by Luisa Bosisio Fazzi, Italian Disability Forum and member of EDF Women’s Committee.
During the lockdown many women and girls with disabilities living in institutions are trapped inside, without the possibility to leave or see their families. In some cases, they are not even able to communicate with their family or close ones. In many institutions the care and assistance staff have supported their guests to endure confinement. But in spite of that, violence taking place in institutions and other closed settings, and have been very hard to monitor since the beginning of the pandemic. In many cases the acts of violence remain unknown. In other they are discovered months later. This is an example from a terrible case in my country, Italy.
Last March the military was deployed to “protect and take care” persons living in an institution during the COVID-19 lockdown replacing a big number of staff members infected, with the guests, by virus. Their presence did not prevent or identify the abuse and rape faced by a woman with severe intellectual disabilities in Troina Oasis- an institution for persons with disabilities. While they managed the COVID-19 outbreak that led to 160 infections in the institution, nothing prevented the rape of one (or more) of their residents. The rape in question was discovered by the family of the victim, once the institution was re-opened for visits. She was pregnant. The staff of the institution seemingly did not know.
Only after reporting it to the management did they investigate and, with confirmation of the pregnancy, made a report to the judiciary. The police then acted quickly and identified in a few days the rapist thank to the DNA test. He was arrested after confessing to the rape.
I want to ask some questions: how many women and girls with disabilities are being raped in silent? Are the victims being “lucky” that there is a proof of the crime when they get pregnant? Is the forced contraception of women in institution another way to protect rapists from their crimes? When will governments realise the seriousness of the issue?
This case is an example among probably thousands of others. How many women and girls with disabilities have been raped and violence before and during the pandemic, we will not know. What we know is that those crimes are happening in silence and are seldom reported and prosecuted.