Reality more terrifying than fiction

// 14 June 2008

A 47-year-old woman was last night rescued by police from the tiny dungeon that has been her home for the last 18 years.

Police raided a family home at Santa Maria Capua Vetere, a small town just outside of Naples in Italy, following an anonymous tip-off, to find Maria Monaco, 47, huddled, scared and confused, and wedged in the corner having been forced to exist in a tiny room surrounded by dirt and her own excrement for over a third of her life.

But how did this happen? Monaco was not abducted by strangers, but was rather the victim of her family’s overbearing pride and spite when, as a woman of about 30-years-old, she became pregnant outside of wedlock.

Her mother (Anna Rosa Golino, 80) along with Monaco’s farmer brother (Prisco, 44) and primary-school teacher sister (Michelina, 54), were so angry that she had been having an affair with a “mystery man” that shortly following the announcement she was pregnant she was locked away like a criminal. No, worse than a criminal. Not even the worst sort of murderer has to sleep night after night on shit stained, piss soaked sheets. Monaco did.

Presumably she gave birth in this dungeon, and her baby, now a 17-year-old student, was permitted to live above-stairs with the Golino’s, apparently fully aware that his mother languished in an underground prison paying the price for allowing him to exist.

This downright terrifying report bares a shocking similarity to the Fritzl case exposed earlier this year, when it was discovered 73-year-old sick bastard Josef Fritzl had imprisoned his 18-year-old daughter in the cellar under their house for 24 years, during which time he raped her repeatedly, fathering seven children, of which six survived.

Monaco is said to be (understandably) suffering from psychological problems, and is currently in hospital where she is being “treated for her trauma,” although what exactly can this treatment involve? How can you rehabilitate a woman to re-enter society when not only has she lost a third of her life, the chance to form any sort of relationship with the baby she nurtured inside her, but has also been betrayed by her mother, the woman who should love her more than anything in the world, and her siblings, those she grew up with? But this isn’t only about familial relations, but rather the compassion and decency one person should have for another? How dare the Golino’s take away the fundamental human right to freedom from a mature woman owing to her decision to have a baby! How dare they “punish” her for deciding to have a baby outside of wedlock! The father, unknown, has probably lived the last 18 years in blissful ignorance, whereas Monaco has had no option but to reflect on an allegedly unauthorised sexual liaison while being segregated from the rest of the world and living in squalor for her supposed transgressions. Her punishment was for more than being pregnant, it was for being a woman, since neither are mutually exclusive.

Anna Rosa Golino was apparently released on bail (probably owing to her age), while Prisco and Michelina have been detained for questioning. As with most crimes of this nature, however, I have this foreboding feeling that the punishment of the perpetrators is not going to match the severity and gravity of the crime they have committed. Similarly, while Fritzl remains in custody, with DNA evidence and a confession proving the sick crimes he inflicted not only upon his daughter, Elisabeth, but also on the resultant children, he has not yet been charged. Why not? Like Monaco, Elisabeth was punished for being a woman. At 18 she had probably just about matured and was considered by her father as reaching an age of sexual desirability. He believed she was his property, and so he felt this meant that he could do what he wanted with her. She existed for his pleasure, her body had to provide gratification for no man but himself, and she was not permitted independence of thought or freedom, things that are just a given and should not have to be stated as being a fundamental human entitlement. If there was true justice in this world Fritzl and the Golino’s would be locked up for the rest of their days, but unfortunately this probably won’t happen.

Comments From You

Redheadinred // Posted 15 June 2008 at 5:40 am

Shit. I can’t believe no one’s making a big deal of the violence against women that takes place in our society. I don’t know much about italian sensibilities – whether marriage is still highly rated as the only place for babies to be born over there, but jesus, what a fucking awful world we live in.

My hope is that these incidents are helping people to see the reality of what women have to face.

Redheadinred // Posted 15 June 2008 at 1:18 pm

Um, why hasn’t this been on the news? I don’t see any other news outlet reporting it.

auntieintellectual // Posted 15 June 2008 at 2:39 pm

What an upsetting story! One I’ve not seen reported here in the U.S. at all- perhaps it’s not got any shock value after the Austrian case.

You might consider your use of the word “bastard” for Elisabeth Fritzl’s father; the literal meaning of the word does perpetuate exactly the kind of shaming about unwed pregnancies that inspired the crimes against Maria Monaco. And there are so many other things we could call him!

Rachael // Posted 15 June 2008 at 2:40 pm

Not sure this type of sick imprisonment is anything to do with a particular country’s attitudes towards women – it’s world wide. I was help prisoner by my abusive mother and father for nearly 26 years and no one outisde batted any eyelid.

I read an editorial by Lorraine Kelly straight after the Fritzl story first came out. She was basically balaming the culture he came from – and the police for not realizing.

