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People look at an actress performing during the "15 22 performance" opposing violence against women in front of Chigi palace in Rome September 25, MILAN Thomson Reuters Foundation - Alberto, a metalworker in his mid-thirties from a town in northern Italy, would sometimes get so furious arguing with his wife in the car that he would drive into a tree "just to shut her up".
From the beginning of his year-old relationship with his wife, Alberto, who did not want to give his full name, struggled to contain feelings of rage, usually ignited by a cross word or critical tone. At the end of what he described as a "hellish summer" of verbal rows and physical violence towards his wife, Alberto decided to seek help last year. The network of psychoanalysts, mental health workers, psychologists and volunteers offers therapy to men who are violent, or are afraid of becoming violent towards their wives, girlfriends and exes.
Experts working in gender violence say there are only a few centres across Italy dedicated to helping violent men challenge and change their behaviour, and yet the scale of the problem deserves greater resources.
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According to the most recent official statistics on gender violence in Italy, released inmore than one in three women aged has suffered some form of sexual or physical violence at least once in their lives. And every year more than Italian women are killed as the result of gender-based violence, women's groups say. Although there has been no research into the impact of Italy's drawn-out financial crisis on relationships, experts have noticed that situations which would not have ended in a physical fight had the economy been better are now provoking violence.
She said violent men may admit they have been responsible for some sort of violent behaviour, but they tend to minimise it: "They see themselves as victims of their partners". Podio also noted how the economic crisis was affecting men "disproportionately", partly because they make up more of the thinning workforce.
Alberto is among what people working in the field say is a growing of men who are voluntarily seeking help to end their violent behaviour. Helping men who act violently means tackling gender violence at its roots, said Roberto Poggi, a member of "Il Cerchio degli Uomini" The Circle of Mena Turin-based organisation of men working with violent men.
Poggi, a counsellor with several years of experience, said many of the men he has had one-on-one therapy sessions with were taken aback by the independence of their female partners. Other men refuse to accept their partners ending the relationship - and these were the ones more likely to explode into violence, Poggi said.
Chauvinism is so ingrained that at home and abroad, the image of the Italian male has barely evolved past the charming ladies' man immortalised by actor Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini's s movie La Dolce Vita. Several decades later, with his penchant for promoting beautiful, young women and an unshakeable belief in his own sexual prowess, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi embodied a rich, powerful masculinity that many Italian men envied.
Such dominating male role models have perpetuated the perception that Italian women are, by contrast, fit for little more than the kitchen or the bedroom.
At the same time, Guerra acknowledged that there has been a shift in mentality with greater awareness about gender violence. A long-awaited law on gender violence that toughens penalties for perpetrators and increases protection for victims was approved by the Italian Senate in October.
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Although it will provide funds to these centres, it does not earmark money for initiatives working with violent men. The norm refers specifically to anti-violence centres and women shelters and I don't think it includes centres for violent men," Guerra said.
Some of the people working on male violence say they are struggling to get funding because their services do not fall directly in the women's services category, even though they are working on the same issue, only from a different perspective. Men who have taken part in programmes provided by these centres say Italy lament the lack of an effective support system for others like them, saying it is sorely needed.
One that is alternative to violence. Our global editorial team of about 55 journalists and more than freelancers covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.
Thomson Reuters Foundation is a charity registered in England and Wales registration : About Thomson Reuters Foundation. Italian men seek help to stop battering wives and partners by Maria Caspani www.
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