PAS: how patriarchy traps mothers and children in violent relationships

14 March 2024, 1.00 PM - 14 March 2024, 1.50 PM

Rosalba Castiglione, Dr Michela Nacca, Maison Antigone, and Anthea di Benedetto


Seminar 5: Centre for Gender and Violence Research Seminar Series

Drawing from her upcoming chapter, Rosalba Castiglione, in conversation Dr Michela Nacca, Vatican Lawyer and founder of the NGO Maison Antigone, and Anthea di Benedetto, founder of the NGO Aurea Caritate

Patriarchal ideologies is arguably one of the main causes of male-perpetrated DV within heterosexual couples, but also the main reason many mothers (and their children) struggle to run away from abusive partners (and fathers). The seminar will focus on Italy, a persistent patriarchal and religious (mainly one-faith) society, where the emphasis seems to be placed on preserving the ‘traditional’ patriarchal family at all costs, as demonstrated by Italian family law 54/2006. The seminar will provide a brief definition of patriarchy, discussing its link with violence against women, hence domestic violence.

The relationship between patriarchal ideologies and the instrumentalisation of religion is also briefly discussed, considering religious prevalence in Italy. It will then discuss what happens when mothers decide to divorce their abusive husbands. Patriarchal attitudes are obvious in family courts, and more specifically in the (mis)use of the unsound parental alienation syndrome within child litigation, which is against the Istanbul Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Hopes for future policy and practice will be presented. Dr Michela Nacca and Anthea Di Benedetto, will offer their expert opinion on the above phenomenon, presenting real cases of misuse of PAS in Italian family courts.

Speaker biographies

Rosalba Castiglione I moved in the UK from Italy in January 2015. I have since graduated in childhood studies (University of Bristol/UoB). I have subsequently obtained a MSc Policy Research (UoB), as part of my 1+3 PhD programme, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and host by the University of Bristol. The MSc Policy Research allowed me to specialise in quantitative and qualitative research for policy impact. I started my PhD in 2021, determined to contribute towards a better world, finally free from gender-based violence, and where everyone is treated equally regardless of their gender (and other characteristics). My current PhD is looking at women’s understanding and experiences of reproductive coercion in Italy and in England.

Anthea Di Benedetto, Founding President of the Aurea Caritate Association, born in Palermo in 1989, expert in the management of cases of gender-based violence (including stalking), qualified in risk assessment methods at L. Vanvitelli University of Campania. Also, anti-violence social worker. She has deepened her knowledge and skills related to both the phenomenon of secondary victimization and scientific police investigations, trials and testimony at the Dr. Francesco Paolo Esposito’s criminology academy. She has created and she coordinates two anti-violence offices, one in Palermo and one in Catania. She has organised several conferences, one of which at the Chamber of Deputies (Italy) on 03/08/2023, together with the 'Mario Bellomo Association’: "The need for the protection of women and minors in the context of civil and criminal proceedings". In her institutional role of President, she has collaborated with the Vice President of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into Femicide legislature; she has obtained an agreement of collaboration with the Palermo juvenile court, for cases involving secondary victimisation. She collaborates with many associations on the national territory, including Maison Antigone and Femmicidio in Vita.

Dr Michela Nacca I graduated in law with a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University in June 1993. Vatican Lawyer, that is, lawyer for the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota since 1995. I mainly deal with family law and judicial cases of nullity of marriages in which domestic violence and sexual abuse have been perpetrated, in Rota: I look into cases from all over the world. In 2017, I co-founded the association ‘Maison Antigone’ to reveal, denounce and combat institutional violence or revictimization of women and minors in Italian Civil and Criminal Courts, due to the application of a distorted concept of co-parenting and the application of unscientific theories of legal psychology (e.g., PAS). I have collected hundreds of court cases and studied the biased procedural practices influenced by the above theories. My final report has been presented to the UN.

Dr Eleonora Francica She graduated from John Cabot University with a degree in International Relations (Maior) and Philosophy (Minor), and received her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University NY in May 2022. Analyst for News Guard with which he fights fake news and junk science spread by media. She has worked for Politico USA and currently for the European Parliament. As an intern for the Italian Parliament in 2020, she created a database on cases of secondary victimization on women and minors. Within her role journalist for an American newspaper based at the UN, she wrote articles about the above topic, and about the condemnation expressed in March 2022 by the CSW UN towards the courts of Italy and other countries, interviewing American experts ( In 2022, she won a Pulitzer Center Prize for journalistic investigation into children removed against their will, from Italian courts, by mothers considered to be inadequate, as considered to be alienating (

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