Uproar after judge frees rapist claiming victim's open restroom door was invitation for sex

The verdict will be appealed in the Supreme Court, with the deputy attorney general calling it 'contradictory and illogical'

Uproar after judge frees rapist claiming victim's open restroom door was invitation for sex
A view of the Palazzo di Giustizia courthouse in Rome, Italy (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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This article contains information about sexual assault that could be traumatic for some readers. Discretion is advised.

A Judge in Italy has caused controversy by releasing a man who had been convicted of rape because the intoxicated victim "dared" him by leaving a bathroom door open. The victim claims that she repeatedly told him no, but the appeals court panel determined that it was a "invitation" and "gave him hope."

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The victim was raped by the 25-year-old defendant in a bar in Turin in May 2019. She requested him to direct her to a restroom in a courtyard, kept the door open and asked him to hand her some tissues, according to the local newspaper CronacaQui. The appeal judges stated that the action was "read by the accused as an invitation to dare." 

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The woman allegedly begged the man to stop as he brutally raped her after forcing his way inside the cubicle and placing his hand over her mouth. A broken zip on her jeans was the main piece of forensic evidence, but the judges dismissed it claiming it was already worn out and did not prove the use of force. His conviction and 26-month sentence were reversed, and he was formally declared innocent on Friday, July 8.

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Politicians and campaigners were outraged by the decision, which is now being challenged in a higher court. Laura Ravetto, a League MP, described the verdict as "spine-chilling" to the news agency Ansa. "The girl, who clearly voiced her non-consent to sex, supposedly 'induced the man to dare' by leaving the toilet door open and being drunk. It's aberrant," Ravetto said.

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Maria Edera Spadoni, a member of the Five Star Movement, claimed that it "sets the fight against gender violence back by light years," adding that judges required "retraining" on the subject. Senator Valeria Valente of the Democratic Party said: "This sentence is particularly serious. I place my trust in the Supreme Court of Cassation to overturn it."

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The individuals, who are both in their 20s, were friends for about five years, according to testimony from the initial trial. She had made it perfectly clear that she was not interested in a relationship despite a few fleeting kisses in the past. The court heard that he admitted to having a "soft spot" for her and maintained hopes that they would still end up together.

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Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera adds that when he followed her into the cubicle, she constantly informed him she didn't want sex. The plaintiff stated before the first trial judge: "I repeated several times to him: 'What the f*** are you doing? What the f*** are you doing? I don't want to.'"

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But the appeals court ruled last week against her. The verdict read, "At the time of the events the girl was upset due to excessive use of alcohol. It is therefore highly probable that she was not fully in herself when she requested access to the bathroom, (and) caused the approach of the young man who was actually waiting for her behind the door, guarding her handbag. Not only that, but she stayed in the bathroom, without closing the door, so as to give the man the idea that this was the propitious opportunity that the young woman was offering him. An opportunity that he did not miss."

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Nicoletta Quaglino, the deputy attorney general, appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, calling it "contradictory and illogical." The chief prosecutor declared, "The court demonstrates that it does not apply the jurisprudential principles on the subject of consent to the sexual act." The case has renewed accusations about misogyny in the Italian legal system.

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