Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Monday praised the courage of Olympian Sophia Bekatorou for speaking out against sexual abuse in sport.
Sakellaropoulou said that her meeting with Bekatorou at the Presidential Mansion in Athens was “a minimal recognition of the bravery and dignity with which she shared her traumatic experience.”
Last week, the veteran sailing champion opened Pandora’s Box by detailing the assault she suffered when she was at the peak of her career at the young age of 21, at the hands of an important figure involved with the Hellenic Sailing Federation.
As a young athlete ascending to the heights of Greek sailing, Bekatorou stated that she suffered a horrific assault by a much older figure involved with her team, someone who she even had considered a “father figure.”
After an uproar was generated in social media and Greek society in general, other athletes also stepped forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment.
Carrying their trauma silently
Sakellaropoulou said her courage offered hope to other women who had suffered similar abuse in their personal and professional lives.
“To all those who carry their trauma silently for years, not daring to denounce it, because they know inwardly that they will be treated at best with pity or suspicion and at worst with contempt, ridicule, and even social stigma,” Sakellaropoulou said in a statement.
“I hope her brave revelation will blow like a rushing wind and sweep any hypocrisy, any cover-up attempt away… It is time to end the guilt of the victims and the impunity of the perpetrators,” she added.
“It is time to build a value system in which women will not be treated as potential prey, their weakness will not be seen as consent and their silence will not be criticized as quasi-complicity,” Sakellaropoulou stressed.
Support from politicians and society
The comments from Sakellaropoulou echoes leaders across the Greek political spectrum, from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to opposition leader Alexis Tspiras, who in a rare display of unity have all voiced support for Bekatorou.
They also add to growing pressure for more accountability from sporting federation officials, with Greek Deputy Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis saying on Sunday the government plans a bill allowing athletes to be represented on federation boards.
“We are determined to clean up this sector. The federation sector needs fresh oxygen,” he said.
Bekatorou was summoned to testify before prosecutor Sotiria Papageorgakopoulou on Wednesday.
Despite the launch of the prosecutor’s investigation, other possible victims of similar behavior must now come forward to testify in order for the case to be prosecuted, as the offenses Bekatorou described are now past the statute of limitations.
Newly-alleged crimes are inside statute of limitations
According to credible sources, it was reported on Wednesday that Bekatorou has now provided evidence that can be used to initiate a criminal prosecution, in her testimony to the public prosecutor who is conducting a preliminary examination into her allegations of sexual abuse.
For more than three hours, Bekatorou, the first key witness in the prosecution’s investigation, testified in front of Prosecutor Nikos Stafanatos.
The sources said that she has named another sailing athlete who may also be a victim of sexual abuse. The criminal act against her teammate is said to have been committed at a time when the offense was not outside of the statute of limitations.
Therefore, the athlete to whom Bekatorou referred will be immediately summoned by the prosecutor to testify, in order to confirm Bekatorou’s allegations. This may in turn lead to the “next link in the chain” of violent and degrading behaviors by federation officials targeting athletes.