Spate of Rapes Spark Calls for Patrols, Punishment in Italy

Italian police officers (Carrabinieri) wait for a train heading north to Munich at the Brenner Pass on September 3, 2015 in Brennero, Italy.
Philipp Guelland/Getty

ROME (AP) — Italian officials called Tuesday for increased police patrols, video surveillance and tougher laws to punish perpetrators after a spate of rapes around the country renewed attention on violence against women in Italy.

In the latest case to emerge Tuesday, a doctor working alone on a night shift in a tiny Catania town was reportedly assaulted for hours by a patient. The man was caught, literally with his pants down, as she escaped, news reports said.

A day earlier, a German woman reported being raped, robbed and bound overnight in the Villa Borghese, a swank Rome park during the day but a deserted no-man’s land at night.

Rome mayor Virginia Raggi called for increased police patrols, declaring it had been “a black September for Italy.” Raggi, of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, called for “special laws” but didn’t elaborate.

This week’s rapes followed a case in Florence where two American students said two carabinieri paramilitary police officers raped them after offering them a ride home from a disco in their patrol car. The officers have been suspended pending the investigation.

And in August, a Polish tourist was gang raped and her partner beaten during an attack in the beach resort of Rimini, allegedly by the same group of men who assaulted a Peruvian woman just a short time later. Four people have been arrested.

The anti-immigrant Northern League seized on the latest attacks to call for chemical castration for rapists.

Raggi insisted Rome was beefing up video surveillance around town, but her political opponents said officials had missed out on a recent round of funding for more closed-circuit cameras. Raggi has failed to halt Rome’s overall degradation, with garbage pileups and public transport problems, and a rape in one of the historic center’s most iconic parks only fueled the criticism.

Italian politicians and activists have long denounced a culture of violence against women in Italy that frequently erupts in domestic assaults — oftentimes fatal — by jealous husbands and boyfriends. In the recent rapes, the perpetrators were not believed to have been known to the victims.