Milan: From mafia hideout to victims’ shelter

A safe house for maltreated women.

Milan women suffering violence from their husband or partner can now find protected shelter in a property seized from the assets of organised crime.

Il Battello (the boat) is the name of the secret location assigned by city hall to the workers at Telefono Donna help centre at Niguarda Hospital, who have been providing comfort and support to victims of maltreatment since 1992.

Over 1,200 victims were protected by Milan’s social services in 2015, said city councillor Pierfrancesco Maiorino, handing over the keys of the new shelter to Telefono Donna founder and president Stefania Bartoccetti. “We need to put out the word that they are not alone, that there is a place with people who can take care of them,” he said.

The knowledge that there is a protected, physical house is often the deciding factor for women suffering at the hands of their partner to leave home and break the vicious circle of violence,” said Bartoccetti.

Milan’s anti-violence network currently counts 11 centres with a contract with city hall under a memorandum of agreement signed in 2012. They are currently assisting 829 Italian and 446 foreign women; most of these are aged between 30 and 49, but there are also 25 aged over 70, and a dozen minors. The vast majority have suffered violence at the hands or their partners or ex-partners.

In some cases, the victims suffered more than one type of violence: while 844 reported physical and 225 sexual violence, there were also 991 cases of psychological and 198 of economical maltreatment, as well as 225 of stalking.

While some of these women first contacted the network via the women’s hotline 1522, many more were put in touch by police, social services, hospitals, friends and relatives, or by other women already being helped.

Training courses for lawyers and other workers coming into contact with victims are currently being organised by the Lombardy regional government (see our related article).