MILAN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 100 women are killed in Italy every year by an act of gender-based violence, according to women’s groups.
The death toll has remained substantially unchanged in the last decade, but the public and media attention given to such cases - called femicides - has spiked in the last year, heightening the perception that violence against women is a growing problem.
Psychiatrists and people working in the field say there are only a handful of centres dedicated to helping violent men, and no broader system designed to help the perpetrators of violence against women.
The group “Uomini non piu violenti Milano” (Men who are no longer violent), formed more than a year ago, addresses the issue of violence against women by helping those men who are - or might become - violent in order to prevent violence rather than having to cope with its results.
Among the men who have reached out to the group is Alberto, a 35-year-old metalworker and drummer in a local rock band.
“It was September last year, at the end of a hellish summer, I was tired and I didn’t know what to do any more. My 13-year relationship with my wife had hit the rocks. So I looked for help.
“I had been violent with her - both physically and psychologically - since the beginning of our relationship.
“We often had fights in the car, when she would bring up mistakes I’d made in the past and hold them against me.
“I would drive into a tree just to shut her up, just so that she would stop talking because she was so scared.
“When we argued I felt cornered, as if I was about to lose everything.
“But violence is never excusable, for any reason. All of us, men included, have the means to stop ourselves before the situation reaches breaking point and something ugly happens.
“So after I decided to seek help, one day I was browsing the internet and I found a link to the organisation.
“I wouldn’t have waited 13 years had I known about this programme before. I used to think the only possible solutions to my problems were suicide or turning myself in to the police.
“You almost never hear about the possibility that a man may change. If I had known that there were concrete ways of addressing male violence, I would probably have acted sooner, years ago.
“Now, I’m learning how to communicate with myself, to ask myself questions. I am working on my reactions and to find the right way to act and how to respond to situations to which I might have reacted violently.
“I’ve noticed I’m able to handle my whole life better now, to act less impulsively at work and with friends.
“This path that I’m on right now, it reminds me a little of the movie ‘Sliding Doors’: I see that I can choose another way, a completely different life. One that is an alternative to violence.”
Domestic violence is a theme at the Thomson Reuters Foundation international conference on women’s rights opening in London on Dec 3.