Gang rape or gang bang?
That’s really what people were trying to decide when they take sides in the sad case of a 19-year-old British woman who claimed she was sexually used and abused by 12 Israelis ranging from 15 to 19 in a hotel room in the Cypriot resort town of Aya Napa in July, 2019.
A judge didn’t believe her story because she retracted the allegation – she said it was under duress from an aggressive police interrogation – before she then recanted that story too and said it was rape and not consensual.
It’s likely no one apart from her and the boys and men who participated in this act will really know what happened, but it tore apart the island, and opinion, splitting people in a way that abortion used to do when there were ferocious rallies and protests from both sides.
What’s for certain is that it both riveted and divided the country and brought her legions of supporters there and around the world who believe it was a gang rape and not something she sought perhaps as a thrill.
It was she said/they said, and in the end the woman – who still hasn’t been named despite being convicted of lying, thereby technically meaning she wasn’t the victim of a sexual assault – has nonetheless been besmirched either way.
There’s just no upside to this personal tragedy of the soul and body, with the defenders of the men saying they were asserting their “manliness” in the double standard world where a sexually active man is a stud and a woman a slut.
Marios Christou, Chief Investigating Officer in the case, said she “admitted she reported the incident” because the men “were recording her having sex” and “she felt insulted,” as The New York Times reported.
He also pointed to inconsistencies between her statement and video footage from the night on which she said she was raped, and the judge didn’t believe her either, finding her guilty of lying about what happened, setting off a firestorm.
Just being accused of rape is enough to destroy a person’s life even if they are found innocent and it’s so rare for a woman to make a false accusation that in this case it raised the hackles of women’s groups and men too who felt this young woman’s rights were trampled and that she was forced into confessing what happened didn’t happen.
She was spared jail when a court gave her a four-month suspended sentence on the charge of public mischief but her defense team said they would appeal, although the ruling meant she could finally go home after being detained since last summer, and as the men initially accused had been able to depart, leaving her behind.
Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said although the public mischief charge was a serious offense, he decided to give the woman a “second chance” because she admitted through her lawyers during mitigation that she made a mistake in making the false rape claim.
He also cited other reasons, including her young age, immaturity, clean criminal record, personal circumstances, psychological condition, and the fact that she had already spent a month in detention during the six months that legal proceedings including her trial lasted.
Papathanasiou fined the woman 140 euros ($156) and told her defense lawyers that the sentence could be activated if she commits another serious offense within three years. Under Cyprus law, public mischief carries a maximum one-year prison term and a 1,700-euro ($2,000) fine.
The woman’s mother told reporters that she was “very relieved to be going home” after months of legal proceedings. Despite the suspended sentence, she said defense lawyers would try to overturn the conviction so that it’s expunged from her permanent record.
British lawyer Lewis Power, part of the woman’s defense team, said an appeal would be filed with Cyprus’ Supreme Court and possibly with the European Court of Human Rights for “elements of this case which did not result in a fair trial.”
“(The woman) intends to have a positive outlook to move on from this process, not to let this process ruin her life,” Power told The Associated Press. “She’s delighted today, not just for herself, but for the impact that this case has had on all those women that are the subject of sexual assaults around the world.
Her mother said she was “inspired and motivated” by the public support her daughter received from the UK, Israel and Cyprus, with widespread backing from women’s groups who said they believe her story of rape and that it wasn’t a sex act she wanted done to her.
What has poisoned the well is that there are indeed women who not only consent to this kind of activity but being filmed and it's all over the Internet, a practice that the likes of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton used to become rich and famous.
Greek model Julia Alexandratou admitted taking money to appear in sex tapes and it didn't hurt her career, but the case on Cyprus is more lurid because of the damage done to everyone who won't become rich or prosper, just suffer. Sex has been the undoing of many, and the late radio personality Don Imus used to say, “nobody goes through life undefeated,” but in this case everyone involved was winless.