A leading Greek sporting official has resigned over allegations that he sexually assaulted Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou. The revelation has sparked an urgent judicial investigation, prompting more alleged victims to speak out about similar sexual assaults. But prosecuting the alleged offenders may prove impossible due to ineffective laws.
Greeks are already calling her the silence breaker. And 23 years after the alleged rape took place during qualifying matches for the 2000 Games in Sydney, Sofia Bekatorou now says she wants more women victims to speak out.
"The messages I am receiving are hugely positive and supportive," she said.
Bekatorou says she knows more victims are out there in the field of sport and is calling on them all to make their accusations known.
A gold medalist at the 2004 Olympics in her homeland, Bekatorou referred to the alleged rape during an online conference organized by the Greek Sports Ministry over the weekend. She refused to name the official at the time, but when a local prosecutor called her in during an urgent probe, she is said to have identified Aristides Adamopoulos, then a senior member of the Hellenic Sailing federation. He is also a local official of the ruling New Democracy party.
Bekatorou is due to reappear before the prosecutor by Tuesday to provide additional details – accusations that Adamopoulos has not denied. Adamopoulos has urged he public to refrain from reaching what he called any rash decision.
Andonis Dimitrakopoulos, the president of the federation, said he pushed Adamopoulos to resign over the weekend to clear his name. Dimitrakopoulos said the sporting organization was not aware of the alleged assault and more importantly, would have helped put a lid on the entire affair if Adamopoulos had sought out the support of the federation. Bekatorou says the admission left her stunned.
"That the federation would respond to such a serious accusation in such a way is just regrettable," she said.
Two other leading athletes have since spoken out about similar alleged assaults, including national water polo champion Mania Bikoff, who alleges her team doctor sexually harassed her decades ago. The doctor, who was not named, did not respond to the accusation.
"I was going in for shoulder treatments and he was asking me to instead pull down my pants. He never did anything but would sit there and observe me naked," said Bikoff.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee has also opened an investigation.
For a small, close-knit society like Greece, public revelations of this sort are uncommon, even as #MeToo movements grip countries across the globe.
But even if a subtle change in the country's cultural mindset is starting to take form, pundits warn that laws lag far behind.
Rape offenders in Greece can face between five and 20 years in prison if convicted. A statue of limitations has already expired in the case of Adamopoulos.
Legal experts contacted by VOA say related laws should now be revised to have the timing on the statute of limitations begin when alleged victims like Bekatorou report the offense.