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Letter from Athens: Rape Is Rape, Ignorance Is Ignorance: What’s Evil?

January 30, 2022

Georgia Bika, 24, has had enough Greek tragedy in her life, losing her parents and partner to illnesses and being struck down so, being alone, she decided on New Year’s Eve to go out with a friend.

That led to them being at a party in a luxury hotel in Thessaloniki, surrounded by the sharks who live on the land.

They had been at a club that closed past the allowed time under COVID-19 restrictions when she said the owner invited them to the after-hours party, which investigators later probed as part of an alleged ring to lure young women to take care of rich men who have many needs.

You’d think being rich and in an age of social media when you can go on the Internet and advertise you’re interested in any lewd and lurid act – for which there’d be a line of people willing to partake – that they wouldn’t have to have personal pimps and drug women.

That’s what Bika said happened to her in an interview with a Greek journalist, and for a couple of days it was a sensational story. That has already faded, but not as fast as the snow on Attiki Odos where thousands of people were trapped in their cars during a snow storm, but that is another matter.

This is a story that shouldn’t go away, but with a mix of the rich and powerful and reports police were covering for a sex ring that reached as far as Cyprus too, and in a country where organized crime controls many clubs, this probably won’t have a happy ending.

For months, police have said they were going to act like Gangbusters and go all Untouchables on organized crime, but that hasn’t happened, and where did all the #MeToo people go?

And, unlike the case of Olympic sailing gold medalist Sofia Bekatorou, who had droves of supporters – including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – after said she was raped years ago by a sailing official who can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired, Bika’s on her own.

She doesn’t have a father or brother to find justice – one way or the other – if what she said is true, which still must be proved in a court of law, so there’s a presumption of innocence even if one of the suspects said ‘she wanted it.’

You don’t have to be a chicken to know a rotten egg when you see one, and if what she alleges is true then the seaminess of sexual abuse in Greece – mostly women but young men too – stinks even worse than we thought.

#HERTOO

Even if it gets to a court, she would probably find, as the late persecuted comic Lenny Bruce said of deals being made there that, “the only justice in the halls of justice is in the halls.”

It has to get that far, and she has accused two brothers in a powerful family as among three men not otherwise named who she said approached her in an elevator in the hotel after she decided to get a room, not wanting – as she said – to go back an empty apartment where she had “only the walls” for solace.

“Two of them were the Levendi brothers,” she said in the interview without further identification, although earlier reports said they were from the family that founded the London-based International Foundation for Greece (IFG).

The third was said to be the son of a Piraeus ship owner named Perogiannakis, according to the report, but there’s been no response from either family – nor from any politician of note in Greece who seem to have shrunk into the woodwork.

But there was one from Cyprus that reeked of ignorance and outright stupidity – former European Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, Vice-Chairperson of the Council of the University of Cyprus, who appeared to blame Bika.

Vassiliou tweeted: “And how did the 24-year-old find herself in the hotel suite? One must know all the facts before jumping to conclusions,” drawing fury from critics, but her position at the university wasn’t affected.

Cyprus’ former presidential spokesman, Victoras Papadopoulos, asserted that “rape is rape,” but the Cyprus Mail said a British woman who said she was gang raped on the island – and who was convicted of lying before saying it was coerced – got no such support from male politicians there either.

There was a righteously proper furious backlash against Vassiliou, with 722 comments and 500 retweets. “How do you say ‘victim blaming’ in the Cypriot dialect?” one user wrote. Bekatorou tweeted: “It’s a shame if that’s your comment.”

There was a rally in Athens for Bika and later there were anti-rapist slogans spray painted on a statue wanting them dead, but nothing from Mitsotakis so far.

It was unclear why Vassiliou thought going to a party was ‘wrong’ and she was scalded for it online. “Maybe she was drunk, maybe not; it doesn’t matter when it comes to the actual act of rape,” replied a criminology professor at Thessalonica university.

Trying to explain herself, if awkwardly, Vassiliou posted: “Of course, it doesn’t, but it would be prudent for young girls to be aware of the dangers lurking around.” Yes, especially around her.

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