The iconic trial of a sailing trainer accused of rape of a minor opened Wednesday in Athens, a year after the start of the #MeToo movement in Greece sparked by the revelations of an Olympic sailing champion. The trial has been adjourned until January 26.
The case before the Athens Criminal Court is one of many reports of sexual assault in Greece since sailing gold medalist Sofia Bekatorou broke the taboo in December 2020.
Sailing trainer accused of rape of 11-year-old girl
Coach Triantafyllos Apostolou, 38, is accused of raping a sportswoman from the sailing federation when she was 11. At the hearing on Wednesday, he denied all the charges and said he “does not approve of the rape of any creature on the planet”.
On the eve of the opening of the trial, the complainant, 21, declared that she had been “systematically raped” by the accused and “physically and verbally assaulted” by him since the age of 9. “It took me ten years to understand that a child is not at fault,” she told Greek channel Antenna TV.
Her family initially decided not to press charges to avoid stigma. But the young woman “had the courage” to come out of the shadows thanks to the revelations of Sofia Bekatorou and hopes that her own case will in turn serve other victims. “We need to break the silence, punish the abusers and end all stigma against victims of sexual assault,” she said.
“Full of rage”
Sofia Bekatorou, who had revealed this case to justice with the victim’s consent, will be called to the bar as a witness for the prosecution. She did not make a statement on Wednesday when she arrived at the courthouse. In court on Wednesday, women held up signs proclaiming “We are full of rage.”
In Greek patriarchal society, where the subject of sexual violence is struggling to get out of the private sphere, the revelations of Sofia Bekatorou have freed many assaulted women to speak, triggering the #MeToo movement in this country more than three years after the States- United.
The 2004 Athens Olympics gold medalist publicly declared a year ago that she was sexually assaulted at the age of 21 by an unidentified senior official from her federation in 1998, during preparations for the Olympics from Sydney.
The facts were prescribed but she had reported to the prosecutor who was hearing in January 2021 the case of the very young alleged victim of Apostolou, now at the heart of the trial.
The complainant, who will be called to the bar on January 26, said she had had several unwanted sex with her then trainer, 18 years her senior. The court ruled on Wednesday that it would hear his testimony behind closed doors “for the protection of her privacy.”
Apostolou, who himself revealed his identity in an interview, claimed that the sex was consensual and that he planned to marry the young girl. “We were getting married and his mother agreed,” he told Proto Thema last year.
“Sexual and psychological violence”
According to the prosecutor, the accused “used sexual but also psychological violence against the minor so that she does not reveal her rape to her parents”. For the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the revelations of Sofia Bekatorou made it possible to “awaken the conscience”.
Faced with the scale of the movement, the Conservative government has toughened sentences for sexual assailants, extended the statute of limitations for assaults on minors and created a digital platform and telephone support lines for victims. Since the start of the September 2021 school year, sex education courses including the notion of consent have been provided in public schools.
In an interview at the end of December with the magazine Marie Claire, Sofia Bekatorou believes that “the #MeToo movement continues” in Greece “because of the large number of victims”. “#MeToo came like a river to cleanse wounds, help heal, motivate people to speak up,” she says.