ATHENS – A spate of sexual scandals in Greece that hadn’t brought any major trials now has seen a sailing coach accused of raping a minor to face a court while prosecution of defendants in other rape cases is ongoing.
In his testimony the coach- Triantafyllos Apostolou – who hadn’t been named but identified himself in a newspaper earlier, said he was “in love” with the girl, who was 11 years old when the alleged abuse occurred.
“We were to be married and her mother had agreed,” he told Proto Thema in admitting what he’d done, although the girl was below the age of consent in Greece for sex, which is only 15 in Greece, although girls younger than that have been married with parents’ agreement.
He told the court that he didn’t began forceful encounters with the girl who he was training, the British newspaper The Guardian said in a report on the proceedings being closely watched by those in the #MeToo movement.
The prosecution has accused the coach of using “psychological violence against the minor” to stop her telling her parents what had happened. The Greek daily quoted him as telling a magistrate that he had begun to have sexual relations with “my athlete … from the beginning of 2012”.
Judges ruled that the woman, who is now 22 and a prominent member of Greece’s national sailing team, could testify behind closed doors because the alleged offenses occurred when sher was a minor.
Speaking outside the courtroom, the athlete, who has requested that her name not be disclosed, also said that she hoped the trial would encourage others to come forward.
“It’s a painful procedure,” she told reporters. “We are still at the beginning but we are a family and we are here to fight, altogether and for all the others who follow and I hope will follow.”
Attending the proceedings was Sofia Bekatorou, an Olympic sailing champion who said she was raped years earlier by a coach who denied the charges but has since resigned and not being prosecuted because of time limitations on charges.
PLIGHT OF WOMEN
“Today’s trial is very symbolic,” said Bekatorou, whose coming forth broke a long silence about alleged sex offenses in Greece’s athletic, arts, and media sectors and has brought new attention.
“I am here to support her (the alleged victim) in every way. She is a very brave young woman. It’s never an easy process,” she said. In the year since she came forward, politicians and other supporters have rallied to her side and the cause of exposing sexual harassment, including alleged rape in a country where some 95 percent of cases aren’t reported.
Greek President Katerina Sakelloropoulou also spoke out in denunciation of exploitation, mostly of women but with the former director of the national theater facing charges of raping minor males.
“When there is no way for someone to pay for the crimes he has committed, it is very difficult for the victim,” Bekatorou told the paper. “Through her trial we are vindicating all the other women, all (those) who are victims and have suffered violence.”
The trial came as Greece has seen a rise in domestic violence and murders of women by their husbands and partners in an outbreak of femicide putting the spotlight on a patriarchal culture.
The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, will, it is hoped, encourage others to speak up, said Bekatorou, who is scheduled to testify as a witness for the prosecution when it resumes later in January.
In 2021, the government of prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has praised Bekatouros for speaking up, put forward legislation to extend the statute of limitations as many alleged victims don’t make complaints for years or decades.