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#MeToo Greece

#MeToo – An Olympic athlete broke the code of silence in Greece

An Olympic athlete’s brave decision to go public on being sexually assaulted inspired others to come forward, prompting a #MeToo movement in Greece.

When Greek Olympic gold medalist Sofia Bekatorou decided to speak out last month about the sexual assault that she had suffered almost 23 years ago by a high-ranking Hellenic sailing federation official, few could imagine the wave of shocking revelations that would follow and the accusations that were to come by other well-known Greek women.

For a long time, Bekatorou was one of the countless victims who remained silent because of the fear of being stigmatized if they spoke out, in a society that is considered to be rather conservative and has long ignored the issue. When the MeToo movement swept the world a few years ago, little was felt of it in Greece.

Her recent decision to name publicly the person who assaulted her opened the bag of Aeolus of sexual harassment revelations not only in Greek sports, but also in other professional fields. Even though her disclosure was made at a little-advertised online sports seminar, it gained national attention, elicited statements of support from the country’s prime minister and president, and was followed by resignations and dozens of public accusations of sexual misconduct, abuse of power and workplace intimidation in the areas of sports, entertainment and academia.

BEKATOROU PROMPTED A GREEK #METOO MOVEMENT

Following her brave statement, several other athletes and actresses came forward and talked publicly about the traumatic experiences about all kinds of violence that they have suffered, with the Greek Supreme Court urging prosecutors to make responding to these claims a priority.

Particularly in the cultural industry – theater, television and music – the list of prominent figures facing serious sexual harassment accusations continues to grow almost daily, sparking a public outcry on social media. “We consider it our obligation to our children and all young people to support the publication of such incidents so that they are reduced and even eliminated,” three actresses wrote on social media, jointly accusing a well-known Greek actor and director for sexual harassment.

The avalanche of revelations that keep coming out every day finally provides a strong basis for opening up an important debate on abusive practices against women in Greece, not only in their personal but also in their professional lives.

“I’m very happy that they came forward and spoke out”, Bekatorou said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We need to embrace people who have lived through such experiences, because it’s a very big step, even talking about it.” The Olympic medalist said she hoped the reaction marks a turning point for the Greek society.

ONE IN TWO EMPLOYEES HAVE EXPERIENCED SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

A recent survey conducted by KMOP – Social Action and Innovation Centre, one of the oldest NGOs in Greece, depicts the troubling situation regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.

Over half of the participants (52.38%) in the survey reported that they had experienced sexual harassment in their professional lives, while 42.86% stated that they had witnessed sexual harassment of colleagues in their workplace. The vast majority (91.27%) believed that women are far more exposed to workplace sexual harassment than men.

The study also examined the existing framework in Greek businesses to combat sexual harassment. A significant number (39.68%) of employees were not aware of their employers’ policies for assisting those experiencing sexual harassment, while a large majority (73.02%) of businesses do not actively pursue a policy of supporting anonymous complaints on sexual harassment. At the same time, many of those who have experienced sexual harassment are wary of coming forward as there is still significant social stigma in Greece with doing so.

The authors of the study point out that Greece has yet to fully come to terms with the phenomenon of sexual harassment in the workplace, as most persons who have experienced it are hesitant to come forward and share their story. While a legal framework is in position to provide justice, it is considered slow, costly, and it does not properly compensate the victim.

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