A Greek-Australian woman and two others who were patients of a Greek-Australian physician, Dr. Con Kyriacou, have independently lodged complaints against him for sexual assault, claiming they had been fondled and been required to often be naked before him.
Some of the alleged offenses occurred as far back as 1978, when Maria Moutsidis, 61, said she first visited him just before her 21st birthday for treatment of panic attacks and chronic anxiety, saying he was a trusted family doctor and prominent member of Melbourne’s Greek community.
The Sunday Age, in a feature by Cameron Houston and Chris Vedelago, reported how the three cases came together with the women emboldened by the #MeToo movement exposing predatory practices of powerful men who used their positions to violate women in various ways.
Moutsidis told the paper that Kyriacou, now 75 and with a condition his lawyer said has impaired his ability to remember, dealt with her in a warm, professional manner but she got suspicious when he started locking the consulting room door.
She, like the other complainants – Sandra Rokebrand, 52, and Suzii Crowley, 49, have independently lodged official complaints against Kyriacou, who is now the subject of a two-year investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA.)
An AHPRA spokeswoman confirmed the Medical Board of Australia had referred Dr. Kyriacou to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which is expected to be heard in January next year, the paper said, although he removed himself from the register of medical practitioners in August 2017.
Frustrated by the lengthy delays and determined to make Dr. Kyriacou accountable, they allowed The Age to identify them and publish harrowing details of their alleged assaults and why it took so long for the complaints to be brought, as they said they didn’t think authorities would believe what they said happened to them.
Moutsidis claimed Kyriacou would use every visit as a pretext to make sure she was nude for any examination. “For whatever medical reason that I came to see him, sore throat, anxiety, abdominal pain, he would ask me to fully undress. Always,” she said in a sworn statement to AHPRA on Jan. 2018.
“He would want to conduct stretching exercises, where I was asked to stretch backward whilst sitting on the examination table, (while) fully naked,” she said, without any reported indication why she complied or if she felt uncomfortable following those orders.
What the women said they recall especially was his heavy breathing and that they independently had made attempts to report him but during the alleged assaults decades ago they felt powerless to challenge a respected doctor who had also treated their friends and family.
Kyriacou did not respond to questions from The Sunday Age, the paper said, adding that his lawyer, John Petts said only that his client was suffering from a “significant cognitive impairment”.
“You have questioned how it could be that Dr Kyriacou cannot recall these patients but can deny the alleged actions. The answer is that when these allegations were first made, Dr Kyriacou was able to provide clear instructions and he denied the allegations,” Petts said.
OUT OF THE PAST
His alleged victims said there’s no fog about what they claim happened to them even after all these years, saying he was even panting when he “massaged” them as they put it.
But the passage of time has not dimmed the memories of his alleged victims, who distinctly recall his panting as he “massaged” them often.
Moutsidis, who has worked as an actress and singer for the past 35 years using the stage-name Maria Mercedes, said her encounter with Kyriacou tore at her for decades. “It’s not something you think about all the time, but it’s like a little devil sitting on your shoulder. You blame yourself and wonder if you did something to make it happen,” she said.
“I would be asked to stand with Dr Kyriacou standing behind me and he directing me to lean backwards onto him, whereby he proceeded to stretch my body and I would feel his erect penis, pressing behind me,” she said.
“He had tried to kiss me and succeeded once, sticking his tongue in my mouth. Another time he had me naked on the examination table and he proceeded to masturbate me. I pushed him away saying to him: ‘What are you doing?’ Dr Kyriacou replied: ‘I’m just trying to make you feel better,” Moutsidis alleged in her statement.
She accused Kyriacou of preying on “my vulnerability, my youth and by desperation to be healed,” and said that, “Throughout the decades that have passed, I always wanted to report him to the authorities. I think better to report him now, than never,” she said.
Crowley said she struggled for years about whether to report him before making a complaint in 2004 to the Medical Board of Australia in 2004 but withdrew it when she said she didn’t think she would be believed.
“For years, I have been in denial about it. It’s like something separate to me – that happened to someone else. I’d think about it over the years. Sometimes I’d feel angry, I’d think ‘what if he does it to some other girl’?” So in 2016 she reported him to the AHPRA.
She said she went to him in 2001 when she was trying to conceive and he conducted a vaginal exam without gloves and asked, “Are you quick to orgasm?”
“I was shocked. I was saying responses like, um…ah,” Crowley said in a sworn statement provided to AHPRA more than two years ago, adding he then began to knead her breasts and then put his arms around her and that, “I felt his penis against me.”
Rokebrand said she complained to the Medical Board of Australia in 2004, 2008 and again in 2016 after she said she had been discouraged by police eight years earlier from going forward.