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Landmark rape trial of Greek sailing coach begins after #MeToo revelations

The landmark case came after revelations by Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou. - CopyrightAP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File

A former Olympic sailing coach has gone on trial in Greece for allegedly raping a child in a case that was driven by the country's #MeToo movement.

Triantafyllos Apostolou is accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old sailing federation athlete in 2010.

The 38-year-old appeared before an Athens criminal court on Wednesday and has denied the charges. The case against him was launched after a Greek sailing champion broke the taboo to speak about the abuse she suffered.

The revelations made by Sofia Bekatorou -- a 2004 Olympic gold medalist -- sparked Greece's #MeToo movement in December 2020. Bekatorou, who was called as a witness for the prosecution, did not speak to reporters when she arrived in court. Other women rallied in solidarity outside the courthouse, some holding up signs saying "we are full of rage".

#MeToo prompts new measures in Greece

Three years after the #MeToo movement spread across the United States, more Greek athletes and women have also spoken publically about sexual abuse using #metisofia (#OnSofia'sSide). Bekatorou stated that -- aged 21 -- she had been sexually assaulted by an unidentified senior federation official in 1998, during preparations for the Sydney Olympic Games.

She also obtained consent to share revelations about Apostolou to prosecutors, leading to the latest trial.

"Sofia Bekatorou's decision to boldly denounce the sexual violence she suffered" has helped "raise awareness," stated Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Last February, Greece's government introduced a series of measures to combat sexual abuse, including tougher penalties and an extension of the statute of limitations.

A digital reporting platform and victim support lines have been set up to "break the silence," while consent classes have begun at Greek public schools.

'We must break the silence'

The now 21-year-old woman said she had had several non-consensual sexual encounters with her then coach, 18 years her senior.

She also told Greek television that she had been "systematically raped" and "physically and verbally abused" by Aspostolou since the age of nine.

"It took me ten years to understand that a child is not at fault," the 21-year-old said, adding that she "had the courage" to come forward after Bekatorou's revelations.

"We must break the silence, punish the abusers and end the stigmatisation of victims of sexual abuse," she said.

Prosecutors say that Apostolou “used sexual but also psychological violence against the minor so that she would not reveal her rape to her parents”.

It is understood that the 21-year-old's family had initially decided not to press charges but the woman now says she hopes her own case will serve other victims.

Apostolou, who revealed his identity in an interview in January 2021, said the sex was consensual and that he planned to marry the girl.


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