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Italy: Years of rape - a village looks the other way

SEND DATE Mon., 02/27/17 | 04:50 am | The first

Melito di Porto Salvo, picturesquely situated in the south of Calabria. 12,000 inhabitants. Controlled by the mafia. Here, a 13-year-old girl is raped by seven young men for years. We call her Lucia. Many residents are said to have known this and still remained silent. We get into conversation with the kindergarten teacher. We want to know from her what she knows about the crimes. "I don't understand ..." is all she says. The mayor Giuseppe Meduri defends his community. He protests how well he knows and appreciates little Lucia's parents. "If everyone knew about it, then we must find that the state has failed. It is not true, unthinkable and inconceivable that everyone here knew about it," he says.

Years of martyrdom

What happened? Lucia is 13 years old when her first little love affair with a young man from the village ends. Jealousy is said to have been involved. As a result, the ex-boyfriend and his buddies are said to have raped the girl over and over again. Among the perpetrators: the son of the local Mafia boss and the brother of a police officer. Years of martyrdom begin for Lucia.

Confidentiality imposed by the mafia

We meet prosecutor Calogero Gaetano Paci, who has been investigating this matter since September 2015. The girl wrote down meticulously what she had to endure when and with whom, he explains. "And when a dimension is reached as in this case, that is: several people, at different times, in several places, sometimes under well-thought-out circumstances, abuse this girl, then it cannot have gone completely unnoticed," he says. Many people adhere to the "Omerta" obligation of secrecy imposed by the mafia. Also in Melito, believes the prosecutor Paci. He has been working in southern Italy for 30 years, always fighting the mafia. He knows what psychic power criminals can wield.

A teacher becomes active

In the summer of 2015, Lucia dared to write about her problems in an essay for the school. The teacher takes action, informs the parents. Then they go to the police together. Lucia's mother is said to have already known everything at this point, but not believed her. The father has gathered all his courage and asked the son of the mafia boss not to torture his daughter anymore - to no avail. Several times a week - young men in a car with a minor. And nobody wants to have heard of it? Even now that everything is known, there is no outcry in the town. The power of the mafia seems limitless.

The fear of the mafia is great

"I've never heard of it," say the people in the small town. "It can happen anywhere, in any country on earth." "She was the daughter of a friend of mine. A decent family. But that's what happens."

The reactions - incomprehensible to Claudio Cordova. The journalist - himself threatened by the Mafia for years - knows places right in the center where Lucia is said to have been mistreated. But he also knows that there is great fear of the Mafia. "The Iamonte family controls everything. The Melito township has been dissolved several times because it has been infiltrated by the 'Ndrangheta and the Lamontes. Retailers, or whoever wants to start a business, are being fashioned by the Iamonte family. That starts with intimidation of damage and threats. "

Group administrations apparently not an isolated case

Houses in the remote parts of Melito, all owned by the Mafia family, were also places of horror. Claudio also tells us: Lucia is not an isolated case. "Another girl was raped for years by a group of youngsters - Mafiosi," he says. "In their parish the pastor has been convicted of false testimony and failure to provide assistance, or better, because he has even covered up these cases of abuse by the 'gang'."

The subject of sex is taboo

So group rape is nothing special, it happens often, says Antonio Marzale, child and youth protection officer in Calabria. The problem in Italy is not only the mafia, but also the taboo on the subject of sex. "The most important body of Italian jurisprudence stipulated in a judgment: women who wear jeans provoke. And back when the wife of a naval officer was murdered after being raped at a metro stop in Rome, this judgment said: If the woman does not fight back had, she would probably still be alive, "says Antonio Marzale.

Lucia lives, but no longer in Melito. But in a secret place in northern Italy. The parents' place of residence is also not known. The alleged rapists are in custody. You face a prison sentence of up to 20 years. And what about the people of Melito? Many of them have to live for life with the guilty conscience of not having said anything.

Author: Ellen Trapp, ARD-Studio Rome

Status: 07/14/2019 12:50 a.m.