We Are Not Heroes: An Interview With Major Francesco Cinnirella

Carabinieri Sergeant Francesco Cinnarella
Photo courtesy of Francesco Cinnarella.

“Apathy is what truly kills”. This statement by Major Francesco Cinnirella, Carabinieri — an Italian police force with military and civil duties, draws a simple, but strong picture of violence against women. Major Cinnirella, with over 13 years service, has become a supporting expert for cases of violence against women. “In over 13 years of my career I have assisted to several legal norms changes, many of which are very important to protect and report gender-based violent acts.”

Major Francesco Cinnirella, in this interview, says that Carabienieri have strongly been working to improve their approach towards those victims of violence and to enhance the victim’s trust in them to report the crime. “Statistics vary at national and regional levels. However, I have witnessed in Naples, within the headquarters I work in — Compagnia Stella, a large increase in violence reports by foreign women, who are learning to trust our work to protect them.”

Being an officer is not a simple task, explains the Major, the hardships are plenty along the way and frequently anything of what happens is expected. “Carabinieri officers are not immortal, nor heroes: they are simply citizens who decide to intervene to guarantee other citizens a peaceful livelihood and to safeguard the liberal institutions.” For Major Cinnirella, it felt natural to take this career choice as young student between his 15 and 18 years old, at the military school in Naples, Scuola Militare Nunziatella. I dare say that this career life chooses you, rather than you choosing it. The risks are extremely high and the pay unfortunately is not fair. For someone to work in such a field, he or she must have a true vocation to help others.

In a (working) world where being a woman can often be a discriminatory element, being a woman officer can be advantageous and useful to those victims who do not feel comfortable facing a male officer. “A female officer is frequently decisive to build that empathy and allow the victim to open up and report the crime adequately.”

Pink Rooms

So-called “Pink Rooms” were proposed to build a comfortable environment for women to open up when reporting a crime. “Women feel ashamed and humiliated when reporting an act of violence against them. Especially when they are strangers and male. These rooms can offer even a logistic improvement to collect the information necessary to report”. The Major continues by explaining that charities and other institutions can support these victims after reporting the crime and handle the circumstance in which they found themselves unwillingly. “Carabinieri”, he explains,“…are provided with advanced courses to take and periodical updates to learn how to treat this issue in the best way possible.”

“We must realize that many abusers,” he continues, “have suffered childhood traumas or other happenings in their lives that brought them to become violent.”

“Your neighbours can be unwillingly witness of your violence. It is their duty to report the crime,” explained the Major. He is eager for the victims of violence, regardless of circumstances or gender, to report the crime as soon as possible and activate a warning.

The point about apathy and reporting the crime sounds easier than what it seems. Although the Major developed a clear point that Italian officers are present on the field and know what to do, not all circumstances are the same. A woman could be reporting the crime and yet, she has then to return home afterwards to her abuser. This could put her in a difficult and in an unsafe position, especially once the report is being notified to the abuser. Such a simple example highlights that there is an extent to which Carabinieri can act. If many norms changes have occurred, some have not improved to save women from violence.

Major Cinnirella does not agree with me when he says that, “…officers are provided by the government with the best condition to execute the work.” I think it only gives him honour that he wishes to demonstrate that passion for his job and justice, going beyond the institution itself. There are many concerns about how officers are treated and how the legal procedure facilitates their job; however, one must remember that it is to officers that we can say we’re protected.

The uniform does not make a person, rather the person shapes the uniform. Major Cinnirella has largely contributed to saving women victims of violence and he has proven that he shaped the uniform for the seriousness and righteousness that it should represent.

“[The Carabienieri’s] strongest plea is that victims of violence report against these horrendous acts.”