Farah was only two months old when his little lifeless body, without soul, was put in a blue polka-dot suitcase, in London. The hands that made him leave this world were of the same woman who should have guided him in life. The last journey of an existence that had not started yet, ended in a dumpster. The young Italian mother (little more than thirty), Federica Boscolo Gnoli, confessed using plain words, apparently devoid of emotion: “Yes, I killed my baby girl”. It happened at the beginning of this year. It was summer, August, when, on the New Continent, the 23-year-old Brittany Pilkington called the emergency service because her four-year-old son Gavin stopped breathing. The twins Noah and Niall, three months of age, had died the same way in July. “I have suffocated them with a blanket,” said the mother. She was still a teenager and already a mother of four. The three male babies are not alive anymore. Her husband loved them too much and did not pay enough attention to their daughter, this is the reason she declared to the investigators as an explanation of the terrible threefold infanticide.
Two cases, that hide many others. From a research conducted by “La Sapienza” University of Rome, this is the profile of the murderous mothers: most of them are women between 18 and 32 years of age, with an average level of education, and who report a problem with their partner. In most cases, the killed children are under 7 years of age. The first year of life is the one most at risk. Drowning and suffocation are the leading causes of death. Crimes are generally committed at home, in the bathroom or in the bedroom, in places of intimacy where the secret of consciousness reveals its dark part. The motive is almost always a mental pathology, in two-thirds of cases it is clinically established. Not only personality disorders though. Also the family context and its dynamics can be sick.
Family and society must be an increasingly sick environment if the number of this horrific crimes grows dramatically. And rarely – say the experts – such a despised act for the sentiment of human compassion happens unexpectedly. It is often the ultimate action of existential and social loneliness. A slap in the face of the democratic principle of Welfare State and the positive myth of “hearth”.
It is exactly inside the family, in fact, that the most brutal abuse and violence are consumed, a killing that can be not only physical, but also psychological and moral.
“One can also die of mother” was the slogan of a congress organized last September in Rome by the association of lawyers specialized in marriage law. But, despite the fact that Medea’s myth elected in the public imaginary women as almost exclusive protagonists of infanticide, mostly to take revenge against the partner, which clashes with another myth, that of the unique and absolute “mother’s love”, in the reality of the situation children are not killed mainly by their mothers, but by their fathers, in 61.5 percent of the cases. On the other hand, even mythology, whose roots are in the origin of humanity itself, was aware of the how complex reality was when it narrated about the god Uranus who imprisoned his own children, given to him by Gea, in the bowels of the Earth.
Myths are carriers of truths confirmed by statistics: mothers kill especially because of psycho-affective disorders and to take revenge, whereas men are transformed into murderers of their own children mainly because of relational difficulties and lack of control over their reactions.
The statistics of parents murderers are frightening. The Eures Report 2015 shows that they have been constantly increasing in Italy over the last 15 years. Their total number in the whole considered period was 379, with a peak in 2014: one every ten days, 39 episodes, 77 percent more than in 2013. And data are underestimated. Some deaths of minors remain obscure. Are increasing the numbers of victims – in 60 percent of the cases, at the hands of the mother – under 14 years of age. Children who are killed by their fathers, on the other hand, are generally between 18 and 34 year old.
The record of infanticide is registered in the North of the country. At the top of the “black” ranking, there is Lombardy, with 17.4 percent of the total number of cases, followed by Emilia Romagna (10.4 percent) and Lazio (10 percent).
Whereas psychiatric disorders are the first cause of the meaningless heinous action (46.5 percent), the second leading cause of the most monstrous of all crimes are relational difficulties (29.3 percent), the third one is refusal of parenthood (18.6 percent), and the fourth is inability to control one’s own reactions. These data give food for thought on the general state of health of our society, on solitude inside couples and families and on the deterioration of the affective fabric that holds together natural and civil bonds.
The first scientific studies date back to the Seventies. The Canadian psychiatrist Philip Resnick developed a classification into five types on the basis of the motive, studying 155 cases which occurred between 1751 and 1967. Psychotic infanticide, committed under the influence of a psycho-pathology, such as post-partum depression, schizophrenia, delirium, hallucinations, drug addiction or addiction to other psychoactive substances; altruistic, made with the intention of alleviating the child’s a suffering, real or imagined, present or future; rejection, when a child was not desired or never accepted nor loved; to take revenge of betrayal or abandonment (the Medea syndrome), to cause pain to the partner, or as a claim for attention; accidental, out of negligence, due to lack of attention or excessive punishment.
Analyses, however, must be used to avoid or prevent problems and crimes, and to intervene to remove the social causes of the resurgence of this phenomenon. Existential, economic, employment and affective insecurities, are the main risk factors. They can become an actual danger in a multifactorial negative context when instability worsens, due to poverty, separations, domestic violence or moving, pregnancies that occur too close one to another, excessive working hours, children with a difficult character or disabilities. What is lacking, in any case, is a genuine culture of a son’s free and autonomous personality, and above all, a social network of healthy relationships. In all those aberrant cases, the offspring is considered to be property or an extension of one’s own sick ”I”. And infanticide is the ultimate act.