse than rape".

What century do the judges live in, the 1990s or the 1890s?

If she had had a consensual relationship with the defendant, why would she tell her parents at all? Most 18-year-olds hide their consensual sexual relationships, not brag about their latest score to Mom and Dad.

Also, why would she be a "loose woman" if there had been a consensual relationship but he isn't a "loose man" or some equivalent derisive term? Does a sexual double standard continue to exist in which women cannot be sexual while men are expected to get all they can? Why should men not be held to the same high sexual standard as women, especially in the age of AIDS? If she is going to be insulted for sex, then her "partner" (read: attacker) should have been as well.

I also take it the judges don't know anything about words like "fear" or "shame". They don't realize that some people go into shock during or after a physical or emotional trauma. Maybe Rosa could not say anything because she was too shaken, too much in pain, too ashamed to talk, too afraid of revenge. Was she concerned about her father's anger or her mother's grief? I'm surprised she was able to say anything at all within a matter of hours... many rape survivors can't say anything for months or years about an attack.

Finally, do these judges know what "death" is? I think it counts as a fate worse than rape. I also consider becoming disabled during a violent attack worse than rape because I don't know how I would do my job or live independently, and learning the needed skills to do so would require months or years plus more money than I can imagine. Rape is definitely brutal, one of the worst things a woman can endure... but there are a few things that can be even worse.

Of course, Italian women are outraged and are protesting heavily. Many women have stopped wearing skirts and wear only jeans to work. Housewives are designing "easy-off" jeans. There are plans for a "march in jeans" to the Justice Ministry. Represenatives of government parties ranging from the right-wing National Alliance to the Democrats of the Left have spoken against the court ruling.

I have great concerns about the safety of the Italian women in light of this court decision. Women who have been frightened by the ruling will wear skirts, which may look more "acceptable" to the judges but will make a rapist's attack much easier. Women who wear jeans in protest may find themselves desirable targets of serial rapists and may well find this verdict used against them if they try to press charges against any attackers. In any event, the number of rapes are sure to rise in Italy, the rate of conviction will drop, and women will lose no matter what they reach for in their closets.

We tourists will also find our travel plans affected by this ruling. Our jeans would be considered an invitation to rape, and our skirts aren't any protection at all against a rapist's attack. The only clothes we could possibly bring along would be old-style nun's habits and firmly padlocked chastity belts. Those items would not be too comfortable in a Mediterranean climate, and they still might not be enough protection. I understand we cannot bring guard dogs, guns, or mace into the country either...

So much for that vacation to Venice. I'm staying stateside.


This article copyright © 1999 by Lara Ray, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.