What I would say about that is that it is a terrible that the ploice in THIS country are so clearly missing tha same cases HERE – otherwise there would be many more of them in the papers. It happens just as often – and is covered up more – here than in many other countries – otherwise, why hasn’t it been uncovered by the authorities??

Depresso // Posted 15 June 2008 at 3:51 pm

Kind of beside the point, but I don’t agree with the use of the word ‘sick’ to describe these crimes. Yes, they may well make people feel sick, but the implication seems to be that one would have to be sick in the head to do these things in the first place. I don’t believe for a second that Josef Fritzel has any psychiatric disorder (unless patriarchal priviledge has recently been reclassified), nor does this family. They do, however have a very skewed view of the world, and where women fit into it. Using ‘sick’ feels like an attempt to excuse the horrifying extent of the crimes they commited, knowing full well what they were doing to these women.

Anne Onne // Posted 15 June 2008 at 4:27 pm

Poor woman. I can’t imagine what a task it will be to rebuild her life, and I hope she will find the strength to do so.

How many families can there be out there, keeping their children prisoner? Whether it’s cults or quiet seemingly normal people, such inhumanity lurks in so many places.

Rachael, I’m so sorry that happened to you. It’s definitely true that it can happen in any culture, anywhere where people exist who don’t see other people as fully human and deserving of their rights.

Redheadinred // Posted 15 June 2008 at 5:40 pm

Again, why is this not reported anywhere else? I suppose mainstream news doesn’t consider women’s lives as important as the latest government security leak. That’s the daily mail, though! I’m surprised they care enough to print it.

Rachael // Posted 15 June 2008 at 7:10 pm

Just a thank you to Anne Onne for her kind and sensitive words to me. And to Depresso – totally agree with you. I just use the word sick because that is how it felt to me – still feels. But my parents were normal, middle-class – and everybody seemed to love them – apart from me and my sister, that is!!

They also mixed with other paeodophiles like themselves – and ALL of the men and women without exception – were people who hold good community standing and professional jobs – so I totally agree it is about patriarchy not some individual sickness.

I became a professional in child protection later on to help other children – and I hoped what I saw as I grew up was just some tragic anomoly. It wasn’t. Abuse of women and children is endemic in every society …….. and that is what is truly sick.

Alicia // Posted 15 June 2008 at 7:15 pm

It’s prurient and it let them post another picture of Fritzl – how could the Daily Mail resist? The wider issues of violence against, and oppression of women that this brings out are only incidental. And having raised Monaco’s son with the knowledge that his mother was imprisoned downstairs, I suspect there is now a new generation who thinks that this is treatment that women deserve.

Depresso // Posted 15 June 2008 at 7:50 pm

Rachael, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I only read your comment after I clicked submit!

That anyone can be so coldly calculating in their abuse of another human being is a bit beyond comprehension, to survive it… Anything I can come up with to describe the respect I have for you seems not to do the job.

And to think there’s people that think we’re living in a post-feminist world!

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 15 June 2008 at 9:00 pm

Rachael, I wanted to say thank you for your message, and for sharing your experiences. I cannot imagine what being kept captive for 26-years by your parents must have been like, and I think you must be an incredibly brave and courageous woman. I also think you are absolutely right, that violence against women is such an accepted part of our culture that a newspaper, for example, will assess a crime on the basis of how sensational it is, and choose to bin it or not depending on the anticipated shock it will elicit. This story has received virtually no coverage by the mainstream press becuase, following the Fritzl case, presumably it was not considered worth of publication, and the woman not seen to have suffered enough for her story to be widely printed. It’s absolutely disgusting, and I doubt this woman, like Elisabeth Fritzl, and countless others who have been held against their will will get the justice they deserve. Do you mind if I ask how long ago you escaped and if any legal action was taken against your mother and father? I understand though if you do not wish to draw further on your experience here. But thank you again so much for your comment x

Rachael // Posted 15 June 2008 at 10:23 pm

Thank you SO MUCH Abby and Depresso for your lovely comments – and Depresso – don’t feel your upsetting me with any comments you make – I am very strong and I love the open debate on this site.

Abbey – to answer your questions: I am 36 now so I have been free for ten years. The first 26 years of my life were a nightmare of rape and torture by family and their friends on a daily basis.

No, I have not yet decided to take any legal action against my parents – although I have talked about my case to solicitors. Am unsure about legal action simply because I have more personal ways that I would like my parents to pay for what they did.

I am very happy to be open about this. When I was in child protection, I was primarily teaching social workers/nursery nurses about my own case because as women IT IS IMPERATIVE that we do not internalize our abuse and feel guilty. I decided that to help others I had to talk about my own pain – and I do know that it helped some other survivors.

