“Lucky” Desirée Was Worthy Of Justice

desiree mariottini rome

The tragic story of Desirée, victim of rape who was found dead, opens a debate on justice.

The story of Desirée Mariottini is filling the news in recent weeks. The 16-year-old was victim of a group rape and was then murdered. Her body was found in a building in Rome that had been for years occupied by social services.

The teenager’s last hours are tough to reassemble. She was raped while she was semi-conscious, as a result of a cocktail of drugs and psychopharmaceuticals. Three non-registered suspects from different African countries have been arrested and accused of her murder. According to the witnesses, another young girl “sold” Desirée for a drug dose. More than seven – eight people were present that evening when Desirée suffered her torture that, according to the prosecutor, lasted over twelve hours.

Desirée was lucky: Potere al Popolo’s controvertial Facebook post

Alongside several hypothetical scenarios circulating the media on the still unknown details of Desirée’s last hours or on her motives for being in the building, a general debate on women’s rights has also surfaced. Party leader of the left-wing Potere al Popolo (Power to the People) Viola Carofalo controversially stated on the party’s Facebook page that Desirée was lucky in bad:

Thanks to the nationality of her murderers, Desirée can be mourned in peace and her prosecutors trailed without suspicion. There are other cases, equally horrifying, where the victim was blamed and only because her abusers were Italian and well integrated – let’s not forget the case of a young girl who was not listened when she reported that was abused for years by a group of locals […] apparently now [after the investigation] Desirée is innocent: she did not voluntarily take the drugs, she did not go to this building to do drugs, rather looking for a stolen tablet […] to be recognized as victims, women have to be described as saints. Desirée’s luck is another women’s calamity.

One can agree or disagree with the meaning of the following statement, but when trying to understand abuse and the victims, Carofalo’s post does bring up a serious issue that currently remains in Italy and in the world.

The media, and the legal world, frequently stop to discuss details that sound irrelevant. Does it matter where the abuser comes from? Does it matter that the abuser was a family member, a friend, or a partner? Does it matter that the victim is male, female, transgender, or other? Is it not the violent, and proven, act against another person what truly matters? Desirée could have chosen to do drugs, several million people do drugs every day. But should her choice, or the absence of it, affect how worthy she is of justice?

Justice should remain unbiased, but justice like many other spheres in society is built and controlled by people. People can be subjective and they can make the mistake of judging. Or blaming. It takes courage to denounce a family member who abused you. But would you report a crime if you thought that nobody would listen to you?

Fighting stereotypes

Several charities not only work to support victims and help prevent and spread awareness on the topic, but fight against stereotypes. As co-founder of the bon’t worry INGO fighting gender-based violence, we see this issue every day. If a victim can report immediately, he or she should not have to wait until there is not anymore a chance to survive. If victims believe they will not be judged on who they are or how they look, possibly more cases would be reported. We have frequently heard the phrase, “her skirt was too short”, “she was out late at night”, “he only did it once”, or “she was looking for attention.” Violence should never be justified.

Desirée was especially unlucky for not having survived. However, we should not also forget that many others are still unlucky to be alive and not listened or judged unworthy of adequate justice. We all deserve justice. We all deserve to be listened. Otherwise, we will start to normalize ways of thinking and behaviour that will damage our society. Justice is there to protect the innocent without judgment: innocent until proven guilty.