Italian Journal of Criminology

The official journal of the Italian Society of Criminology

by Cristiano Barbieri and Alessandra Luzzago

The crimes occurring in dysfunctional couples are usually of a violent kind and include psychological abuses, sexual assault, personal wounds, attempted murder, to murder itself. Generally, it comes to crimes that are repeated through time, although it is very difficult to define their chronological course on the whole, since the number of such deeds remains very often obscure. This is due to the lack of a valid communication not only between the two partners of a dysfunctional couple, but also between the couple itself and its social environment, particularly between the victim and those agencies in charge of social assistance, which could give psychological aid and legal protection. As a result, it is difficult to attempt a realistic evaluation of this phenomenon, because a very high number of cases are not reported by the victims, and this is also an obstacle to the achievement of valid precautionary approaches. Crime prevention in the dysfunctional couple means therefore psychologicalsocial assistance of the couple, rather than just of only one partner. In fact, while first prevention works at a general level, meaning a series of psychological- social-educational activities focused on risk factors, second prevention is at an individual level, monitoring some specific markers with the purpose of preventing a certain situation from occurring; the third prevention aims at preventing a relapse. Preventing a crime (usually a violent one) in dysfunctional couples means focusing on the kind of relationship and on the way the couple works; in fact, an intervention addressed at only one partner cannot solve the problem: on the contrary, it makes it sometimes worse. Likewise, a mere penal intervention isn’t successful neither at the level of second prevention, nor - least of all - at the level of first prevention. Having considered all that, we think that crime prevention in dysfunctional couples can be achieved through a double intervention: motivating the victims to communicate, and training those social and institutional operators who might get in touch with them. In other words, prevention is then possible, but only if we motivate to communication on one side and on the other one if operators are trained to understand in a right way the meaning of implicit distress signals coming from dysfunctional behaviours.


Cattedra di Psicopatologia Forense dell’Università degli Studi di Pavia - Dipartimento di Medicina Legale e Sanità Pubblica “Antonio Fornari”, Via Forlanini n.12, 27100, Pavia.
Cristiano Barbieri
Cattedra di Psicopatologia Forense dell’Università degli Studi di Pavia - Dipartimento di Medicina Legale e Sanità Pubblica “Antonio Fornari”, Via Forlanini n.12, 27100, Pavia.
Alessandra Luzzago
Contacts: Alessandra Luzzago Barbieri - Dipartimento di Medicina Legale e Sanità Pubblica “Antonio Fornari”, Via Forlanini n. 12, 27100, Pavia - 0383.987803 - e-mail aluzzago(at)unipv.it

From: Rassegna Italiana di Criminologia n. 2/2008



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