telefono donna

Italian rape helpline, Telefono Donna, has met with opposition from rightwing politicians in Milan over its recent campaign poster to encourage women to report rapes. The organization states that only four per cent of women who suffer sexual violence report their assailants.

The politicians claim the image is 'sexually provocative.' Such an attitude once again places the blame on women for provoking sexual assault, rather than challenging male behaviour. In response to the poster's question, Who pays for man's sins? the answer remains: women.

This is not the first time women have been portrayed on a cross or in a 'Christ-like' pose. Such images tend to be controversial because they suggest women can represent Christ:

left image: Christa, by American sculptor, Edwina Sandys

right image: Gomez cross, of María Cristina Gómez, El Salvador.

Representing women on the cross reveals the violent and suffering reality of many women's existence. It also demonstrates a solidarity between women and Jesus, who also suffered.

Most of the opponents of the Telefono donna poster are not, I fear, interested in either revealing violence against women, or acting in solidarity with women who are raped or assaulted.

However, there are other questions that such images provoke. While I once found these images helpful, they now make me uneasy. I affirm the Telefono Donna campaign but at the same time want to encourage caution in the use of such images of crucified women.

Too often women are called to bear their cross and accept their suffering. Are women only Christ-like in suffering? Where are the images of women as healers, teachers, justice-bearers, peace-makers? Women alive and resilient in the face of death?

This last week, visiting a number of projects working with women who have suffered domestic violence, I have witnessed such Christ-like women. Women who refuse to bear their cross in silence, and who summon all their strength to get down from the cross, and walk away from death into life.

Some information taken from The Telegraph.