Sexual assault has a voice in Greece, and it demands to be heard. Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou began 2021 by breaking her silence and publicly coming out as one of Greece’s many sexual assault victims. Her story flooded all media channels revealing that she was raped at 22 years old, by the former vice president of the Hellenic Sailing Federation, Aristides Adamopoulos. He responded that Bekatorou’s allegations were “false, defamatory and deceitful,” in a letter to the Olympic committee.
Now, almost three months later, the Greek #MeToo movement is a reality. Bekatorou’s courageous step inspired numerous personal testimonies from other sexual assault victims, thus exposing the brutal reality for women all over the country. By sharing her story, Bekatorou catapulted Greece’s #MeToo movement into the public eye, demanding to finally be heard.
WHAT DOES GENDER EQUALITY LOOK LIKE IN GREECE?
Gender inequality and gender-based violence is an all too familiar reality for women all over the world. 1 in 2 women in the EU has experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime from the age of 15, according to the largest survey on gender-based violence in Europe (FRA, 2014). Greece falls dangerously low with data concerning equal opportunities and views on women and ranks last in the EU on the Gender Equality Index With 52.2 out of 100 points, 15.7 points below the average EU score (EIGE 2020).
These dismally low numbers indicate a more complex societal and institutional attitude towards the perception of women in Greece. An example can be found within education. A study surveying the content analysis within Greek textbooks in public schools reveals that “men were represented as ‘capable’ and ‘active’ in public life, while women were considered as ‘less active’, with less knowledge and fewer skills for public activities. Additionally, male persons were linked to 224 occupations, whereas female ones to only 35 occupations, the vast majority of which are traditionally associated with low-status female work” (Gouvias, D., & Alexopoulos, C. 2016).
These examples of views towards women are systematically ingrained within the public-school sphere; however, shifting from education to security, there are telling indicators of harmful prevailing attitudes towards women and gendered violence in the Greek police force, too. Data reflecting police attitudes towards domestic violence reveals another difficult option for women where “81% of policemen believe that in cases of small-scale domestic violence (verbal violence or aggressive behavior) namely “light” violence, the couple should find a way to resolve its differences in order to preserve the family/ relationship.” In fact, “the majority (75%) of the questioned police officers reported that they have attempted to change the opinion of a woman in order to reconcile with the perpetrator, but only in cases of verbal/psychological violence and only when the episodes were not repetitive.” (Papamichail 2019). These numbers reveal a complex mixture of cultural and structural factors in Greek society that need to be addressed. Stereotyping and socialization are reinforced in instances such as the above, which partly contribute to the perpetuation of gender-inequality.
HOW HAS THIS OUTCRY BEEN PUBLICLY RECEIVED
The Greek #MeToo wave functions as a mechanism for demystifying perpetrators across the country. Abusers take the form, shape, and name that belong to them; they are employers, colleagues, journalists, famous actors and directors, and sports agents who have repeatedly been undisturbed in their actions as silence and complicity prevailed. Women are now publicly sharing their painful experiences of abuse and violation and working through their individual, but also collective, trauma.
The Greek #MeToo has provided a source of solidarity for women, and victims at large, of all backgrounds, but it has also highlighted the need to banish the country-wide silence pertaining to these realities. Finally, the creation of a public dialogue because of the #MeToo movement has shifted feelings and ideas of guilt. Initiatives such as SexHarassMap are up and coming; created by Greek women for nationals to feel safe enough to report incidents they have experienced or witnessed, as well as find helpful information on where to turn for psychological and legal help.
SO, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Victims speaking out truthfully through social media is a way of shifting the public narrative into their own hands and using it as a powerful tool to break collective silence and distorted news reporting. This situation is not something new, of course. It is only now, after continuous pandemic and economic crisis, that people have found the courage to collectively give voice to this reality and continue to highlight the importance of it.
Collective ownership of cultural change relies on enabling and supporting those who are aware of or witness to sexual harassment to intervene in the promotion of intolerance.UN Women (2019)
In order to begin taking further action to change the cultural environment in which sexual harassment is prevalent, it is important to allow room for victims’ stories to be heard and continuously accessible, so as to create a wider understanding of this toxic reality. Gendered harassment can no longer be normalized, justified, and made invisible. Bekatorou’s nightmare has set the tone for expectations of accountability and action within Greece.
- To what extent is social media providing the opportunity for women and other victims to create communities in which they feel safe enough to share their experiences directly?
- From a sociological perspective, what needs to change within various contexts of developments, from our primary circle to our close communities so as to alter instances of both benevolent sexism and hostile sexism?