The landmark trial of a Greek sailing coach accused of raping a child has opened in Athens, a year after an Olympic champion effectively launched the #MeToo movement in the country by speaking out about her experiences.
The case is one of many that came to light after Sofia Bekatorou, a former Olympic sailing gold medal winner, broke the taboo on speaking out on such matters in December 2020.
Bekatorou, who is a witness at the trial, did not speak to reporters as she arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday.
Triantafyllos Apostolou, 38, who outed himself in a newspaper interview last year, allegedly raped an 11-year-old athlete in 2010.
Bekatorou has said that she herself was subjected to “sexual harassment and abuse” by a senior federation member after trials for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was 21 at the time.
Her revelations prompted other women to speak out about being assaulted, and more than three years after it started in the US, the #MeToo movement was born in Greece.
Over the past year, allegations of sexual assaults suffered by female athletes, students, journalists and actors have surfaced. Some of those speaking out say they were still minors when the assaults took place.
Bekatorou brought the alleged victim in the current trial, with her consent, to the attention of prosecutors in January 2021.
The alleged victim says that when she was 11 years old she had several non-consensual sexual encounters with her coach who is now on trial.
The accused “used sexual but also psychological violence against the minor so that she would not reveal her rape to her parents”, according to the prosecutor.
In an interview last year, the suspect claimed the sex was consensual and that he intended to marry the girl.
“We were to be married and her mother had agreed,” the coach told Proto Thema daily.
Bekatorou, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said the abuse she herself suffered could not be brought to court as it happened more than 20 years ago and so fell outside the statute of limitations.
But her actions have already brought about change. The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has praised Bekatorou for speaking out, saying her decision raised awareness of the issue.
The conservative government has recently introduced tougher penalties for sexual abusers and extended the statute of limitations for the abuse of minors. The authorities have also set up an online platform for reporting incidents in real time and telephone helplines for victims.
Since the beginning of the school year in September, sex education courses – including the concept of consent – have been taught in public schools.
Bekatorou insists much remains to be done. “The #MeToo movement continues,” she told Marie-Claire magazine in an interview published last month. “It is alive because of the great number of victims of abuse.”