Landmark rape trial of Greek sailing coach begins

Athens (AFP) – The landmark trial of a Greek sailing coach accused of raping a minor opens in Athens on Wednesday, a year after an Olympic champion effectively launched the #MeToo movement there by speaking out about her experiences.


The 38-year-old suspect, who has so far not been named by authorities, allegedly raped an 11-year-old athlete in 2010.

The case is one of many that came to light after former Olympic sailing gold medal winner Sofia Bekatorou broke the taboo on speaking out on such matters in December 2020.

She said that she herself had been subjected to "sexual harassment and abuse" by a senior federation member after trials for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was 21 years old at the time.

Her revelations led to other women speaking up about being assaulted, and more than three years after it started in the United States, the #MeToo movement was born in Greece.

Over the past year, allegations of sexual assaults suffered by female athletes, students, journalists and actresses have been pouring in. Some of those speaking out say they were still minors when the assaults happened.

The trial opening on Wednesday over the alleged rape of the 11-year-old athlete, springs from allegations first revealed by Bekatorou.

With the consent of the woman concerned, she brought it to the attention of prosecutors in January 2021, and she will be a witness at the trial.

The alleged victim says that when she was 11 years old she had several non-consensual sexual encounters with her 38-year-old 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.

'Sexual and psychological violence'

Bekatorou, a gold medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, says the abuse she herself suffered cannot be brought to court as it happened more than 20 years ago and so falls outside the statute of limitations.

But her actions have already brought about change.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has praised Bekatorou for speaking out, saying her decision raised awareness of the issue.

Faced with the scale of the emerging problem, the conservative government has introduced tougher penalties for sexual abusers and extended the statute of limitations for the abuse of minors, as part of a package of measures.

The authorities have also set up an online platform for reporting incidents in real time and telephone help lines 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.

But Bekatorou herself 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."