Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s partner’s comments about rape spark outrage: ‘If you don’t get drunk, you avoid running into a wolf’

The opposition calls on the nation’s leader to distance herself from the words of her partner, who referred to the outcry as a ‘surreal polemic’

Andrea Giambruno
The journalist Andrea Giambruno participates in an event in Rome last March.Ernesto Ruscio (Getty Images)

“If you avoid getting drunk and passing out, you may also avoid having certain problems, because afterward you risk running into a wolf,” journalist Andrea Giambruno — Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s partner — said of preventing rape. His opinion has sparked political outrage in Italy. The journalist made the comment on the show he hosts on Mediaset, Diario del Giorno, while addressing two gang rapes that recently occurred in Palermo and Caivano, in the province of Naples. These events have shocked the country.

Giambruno was interviewing experts to contextualize the recent sexual assaults. One guest, Pietro Senaldi, the co-editor of the newspaper Libero, was asked for concrete examples of how a woman could defend herself, to which the interviewee replied that the best option might be to “try not to lose consciousness” and “remain capable of understanding and loving.” Giambruno nodded and added: “If you go dancing, you have every right to get drunk, of course, but if you avoid getting drunk and passing out, maybe you avoid certain problems, because afterward you risk running into a wolf.”

Outraged, dozens of civil society representatives and politicians have protested against the journalist’s words, which they contribute to blaming the victim. The opposition has requested that both Mediaset and Meloni herself intervene. But the prime minister has remained silent thus far, although she did announce that she will go to Caivano, where one of the gang rapes took place, on Thursday.

The Democratic Party (PD) spokeswoman for the Chamber of Deputies, Chiara Braga, has reached out to Meloni to work together with the government against gender violence and asked her to separate herself from her partner’s comment. “We won’t accept any ambiguity. Meloni should distance herself from these words that, once again, insinuate that [sexual assault] is sometimes women’s ‘fault’ as well. That is unacceptable,” she said.

Cecilia D’Elia, a senator from the same center-left party and the spokeswoman for the Democratic Women’s Conference, also drove that point home. “Women are always a little bit to blame for [sexual assault]. Don’t go out alone, don’t go where it’s dark, don’t dress provocatively. Now, Giambruno is also [saying] it: ‘If you don’t get drunk, you won’t get raped.’”

Chiara Gribaudo, vice president of the Democratic Party, addressed Giambruno directly to make her opinion known: “You have forgotten to tell men — the only guilty parties — to avoid raping. It is disgusting, offensive, unworthy of his position.” Another PD deputy, Sara Ferrari, condemned the host’s comment as a sign of “Italian machismo.” She added: “In the face of rape, the victim is blamed for her behavior because she brought it on herself, as if ‘running into a wolf’ were every drunk girl’s inevitable fate.”

“We must wait for Meloni to address the issue at home before [she goes to] Caivano,” said Alessandro Zan, a Democratic Party deputy and activist for LGTBI rights.

The Five Star Movement (M5S) has also called out the prime minister and asked the TV channel to take responsibility. “I hope that Mediaset’s management will immediately distance itself from this disturbing statement. As for Meloni, if I were her, I would hasten to advise my partner to apologize so that the woman who runs this country is not associated with this mentality by virtue of her family,” said Vittoria Baldino, a deputy spokesperson for the M5S in the Chamber of Deputies.

Chiara Appendino, a representative from the Five Star Movement and Turin’s former mayor, also called on Meloni to speak out. “We have the first female president in history who claims to fight against gender violence and presents herself as a woman, mother and Christian. She should distance herself from her partner’s very serious statements because silence would imply her complicity in them.”

The M5S parliamentarians in the bicameral commission of inquiry on femicide — Stefania Ascari, Anna Bilotti, Alessandra Maiorino and Daniela Morfino — spoke of Giambruno’s “unacceptable and shameful words… the representation of a macho and retrograde culture, which is the breeding ground for the violent behavior and abuse that so many women are forced to suffer every day. In case Giambruno isn’t aware, it is called secondary victimization; it’s easily researched to avoid doing incalculable damage via television. It assumes [women’s] guilt and holds the woman [who is] already shattered by physical or psychological violence partly responsible for what happened.”

Luana Zanella, the leader of the Alliance of the Greens and the Left in the Chamber of Deputies, noted that “the problem is not solved by reducing the freedom of young and older women, as host Andrea Giambruno implies, but [rather] by demanding that there not be places or situations where macho violence can occur with impunity and be culturally legitimized.”

Giambruno has defended his comments and described the reactions as “a completely surreal polemic.” He went on to say: “It almost makes me laugh that I must point out that no one here has justified [rape]; on the contrary, we used very precise terms such as ‘abominable’ and called the perpetrators ‘animals.’ Therefore, all those who distorted the reality of what I said, are doing so either in bad faith or because they have serious comprehension problems,” Giambruno said on his show. He added: “I am saying this not only on my own behalf, but also to protect the company and team that support me. Let’s put an end to these polemics because we are verging on the ridiculous, and I think that politics has much more interesting things to do than dealing with a journalistic space.”

Giorgia Meloni has not yet commented on the controversy. On Thursday, she will visit the town of Caivano, in the province of Naples, where two 13-year-old cousins were raped by a group of six teenagers last week. The prime minister has condemned the assault and promised to improve security in this marginal locality.

A few weeks earlier, the gang rape of a 19-year-old girl rocked the country. In this similar case, seven young men, one of whom was a minor, got the girl drunk and took her to a secluded area of Palermo, where they took turns violating her. Leaked security camera footage showed the young men dragging the girl through the street; there were also leaked WhatsApp chats in which they practically admit the rape. “If I think about it a little, it even disgusts me, because we were a hundred dogs on top of a cat, I had only seen something like that in porn videos, there were too many of us, honestly it disgusted me a little, but what was I to do? Meat is meat,” one of the young men wrote. Despite the evidence that has emerged, the victim has been subjected to numerous insults on social media, where she has been accused of having consensual sexual relations with the group. On Tuesday, the victim was admitted to a secure facility, where she will receive psychological assistance. “I’m tired, you are going to be the death of me, I can’t take it anymore,” she said.

This case has sparked a rare wave of outrage in Italy, which is taking shape after several popular women in the art world launched a campaign to raise awareness and protest violence against women under the slogan “I am not a piece of meat.”

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