In a continuously evolving story that began with the accusations of a single Olympic champion against a high-ranking official of the Greek Sailing Federation, Greece has officially joined the #MeToo movement that engulfed the United States a few years ago.
In 2016, she made history by becoming the first female flag bearer for Greece in the history fo the Summer Olympics. Today, she’s carrying another flag for her country.
Sofia Bekatorou, one of Greece’s most beloved athletes who won a gold medal for sailing in 2004 and multiple world championships throughout her career, went public with accusations against a member of the sailing federation.
Bekatorou’s accusations triggered a wave of resignations and even forced the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to cut critical funding from Greece’s sailing federation.
The public accusations emboldened dozens of victims— men and women— to come forward and share their own #MeToo experiences not only in the sports world, but in the arts world, as well.
“MeTinSofia” (which means “with Sofia” in Greek) went viral on social media in Greece and continues to be an unofficial anthem of victims as they come forward one by one.
The scandals have rocked all levels of Greek society, not only because of the taboo nature of the subject in Greece, but also because so many of the accused are well-known, high profile names in the country.
By nature, Greeks have often shied away from public conversations about sexual abuse— typical of conservative, patriarchal societies. Furthermore, with no sex education in the Greek public school system, the topic of sexual aggression or abuse doesn’t have a prominent platform amongst young people.
But all of that has changed as the #MeToo movement is front and center on Greek television and front pages pf practically every newspaper in the country.
In January, three female actors published a joint statement accusing actor and director Kostas Spyropoulos of sexual harassment. He is one of the most familiar faces on Greek television.
Shocking accusations of verbal and physical abuse have also been leveled against household names in Greece like the well-known director George Kimoulis and Dimitris Lignadis, the former artistic director of Greece’s National Theater, who resigned on February 6 after a flurry of accusations from several male actors who claimed he took advantage of his power in the industry and sexually harassed them.
According to a survey by the Greek non-profit Actionaid, 85 percent of female respondents said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The same organization has launched a public service campaign targeting women who have abused called “Speak Out,” encouraging women that they are not alone.
Another poll by ProRata found more than 90% of those harassed or abused did not believe they could get any legal support, based on existing laws.
The government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis has promised to revise the law on sexual crimes, which forces accusers to report incidents with three months of the alleged attack, placing many of the past incidents in the media today outside of Greek law’s statute of limitations for prosecution.
The government announced it will also introduce reforms encouraging athletes to report incidents and strengthening their representation in sports federation boards, make sex education mandatory in schools– Greece is one of the only Western countries with no sex education curriculum in schools– and set up a code of conduct for state organizations in the arts.
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