Every day new information is added to rape charges against Harvey Weinstein. The case by no means gained great publicity. Recently, Asia Argento, an Italian actress, singer, model, and director, told the Italian press that in her own country they are far behind in terms of gendertako issues compared to other developed countries. This statement stirred the spirits, and many Italians remembered the actions and the courage of a very brave woman half a century ago.
Her name is Franca Viola and she raised her voice in an attempt to change the status quo for women victims of violence. Unfortunately, 50 years later, things haven’t changed much, and thousands of women continue to suffer. Franca Viola is a true revolutionary – she managed to take to the court a specific cultural convention, according to which she should marry the person who raped her. This has happened back in 1966. The case has gained national significance. She herself calls thousands of women to join the case.
Viola was born in a typical farm family in Alcamo, Sicily. In 1963, when she was just a teenager, she had a short relationship with a local man who appeared to be part of the local mafia. His name was Filippo Melodia. After their relationship was over, he went to live abroad. After about a year he returned and tried to renew his relationship with Viola, but she refused. Supported by law, he went too far.
While being alone, Filippo and several of his friends broke into her family’s house and kidnapped Viola. He then held her as a prisoner in a farm and repeatedly raped her. This lasted more than a week. There were texts in the Italian criminal code that excused such a disgusting behaviour. That’s how things were back in the days. Such a violent act would have been considered to be normal if the man and the woman would have married each other. Thus, the violent act was no longer seen as rape. And the marriage has been called a reparative marriage.
Many women would had accept that horrible circumstances, but not Viola. Instead of marrying her abuser, she tried to convict him for all actions – kidnapping and rape. It was sensational and revolutionary for those years. The media have broadly covered the case, public debates have been organized, and even in the US has reached information on the case that was reported in an article in the New York Times.
The court found Filippo Melodia and seven of his friends guilty. Melodia himself has been sentenced for 11 years in prison. Although she won the case, Viola lived through several hard years. Even though the New York Times described her as modest and pretty, probably due to publicity and the courage manifested, none of the local men wished to marry her. They were, after all, traditionally raised.
However, in 1968, Viola married Giuseppe Ruisi, with whom they were childhood friends. As a wedding gift, Franca and Guiseppe received $40 from the Italian president. Also, they could travel for a whole month free of charge by train across the country. They have settled in Alcamo where they raised two children and later grandchildren.
After serving his sentence, Melodia was expelled from Sicily for his relationship with the local mafia. There is information that he has been murdered in 1978 in Modena.
Earlier this year, a short film with this story, directed by Italian filmmaker Marta Savina, was presented at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film is called Viola, Franca (2017), and emphasizes Viola’s personal motives in the case, as years ago the theme of violence and law issues have shifted the focus from her personal story to public debate. The lead actress, Claudia Gusmano, has just one line in the whole movie. The only thing she says in the movie is ‘No’. The film also highlights the support of the family to Viola.
Viola herself will have the chance to watch the film in December 2017, when it will be screened in her home town of Alcamo.
H/T – Source