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Violence Against Women through the lens of the Anti-Violence Centres

The phone does not stop ringing and so does the doorbell; there is a coming and going of women, young, old, mothers, foreigners…it is a typical day at the Anti-Violence Centre (AVC) of the Municipality of Venice. How did I end up doing an internship there? Well, first let me tell you a little about me.

I am Rebecca and I come from a small town an hour from Venice. My only certainty in life has always been my curiosity for foreign languages and cultures. At 15, I did not know much about human rights. At 18, when it was time to choose the university, I decided to study Political Science at the University of Bologna. It was in the final year, after taking some courses on the history of the Americas, that I realized I wanted to explore the human rights field more. Today, I could not be more grateful for the academic path I chose.

During a webinar with the AVC of Padua on its role on Violence Against Women (VAW), I became curious about the work of these places for women and decided to do apply for an internship at the one in Venice. The AVC of the Municipality of Venice was established in 1994 and it is the first institutional structure in the field. Its multidisciplinary équipe is composed of professionals from different backgrounds such as psychologists, lawyers, and educators, all specialized in gender-based violence. The AVC provides free support services to women victims of violence and their children, helping them to get out of violence and regain their autonomy. Moreover, the AVC coordinates and promotes cultural events to spread awareness on the phenomenon of VAW, especially in high schools.

An excerpt of a brochure available in 5 languages the AVC distributes to hospitals.

I did a 3-months unpaid internship from January to March 2021. On the one hand, despite the movement restrictions of the time, I was lucky enough to do the internship in person. On the other hand, mainly due to other provisions related to the pandemic, I could not attend many meetings with women. All in all, I was involved in various activities. During the first weeks, I helped to tabulate data, which were then sent to the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) to report on the situation of VAW in Italy. On the occasion of the International Women's Day, I was asked to represent the findings (e.g., number of women, age, nationality) in graphs, which were then published in a local newspaper.

During the breaks, there were moments when I read heartbreaking women’s stories and I wondered why this is still a reality for many, too many, women.

I also followed a number of training courses and webinars, exploring different aspects related to VAW and interacting with multi-level organizations. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to participate and coordinate projects involving women and citizens. For example, I arranged a make-up laboratory where the make-up artist herself was a victim of violence. The lab aimed at showing victims of violence the importance of taking care of themselves and (re)feeling comfortable in their own skin. In the end, it was more than that: it was a moment of sharing and empathizing among strangers with similar experiences. Another project, of which I am very proud, is the creation of four stickers with the AVC’s contacts, to be placed in women’s bathrooms in university buildings, fast food restaurants and shopping centres.

Four different stickers representing the various types of violence: physical, psychological, sexual and economic.

Rebecca’s solidarity “bomboniera di laurea” on her graduation day. Padova, 26th October 2021.

Sadly, in Italy we do not often hear about AVCs and their crucial role in prevention and protection. That is why I brought my experience as a case study for my final thesis. To close a circle, on the graduation day, I gifted all my beloved ones with a solidarity gift whose proceeds went to an Italian association dealing with VAW. In conclusion, I am grateful for this internship and I left with greater awareness, new questions and the ambition to continue learning and working in this field. At present, I am applying all the field knowledge acquired and largely extending it, by cooperating with a London-based NGO focused on the phenomenon of FGM.

** Rebecca always uses the abbreviations “AVC” for Anti-Violence Centres and “VAW” for Violence Against Women.

Written by Rebecca Barbaresco Edited by Giulia Rosina Photo courtesy of Rebecca Barbaresco


Rebecca recently graduated from the HRG master’s program with a final evaluation of 110 cum laude. During the program, she delved into many topics such as women’s rights, environmental issues, and terrorism and security. She dedicated her final thesis on the role of Anti-Violence Centres in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic, where she focused on the Venice experience. A physical copy of her thesis can be found in the public library under the AVC Venice. Follow Rebecca on her social media: on LinkedIn @Rebecca Barbaresco and on Instagram @rebeccabrb.

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