By Veroniki Krikoni
Veroniki Krikoni is a Greek Language Author & Chief Editor at Global Voices.
Back in June this year, angry social media debates were sparked after a female student claimed she was sexually harassed by a priest on a public bus in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. The viral Facebook post was corroborated by another passenger who posted photos of the incident. Many reached out with comments of support, while others accused the student of fabricating the situation and posting fake photos to “grab attention and publicity”.
Although the website, Hellenic Hoaxes, later went on to post an analysis trying to prove the veracity of the photos and the story, the immediate public skepticism of the student’s claims speaks to the larger issue of sexual harassment towards women in Greek society.
“The history of a sexist society“
Stories of sexual abuse victims are not only limited to women, but also involve men and underage boys, as seen in the case of a priest texting sexual content to a 14-year-old boy via social media, or this even more shocking episode of sexual and mental abuse of disabled children by the director of a boarding school in Piraeus.
The incident in Thessaloniki provoked online discussion regarding the mentality of a society that incriminates the victim — especially when that victim is a woman. Many felt that most of the online criticism that the student received didn’t come from a logical place, but rather a snap judgment based on her purple hair and her personality as a pretext.
The Medium article, “Sexual Harassment in Greece: The Ostrich Policy”, further explores the frequency of this phenomenon in Greek society, going on to say:
…when asked about verbal sexual abuse, one woman in Athens commented that “it happens so often that [she] doesn’t even remember any distinctive incident” to tell us.
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), there were 234 reports of rape and attempted rape in Greece in 2013. The 2014 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey data results showed that since the age of 15, 1 in 4 women in Greece has experienced physical and/or sexual violence and that 25% of people in Greece knew a female victim of domestic violence within their circle of friends and family.
In 2006, Greece enacted Law 3500/2006 -“For combating domestic violence”- which criminalizes domestic violence, including marital rape. However, in March 2017, The Guardian published an article highlighting a report made by Equality Now which found that in Greece — among other countries — perpetrators of sexual violence may be legally exempt from punishment in certain circumstances if the girl is “deemed too young to consent” to sex.
Greek society, despite the important steps forward in recent years, remains mainly patriarchal. The mentality is still determined by stereotypes relating to traditional gender roles. The women-victims of violence are often accused by the social environment whereas the actions of the abuser are often justified.
In the meantime, some social media users, like this Facebook post by Elena Milioti, are responding to the sexual discrimination faced by women with bitter irony:
Sexual Harassment Complaint Guide1) Do not report sexual harassment by your ex or current sexual partner. It doesn’t exist.
2) Do not report sexual harassment if you are provocatively dressed. You were asking for it.
3) Do not report sexual harassment if you are modestly dressed. Nobody can get horny if you are dressed like this.
4) Do not report sexual harassment if you are thin. You were asking for it.
5) Do not report sexual harassment if you are not thin. Fat women do not get anybody horny, so it’s not possible that someone sexually harassed you.
6) Do not report sexual harassment if you did reported it immediately. If you were bothered by it, you would have reported it immediately
7) Do not report sexual harassment immediately. You are in a rush. Give it a little time
8) Do not report sexual harassment if the aggresor is very old. He cannot get aroused. If you managed to arouse him, be proud.
9) Do not report sexual harassment if the victim is too young. He is young and knows nothing. And it is a shame to destroy his future for a recklessness moment.
10) Do not report sexual harassment within your work environment. You got your job by giving blowjobs in the first place.
11) Do not report sexual harassment if you are a tourist. You do so to get a social benefit from your country.
12) Do not report sexual harassment if you work in the sex industry. You are a whore. Hello!????
13) Do not report sexual harassment if you have sex in general. You are a whore, too.
14) Do not report sexual harassment if it happened on the street. What were you doing alone on the street?
15) Do not report sexual harassment in the Tram, Metro and public transport in general. Who harasses someone in front of other people?
16) Do not report sexual harassment of it happened in a deserted area. What were you doing there alone?
17) Do not report sexual harassment if you have any evidence. If you were genuinely sexually harassed, you would not have the time to collect evidence. Your cool head is a suspect.
18) Do not report sexual harassment if you do not have any evidence. How else can we believe you?
19) Do not report sexual harassment if you have been drinking a beer or more. You remember wrong. You were horny but you forgot it.
20) Do not report sexual harassment if you are about to report sexual harassment.
All other times you ought to report it. They will believe you.