Accepted Paper:

When evidence lies in the victim: Domestic violence and the Law in Italy  


Alessandra Gribaldo (Università Roma Tre)

Paper short abstract:

Through an ethnographic account of domestic violence trials in Italy, I highlight how evidence is paradoxically based on the identification of an ideal gendered victim-subject. Victim’s credibility emerges as crucial in the construction of evidence, providing insights for anthropological knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

In Italy, victims' testimony plays a pivotal role in the hearings of domestic violence since in most cases the woman is paradoxically the sole figure who speaks, both for herself and her aggressor.

Through an ethnographic account of women's testimony and the expectations of legal professionals in the city of Bologna, I will highlight how women's credibility and agency is crucial for the construction of legal evidence. In examining the role of women's testimony, I approach the Italian legal field as a system of knowledge and power, where intersecting lines of questioning and assumptions produce the victim as evidence.

My presentation will address the courts requirements revolving around victims' credibility, from their narrative's content (coherent, detailed, quantitative) to their intentions (detached from any specific contingency) and the way they express themselves (a truthful tone appropriate to a victim-subject). The normativity of the Italian legal system's requirements is caught up with the confessional device so as to render the testimony incapable of achieving any legal significance, thus making it inadequate in its very essence to prove evidence of the crime. I will highlight the forms of resistance that women deploy to escape the contradictory demands of the juridical apparatus in a context where their agency is regarded as highly suspect.

The production of evidence that emerges within the Italian legal system calls into question the binary logics of truth/untruth, guilt/innocence and agency/coercion, providing insights for a reflection on gender, the law and anthropological knowledge.

Panel P063
Evidence in question: anthropological authority and legal judgment [Anthropology of Law and Rights]