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Franca Viola: The Woman Who Defied Italian Tradition by Refusing to Marry Her Rapist

Born January 7th, 1947, Franca Viola was a beautiful seventeen year old who grew up in the small Sicilian town of Alcamo, Sicily with her farming family. She dated Filippo Melodia, a young man with Mafia connections, for several months in 1963 before rejecting him.

Young Franca Viola

Franca Viola in the late 1960s

Determined to get his girl, Melodia waited until Viola’s father was out of the house, then stormed in with 15 friends and abducted her. He held her prisoner in a remote farmhouse for over a week, during which he raped her. Viola's father pretended to come to terms with the kidnappers while actually collaborating with the Carabinieri police in preparing a successful dragnet operation. After more than a week, Franca Viola was released and her kidnappers arrested.

Of course, Melodia offered Franca reparation marriage. Traditionally, such an appalling crime would be excused if the couple later wed in a "reparative marriage", the man forgiven for his violence and the woman’s “honor” restored. This was not just an informal tradition, but an explicit exception in the Italian criminal code.

Instead, Viola took Melodia to court for kidnapping, “carnal violence,” and intimidation. This marked the beginning of the family’s troubles. Most of the townfolk ostracized them. Franca’s father received death threats. Their family were menaced and persecuted, to the point of having their vineyard and cottage burned to the ground.

Viola speaks to police after being rescued from her captors

Viola, along with her parents, spoke to the local police about her abduction

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This post first appeared on Hopscotch, please read the originial post: here

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Franca Viola: The Woman Who Defied Italian Tradition by Refusing to Marry Her Rapist

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