According to the “Osservatorio Adolescenti di Telefono Azzurro” & “Doxa Kids” (2014), in Italy 14% of teenagers (N=1500) received verbal threats or insults. In 2014, 5 out of 10 boys reported to have no problem in beating their girlfriend, and 2 out of 5 girls see it as a demonstration of love and masculinity. No wonder, then, that almost 11% of Italian girls have suffered physical and intimate violence before the age of 16 (ISTAT, 2014). Nevertheless, even girls are becoming more aggressive since the rate of female aggressiveness towards their partners is growing (7,9% of male victims against only 3,3% of female victims, ISTAT 2014).
Such data can be partly interpreted as a consequence of self-defense mechanisms fostered by anger, and partly as the need of control upon the partner. However, there is also a cultural perspective that must be taken into account, and that is linked to the idea that girls are “allowed” to act aggressively, as this behavior can be in some way justified in a more general agenda. According to the contributions collected by Burgio (2018), female aggressivity tends to be enacted in an indirect/relational way, as if the silence of this practice recalls the long-standing silence to which women and girls have been subjected by an androcentric society. However, the same collection also accounts for an increase in direct/physical violence by girls within schools. Such behaviors seem to evoke the desire to rebel from the burden of “a self-fulfilling prophecy” produced by gender stereotypes: that is, physically acting violence intends for breaking with the idea that women are “the weaker or fairer sex". Also the so-called socio-emotional illiteracy among teenagers can lead to a transformation of the victim into the executioner, sometimes producing a cascade effect on the duration and the stability of relationships.
Families and teachers alone cannot tackle these phenomena effectively, and structural, complex interventions are needed at different levels. Even if in Italy there is a regulatory framework on violence against woman and gender discrimination, a specific national legislation aimed at preventing or contrasting teen dating violence is currently lacking. In 2013 the Italian Parliament adopted the Istanbul Convention (CoE) aimed at preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Law 119/2013) and within it, addressed the education and prevention for children and teenagers through different strategies, such as school's staff training, curricular and extra-curricular activities, students’ conflict management and reinforcement of resolution skills.
Nonetheless, school curricula are still weak as specific supports and aids dealing with dating violence and gender violence in adolescence are lacking, while these topics are limited to some incidental reference in textbooks. Also specific in-service training opportunities for teachers are missing. Particularly in Italy, teachers have little or any academic background in socio-emotional skills development, whereas this should be the leading area not only for students support but also as a way to managing and stimulating a positive and open classroom climate.
Giuseppe Burgio (Ed.) (2018). Comprendere il bullismo al femminile. Genere, dinamiche relazionali, rappresentazioni. Milano: Franco Angeli
ISTAT (2014). La violenza contro le donne. Available on https://www.istat.it/it/violenza-sulle-donne/il-fenomeno/violenza-dentro-e-fuori-la-famiglia/numero-delle-vittime-e-forme-di-violenza
Telefono Azzurro & Doxa Kids (2014). Osservatorio adolescenti: pensieri, emozioni e comportamenti dei ragazzi di oggi. Available on: https://www.west-info.eu/it/vamping-e-selfie-le-ossessioni-dei-giovani-italiani/osservatorioadolescenti_report_pdf/