Abbey – I am very used to talking about this so if you wish to continue discussion, I would be very happy to chat be e-mail if you wish? Please feel free to ask the site moderators for my e-mail address. Thanks again for the lovely comments.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 15 June 2008 at 10:57 pm

I’ve only just read this article but I heartily agree the Daily Male deliberately chose to publish this piece of ‘news’ because they viewed it as sensationalist and it also indirectly ‘blames women’ for causing this woman’s imprisonment. We need to look at the wider social issues because the appalling cruelty meted out to this woman does not occur in a vacuum. Patriarchy is responsible and this is why so many women adhere to patriarchal beliefs that if a woman ‘dares’ to have a child outside of marriage it is the woman who must be punished but never the man.

Rachel you are so right male violence against women and children is endemic and it is a global issue. Fritzl is just one example of so many cases of male control over women and children. Yes women were involved in the Italian case but it is primarily male-directed and it is because male-defined views of so-called morality are accepted which allows so many men to commit these acts of violence against women and children. But the media cannot ‘join up the dots’ because to do so would shatter society’s belief that such incidents are isolated ones and due to the perpetrators’ supposed sickness of mind.

Rachael you are so right – women are never to blame when they are treated in cruel and despicable ways – it is always the perpetrators who are responsible. Yes women who commit these acts are responsible but at the same time we must recognise they commit these acts because patriarchal society indoctrinates them with misogynstic beliefs.

Rachael // Posted 16 June 2008 at 10:28 am

Jennifer – really intelligent comments. But there is just one thing I would like to clear up. I absolutely believe that women abusers are victims of a patriarchial society – but I did not say that they are not then responsible for the abuse they commit.

Woomen are grown-ups as much as men (surely that’s what we are all fighting gor on this site?) and they have definately been victims of mysogyny to become abusers in the first place. But they are also adults.

I was severely abused – it was horrendous – but I chose to get therapy and help myself. My mother (and the other women who abused me) did not. That is still their choice. I blame my mother for her abuse as much as my father.

This is not to say that of course it is patriarchy because it is – BUT all women have choices about how we deal with victimisation – otherwise what are we saying? That we are really just helpless victims? I have never seen myself as that – my mother chooses to.

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 16 June 2008 at 11:24 am

Rachel –

I find it inspiring that you have been able to take what has happened to you and turn it into something positive (working for child protection).

I agree with you that we have choices in how to deal with our vicimisation. I made a choice long ago that I would never let what happened to me as a child stop me from doing anything. I made the choice that I wouldn’t be their victim. So, although, I think that what happened to me was not anywhere near the scale that happened to you (26 years, you must be a very strong woman), I understand where you are coming from.

I also think that we have to realise that not everyone *can* be that strong – and there is nothing wrong with not being able to cope on your own or to need help in getting past it. We must be there most of all for the victims who do feel helpless.

Rachael // Posted 16 June 2008 at 12:07 pm

Thanks for the lovely comments Jennifer – and for the most part, I agree. But I also think that the only truely helpless victims are children. As adults WE ALL have to take responsibility for our behaviour. Most adults have the choices that children will never have – the choice to get help or not.

t wasn’t strength that got me away from my parents – it was a choice I made: Do I want to be like them or not?

Absolutely some adults are made to feel like helpless victims by their abuse – I would never contradict that.

However – every abused adult still has the choice to get help where most children do not. Jennifer – you chose to not live your life defined by what happened to you. And for that I really commend you. Not saying all this to offend anyone – and of course, as women, our choices are severely limited by patriarchy – but we still have them.

sian // Posted 16 June 2008 at 1:08 pm

why wasn’t this on the news?

violence against women is endemic. in my feminist group i suggested a campaign where we asked every major news outlet in TV and paper to report every week for a month that during the week 2 women had died as a result of domestic violence. i am sick and tired of this issue being ignored, or just touched upon or not properly addressed, because it seems to me that violence against women is so widespread, that no one listens to it anymore.

thank you for your comments rachael, you are incredibly brave. i agree, we need debates like this, for if we don’t get people talking about violence against women, it is never going to change.

Rachael // Posted 16 June 2008 at 4:15 pm

Sian: all I can say is here, here! Pretty sick and tired of the violence against women myself!!

Have read some of your other posts on this site and may I say that I like your forthright attitude – or is it just rage, like me??!

But thanks for you your kindness. I love this site – and as long as women like us keep ranting – they can’t keep ignoring violence against us! And again – very big thanks to all the women who sent me such positive thoughts.

Sheila // Posted 28 June 2008 at 12:00 am

Even though its 30+yrs ago and I ‘got away’ Im suffering the pain now of those young years wasted in beatings sadness staruation and desperate loneliness

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