What is the mission of “Cerchio delle relazioni”?
Since 2007, our cooperative has managed the Mascherona Anti-Violence Center, four safe houses, and a community for minors (from 6 up to 10 years old), victims of mistreatment or abuse.
What does the Mascherona Anti-Violence Center do in particular?
It is a place where victims of violence find a space for listening, sharing and where they receive support through a meaningful relationship with professionally qualified operators. Respect for secrecy, confidentiality, and free services are guaranteed to every woman.
In which contexts are refuge houses used?
We use safe houses for the most urgent cases. Our facilities are accredited to the Municipality, even if privately owned. The first thing to do is to contact social services; once obtained their approval, start the project to separate the victim from the perpetrator. In some cases, it may be necessary to find a new school for an eventual child, or to help the woman to ask for a work permit (fortunately nowadays paid leave is granted in these cases).
How do you behave in case of witnessed violence, for example in the case of a minor?
At a preclinical level, for a minor to witness violence has the same psychological consequences as a directly inflicted one. In these cases, we commit to starting a psychological and educational path in order to overcome the trauma and help the boy or girl not to fear a parental figure in the future. These situations are hard to manage, it is obviously necessary to have parental consent or the authorization of the court alternatively.
Which professionals are part of your staff?
Our staff consists of women only: 3 permanent operators, 2 psychologists, 4 lawyers (2 litigators and 2 criminal defense attorneys), 1 communication assistant, and 7/8 volunteers.
You are engaged in various activities, from classroom training to fieldwork; do you have other projects you are currently investing in?
In 2013 we founded CIPM Liguria (Italian Promotion Center for Mediation). With this center, we try to monitor violent behaviors and antisocial conduct. Often the perpetrator has been a victim of violence himself, our goal is to intervene where there can be room for recovery. Therefore we start projects that allow us to interview the abusers both individually and in groups. We, therefore, initiate projects that allow us to have individual or group interviews with abusers at our offices or directly in prison with sex offenders.
We still have a lot of work to do in this field. Just think of last year: CIPM Liguria worked with 46 men while Mascherona’s Center welcomed more than 500 women.
Do you also carry out prevention activities?
We are involved in awareness projects in elementary schools. We believe it is important to bring future adults closer to gender issues from an early age. We also organize training courses on violence against women and children, for various operators: ASLs [ndt: local health department], law enforcement agencies, social services.
What do you think of mass media’s communication on gender-based violence episodes?
Often the news you read in the newspapers is filtered by stereotypes. They always talk about love but never about power; many femicides occur when the woman wants to leave, or when the man perceives that he is losing the power he has over her.
What support do you receive from the institutions for your activities?
We receive funding from private foundations and public institutions, but every year we are not sure of how many and which funds we will be getting. In spite of everything, we complete every project that we start, regardless of the economic aspect.
However, we notice a very strong contradiction at the political level. A lot of words are used on how important the fight against violence is, but with the public funding we receive, we can barely pay the rent of the structures. If nothing else on a cultural level, there has been some progress: the existence of anti-violence centers has recently been recognized and regulated.
Based on your experience, do you think violence and social change are linked?
Absolutely yes. Violence is a phenomenon that transforms over time. A new form of violence has recently been recognized: the spiritual one. We refer to spiritual violence when a person is forced by a partner to abandon or to adopt religious practices against their will.
Could you describe your activity with some adjectives?
Our job requires a lot of strength. It is also a difficult activity to pursue: it requires courage and a lot of patience; it is a long journey and the results come slowly.