In the past week, the smiling face of Giulia Cecchettin has been almost constantly in the news.
The 22-year-old engineering student from Veneto disappeared with her ex-boyfriend, 22-year-old Filippo Turetta on 11 November.
On Saturday, Cecchettin’s body was found at the bottom of a ravine with at least 20 stab wounds to the neck and head, covered with some black bags.
The discovery was made after a video emerged where Turetta could be seen beating Cecchettin, and authorities suspect he murdered his former partner before fleeing the country.
On Sunday, Turetta was arrested near Leipzig in Germany, nearly 1,000 km away from the scene of the crime, where he had escaped with his car.
While there was an international arrest warrant against him, the 22-year-old was only caught thanks to a German driver who called the police after seeing that Turetta was parked on the highway with his lights off – without even knowing he was being sought for murder.
According to Italian newspapers, he had no more money to pay for gas.
Turetta is currently being detained in Germany but is expected to be extradited to Italy, where he is expected to face trial for voluntary homicide.
‘A healthy son of the patriarchy’
The case has sparked widespread anger in Italy, where the murder of Cecchettin is being called a “femicide” despite the fact that the country does not legally recognise the murder of a woman because of her gender as a separate crime.
According to data from Italy’s Interior Ministry, Cecchettin is the 102th femicide victim in the country since the beginning of the year. Some 52 of these women were killed by a partner or former partner.
Cecchettin’s sister, Elena Cecchettin, has talked to the public and the media linking the murder of Giulia to a patriarchal culture of violence and control against women who normalise the toxic behaviour of men like Turetta.
In the week spent searching for the two students, disturbing details about their relationship had emerged. It has been claimed that Turetta was controlling, jealous and obsessive.
He would reportedly check Cecchettin’s phone, text and call her constantly when she wasn’t with him, and was jealous she’d be graduating before him. He apparently refused to accept it when Cecchettin’s broke off their relationship.
“Turetta is often described as a monster, but he’s not a monster,” Elena Cecchettin said in interviews as well as an editorial for Italian newspaper Corriere.
“A monster is an exception, a person who’s outside society, a person for whom society doesn’t need to take responsibility. But there’s a responsibility. Monsters aren’t sick, they’re healthy sons of the patriarchy and rape culture,” she added.
“Femicide is a murder committed by the state because the state doesn’t protect us. […] We need to fund anti-violence centres and give the possibility to those who need to ask for help. For Giulia don’t hold a minute of silence, but burn it all down.”
Several protests and vigils were held across Italy on Sunday, while a bigger process has been called for 25 November in Rome, the International Day Against Gender Violence. On Tuesday, schools across Italy will hold a minute of silence for Giulia Cecchettin.
Promises of change
“We all wished Giulia was still alive, but sadly our worst fears came true. Killed. I feel great anger and sadness,” Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said after the body of Cecchettin was found on Saturday.
The Italian leader has promised a new educational campaign in schools to eradicate the toxic culture of violence which survives in the country.
Meloni also stressed that she has already increased funds to women’s shelters and anti-violence centres. The leader of the opposition, Democratic Party (PD) Secretary Elly Schlein said she’s willing to work with the government to pass more regulations fighting femicide and violence against women in Italy.
A draft legislation which would strengthen measures to fight gender violence in Italy will reach the Senate on Wednesday.