What Stalking Can Come To

080840110-78992cfb-0132-46cb-99c4-99b221c564c0The violent murder of women by current or ex partners is a reality that every country battles with. On Friday my own hometown was struck with a particularly gruesome example, when 22-year old Sara di Pietrantonio was burned alive by her ex boyfriend while she was going home after a date. The articles on the subject are in Italian, but the gist the following:

  • It was 3:30AM. Knowing her route home and that she was going to drive by on her way home from her date, he waited for her and ran her car off the road.
  • He got in, they fought, and he started covering her and the car with ethanol.
  • She ran from the car, tried to stop two cars who were driving by at the time, but they didn’t stop.
  • He caught up with her, set her on fire, torched the car and left.

He has been charged with first degree murder, which I think is the most obvious sentence in the world. However, there are two parts of this story that I want to address.

  1. Neither of those two cars stopped to help her.

I remember growing up in Rome. People were nosy beyond belief. There couldn’t be a discussion, a loud argument, let alone a physical one in public which didn’t see multiple random people interfering immediately. It saddens me deeply that this culture is fading.

I understand that it was very late at night, and that it happened on the Magliana, a street notorious for gypsies and muggings. Most likely the people who drove past were afraid that the distressed woman they saw was a ruse to get them to stop and then be car jacked. It is unclear whether or not they at least called the police when they drove past. One way or another, this fear for one’s personal safety leads so many people to not stop and help. If just one of them had stopped their car and let her get in the back, she would still be alive.

I can’t ask people to start disregarding their own personal safety to help others. I can’t even tell you for sure what I would have done in that split-second decision. I like to think that I would have stopped, opened the car door and told her to get in, but only because I tend to think “she’s in trouble” in these kinds of situations, as opposed to “it’s a trap”. If I had been mugged before, I might have driven past out of fear. What I do want people to ask themselves is this: If you were one of those people who drove past, and you read this in the paper the next day, would you be able to live with yourself? Some people say “yes, I couldn’t have known”. Others, like me, could not. My wallet, or even my car, is worth far less to me than someone’s life. This story makes me more likely to stop and help someone, not less. I hope that more people start to feel that way.


2. The police say that this could have been avoided if only she had reported his obsessive, stalking behavior before.

I don’t know if this is true. I do not know how seriously the Italian police take claims of harassment and stalking. What is true is that not enough people in our culture, including Sara’s own friends and family, take this kind of behavior as seriously as they should.

I have been stalked before, and I know a few others who have as well. All of us have heard, at some point, people asking us “but… weren’t you also a little bit flattered as well?” Fuck no. Stalking is serious, and it is scary. Sometimes, it’s socially awkward people who think that Rom Coms are lessons in how to win women’s hearts rather than completely exaggerated fiction far beyond what is socially acceptable in real life. Sometimes, it’s people who are capable of extreme violence. If you are being stalked, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, and mistaking the latter for the former can cost you your life.

We need to get to a place in which controlling and obsessive behavior is not tolerated. There should be no gray area of “well maybe it’s just their way of showing their love for you”. Fuck that noise. I hope that stories like Sara’s can shine a light on those red flags that everyone should be taking far more seriously.






  1. sonofrojblake says

    My wallet, or even my car, is worth far less to me than someone’s life

    My life is worth more to me than someone else’s. And I have no guarantee that if I stop and get carjacked that I’ll survive the experience. So if I have even the least hint of doubt about that, then I’ll pass.

    If you were one of those people who drove past, and you read this in the paper the next day, would you be able to live with yourself?

    Comfortably, thank you. I have not the equipment, skills or training to deal with a violent incident in the street, and I’ll stick my neck out and say neither do you. Such things can be unpredictable and change very quickly. With the law as it currently stands, even were I successfully to intervene at no injury to myself or another innocent party, if a court later judged me to have used more than reasonable force against what I took to be an aggressor, my own liberty may be at risk. No thanks.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      I guess homicidal car jackings are so rare in Italy that I wouldn’t consider it to be likely that I will die in that process. And I wouldn’t get out of my car and beat up the guy in this situation, I would rather try to allow the woman a chance to jump in my car and drive away: for fleeing the situation I have the necessary skills and experience.
      So you would be able to live with not taking the slightest risk to yourself in order to help another… Good for you? I guess? what can I say, I would have a very, very hard time with it. People are different.

      • sonofrojblake says

        I have responsibilities to people other than myself. I have people who depend upon me. If I risk myself, I risk not only my personal bodily integrity but their continued support, happiness and comfort. And in a choice between my wife and anyone else, I choose my wife. When I was single I might have been more inclined to get stuck in.

        I would rather try to allow the woman a chance to jump in my car and drive away

        You are working on the assumption that the woman is
        (a) a victim and
        (b) not a threat to you if she turns out not to be.
        I’ve only personally witnessed two really nasty violent attacks, which is to say attacks which would require hospital treatment for the victim and likely permanent physical scarring to the face or other part of the body. In both cases the venue was a bar, in both cases both victim and aggressor were drunk, and in both cases the victim was male and significantly larger than the aggressors, who were in both cases female. The nastier of the two in terms of injuries was a man being stabbed in the throat with the edge of a broken beer glass, an attack he was lucky to live through and never saw coming. The other was a stabbing with some kind of blade I didn’t see, and the perp left the area very quickly.
        The assumption that a person is harmless simply because they are female is pernicious sexism that can get you literally killed. Check it.

        • thoughtsofcrys says

          I am fully aware that women can be aggressors. No shit. When I was living in Dublin, I often saw drunk women either attacking each other or attacking men. I also saw drunk men breaking bottles and fighting. In the midst of drunk and armed people, I call the police rather than jump in the middle of it.
          But I am also formed by my own experiences. While I have never been raped, and I think I am lucky in that, I have been violently accosted on the streets and feared for my safety many times. There is not a woman I know that does not have at least one of those kinds of stories to tell. Two of my very close friends only narrowly escaped being raped because they managed to break free, run, and stop someone passing who allowed them to get into their car or bike and flee. If such a thing happened to me, I would hope that whoever was passing at the time would help me too. When it comes to women who pretend to be terrified in order to prey on good Samaritans and get them to pull over only to rob them? I’m sure that does happen, but I am also sure that it happens far less than actual female victims of violence.
          If I see a drunk couple arguing and fighting? I might call the police, but I wont stop and say hey! lady! get in my car I’m here to rescue you! If I see a terrified woman run up to my car and beg me to help her? I’m letting her in and driving away. You may think that makes me a sexist idiot, but oh well, that’s your opinion. I’d still rather help than shrug my shoulders and keep driving.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      There are large Rom communities in Rome. One of the larger camps lives on and near the Magliana. On that road, you will often find groups of them in supermarket parking lots, crowding the carts so that you give them the coins, and shoplifting inside, and sometimes mugging passersby at night. Romans are often very wary on roads which are known to have many gypsies lingering about. Whether they are right to or not, it’s undeniably a thing they do, and may have contributed to their fear of stopping to help.

        • thoughtsofcrys says

          As I said, I’m not commenting on how right it is for Italians to think like that. I am only commenting on the fact they do. Whether or not they are justified to feel particularly wary on the Magliana is not important in this case. They just do, and that might have been a contributing factor to their reluctance to help Sara.

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