On August 23, in San Giorgio a Cremano, Naples, a 49-year-old woman threatened to take her life by suicide after being attacked by her 46-year-old partner. A young Sicilian carabiniere (member of the Italian national police force), Sonia Cannistraci, who has been on the force for four years, managed to talk her out of it.
On that Tuesday evening, a woman was looking out from the balcony on the third floor of an apartment building, screaming and calling for help as she pointed to a man who was fleeing the scene. It was her partner. He had attacked her and tried to kill her by smothering her with a pillow. The woman, overcome by despair and overwhelmed with anguish, wanted to take her own life by jumping into the void. Her level of exasperation and suffering had reached its limit.
The man was caught by carabinieri and police officers who replied to her cries. Sonia Cannistraci, a 30-year-old carabiniere, attempted to establish contact with the victim on the balcony who was ready to throw herself off.
The woman recounted the assault she had just suffered, while Sonia attempted to dissuade her from jumping, to calm her down, and to make her feel safe by telling her, “Life is too precious an asset. Don’t waste it on a man who is humiliating you.”
The woman had experienced violence before, but never had the strength to report it. Who knows what she must have felt when she heard the words of the officer? Perhaps some of her pain disappeared for a moment. Perhaps when interacting with this young woman who was so carefully helping her, she thought, “I can do this. I can start over. I deserve this. I’m important.”
Ansa news service reported Officer Cannistraci’s explanation:
She didn’t even want to look at me. She already had one leg out of the railing but fortunately I was able to make contact, including eye contact, with her. When I realized there was empathy between us, I told her that life is too precious an asset to waste it on a man who was just humiliating her. That’s when I realized that she had decided to listen to me and desist.
Getting in tune with her suffering
It was a complex and delicate intervention, moments filled with tension and apprehension. Cannistraci told Ansa, “The most difficult thing was to get in tune with her and her suffering. She wouldn’t look at me. She was angry and panicked. Fortunately, I was able to get her to listen to me, and from then on my only goal was to make her understand that he wasn’t worth it.”
Sonia Cannistraci was able to tune into her suffering, to relieve her burden, to bring her back to safety and snatch her away from suicide. The woman is alive today thanks to her, and we hope she can overcome the trauma she suffered and live a peaceful existence surrounded by genuine affection.
Doing her job with love
“The carabiniere only did her job,” more skeptical people will comment, but work only bears fruit when done with love.
Perhaps sometimes Sonia Cannistraci, overwhelmed by fatigue and discouragement – as happens to everyone – might have wondered if it was worth it, if her service really had meaning and value. After this incident she will have an important memory to draw on in times of crisis, because only she could have done what she did for that woman. This is the deep meaning of that uniform she wears, because as Fr. Fabio Rosini says, “There are people only you can love, there are things only you can do, words only you can say, feelings only you can feel. In the name of Christ, be yourself.”