Something has to burst out inside of you and make you say: I deserve to be loved. No one has the right to abuse and hurt me. It seems almost trivial. But it is not. For many women – too many of them – self-love is a stranger and violence is a sister, a bad one. Until something happens and it makes them say: “Bo(h). One does not have to die in order to be listened to”. This is the title of the book by Bo Guerreschi, published in 2005 by Armando Editore. It is among the books that won the fifth edition of Eudonna Award – Federative Movement for Europe. Every year, this award goes to women of civil society who have been at the center of stories of heroism, sacrifice, deprivation, and violence. Bo (this is her name today, a nickname that does not debase the person) has lived all of those things. Often, heroism and victimization are intertwined in a mysterious way. Often women are heroic victims, from victims they turn into heroines.
Sala Europa of the Italian Representation of the European Commission in Rome was overcrowded on Wednesday 13 November. The security service at the entrance did not let latecomers in. Because in such difficult times, exaggerated protagonism of petty figures of the daily public, there is a desire to know the true stories, stories of love, stories of women who are truly “women”, able to change and promote humanity. “We need evidence and we need to share experiences,” Eudonna president Joan Sorbelli tells In Terris. “There is no need for planning, to develop something positive from tragic situations. Heroism is exactly the ability to react to pain and the tragedies of life in a positive way, to do something good and nice with the others and for the others.” This capacity and courage characterize women’s heroism.
At some point, Bo was chosen from among these women – who prove to be brave every single day and who remain all to often the darkness of anonymity – for the award. She cannot use her maiden name. Her husband stole her identity along with her soul. He sold her details to an international organization. Last year alone, over 1,500 people in Italy got their identity stolen. Most of the details belong to professionals, upper-middle class citizens. Cyber thieves are aggressive and efficient. Bo changed her name. She chose the name she was called by as a child and kept her surname, her family’s name. It is not the only violence she has suffered at the hand of her husband. But you cannot kill someone’s soul, it always comes back “home”. So, her experience of abuse has become a story about social service. She has created an association, “Bon’t worry” (www.bontworry.org), which provides shelter and psychological, medical, and legal aid to women who are battered, beaten, raped, or are victims to any other kind of abuse. In just over a year, she has opened several locations: in Rome, Milan, Florence, Bologna, and Naples. Soon other locations will appear also abroad: in London and in US (Okala, Florida).
“Bon’t worry” is a play on words in which Bo and “don’t worry” mingle. Fear is the greatest enemy of women who are victims of violence. “It never leaves you, not even many years later” Bo says. “I used to walked slightly behind my daughter, when I went out, out of fear that danger could have poped out all of a sudden, right in front of me. Today, going out alone makes me feel uneasy.” Afraid of what and whom? She tell us her story in a torrent of words, which are afraid of being left alone as well, and hold tight one to another, leaving no space. In 1989, at the age of 24 she had married a dentist from Milan. Psychological, moral, and economic violence began soon, only four years later: he teased, humiliated, and insulted her. Yet Bo was brilliant, she was a career woman. She was a Finance graduate, studied law and attended a law firm. Perhaps her husband attacked her self-esteem exactly because of her success: out of jealousy, envy, and competition.
“He treated me like a crazy woman despite the fact that I was the one who solved all tìthe problems at home” she says. More than that, he cheated on her – with women and men, as she was to find out later – and slandered her. Why? “This is the question I have been asking myself obsessively for many years. Law enforcement and common people keep asking it too. There is no reason why. Nobody knows the reason why. We can buid assumptions. Out of jealousy, envy, frustration, or just out of spite,” she replies. Then she adds: “If I reacted, he became even more violent.” She used to think she deserved those insults and bad things, so she continued to suffer them. Like so many other women. Until she realized that no one deserves violence, wickedness, and could not stand it anymore.
In ’97, Bo had a brain injury. Due to excessive stress, the doctors wrote in the medical record she asked only ten years later. In ’99, her husband brings home a man as a regular guest; one year later he chases her away together with their daughter, after having sold their personal details. Physical abuse, beatings, even through third parties begin. He pushes her down the stairs, she finds two dudes who have been waiting for her next to her home and beat her up, breaking four of her teeth. She has filed 335 complaints over 15 years or so; the latest, filed in July 2014, was about 30 pages long and had more than 300 attached documents. Yet, no court has listened to her and her complaints cannot be found in the prosecutor’s office.
Her salvation was the autobiographical book she wrote in 2005 and the attorney Livia D’Amico, who is not tall, but very prepared and resolute. On January 5, 2015 her association, “Bon’t worry” appears and becomes a non-profit organization. “If I do not help women who are victims of abuse and harassment, who can do it?, I said to myself,” Bo comments. The association has awarded State Police and Carabinieri, and on 7th of April it will award also the Revenue Guard Corps.
Law enforcement officers are the angels of good who help women who are victims of abuse. The problem, however, are the procedures. “The Rocco Code was more efficient in ensuring justice, especially from a preventive standpoint. Today, with the Pisapia Code, they need permission from the judge in order to intervene, and it often arrives too late or does not arrive at all,” Bo says. Her opinion on the law on “femicide” or stalking is negative. A slap in the face of all those people who have boasted on it. “We do not need new laws, the old ones on persecution, private violence, and murder of men and women were fine. The problem are the procedures which do not work.”
Love does not leave bruises. Many women understand it late, some of them even when they are old, “when they cannot take it anymore”, as the sociologist Francesca De Masi told In Terris. According to Istat data, one woman out of three suffers violence in Italy. The most risky situations, according to Bo, are those of economic difficulties or cultural differences and different social status. “The economic crisis has increased domestic violence.” Many women are afraid of being marginalized if they report, not only of being beaten up. “Resistance is greater in the upper classes, out of fear of losing their privileged status and ruin their public image.” Leaving and reporting does not mean escaping, but courage to live, to be born again.