Milan: The X-rays speak louder than words. Especially since the women whose shattered bones are visible in the sterile black and white images rarely speak out. Coinciding with Monday's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a Milan hospital is displaying X-rays from victims of domestic violence who have passed through the doors of the facility seeking help.
The display at San Carlo Borromeo hospital was the idea of trauma surgeon Maria Grazia Vantadori, 59, who wanted to show the stark reality of what she has seen in her 26 years of practise. Although women arrive at the hospital bloodied, sometimes cut, burned, or with acid thrown in their faces, Vantadori opted for the more sterile images of X-rays, deeming them more powerful.
"I didn't want it to be gory, just to show something true, real and not fake. This is telling the truth, it's not made up," Vantadori told AFP. "The good thing about X-rays is that we're all the same, substantially. Our bones are all the same. So any of these could be any woman," she said.
In Italy, 142 women were killed through domestic violence in 2018, up 0.7 per cent from a year earlier, according to Italian research institute Eures, a number those working to help these women say is disturbingly consistent. In the last five years, 538,000 women were the victims of physical or sexual abuse by their partners, according to Italy's national statistics agency Instat.
Experts say those numbers are conservative because women are reluctant to come forward, partly due to fears of leaving their homes and children. The show in the hospital's lobby features about a dozen images: X-rays of a broken nose, a shattered wrist, crushed finger, shin or rib snapped in two -- interlaced with quotes from anonymous women.
One recounted how her partner smashed her face against the kitchen wall and pummelled her with blows, 43 times. "I counted the blows to try to distract myself from the pain, otherwise I'd be dead," the woman said.
In one of the most powerful images, a long butcher's knife is seen encased within a ribcage. That woman miraculously lived, said Vantadori, who views her role as a surgeon more expansively than someone who merely patches up patients and sends them on their way. "My job is to make sure that doesn't happen," she said, pointing to the X-ray with the knife....