ATHENS — One girl was suffocated, her physique discovered subsequent to her child. One other was pushed off a cliff. Yet one more was stabbed 23 occasions.
The extremely publicized and horrific killings, together with a steep rise in home violence instances in Greece previously yr, have pushed partner-on-partner violence into the highlight in a rustic the place such abuse has lengthy been whispered about however hardly ever publicly mentioned.
“For many years, the Greek justice system confirmed leniency to abusers citing ‘crimes of ardour,’” Clio Papapantoleon, a distinguished lawyer, mentioned. Now, she notes, she is receiving a surge in requests for illustration from victims of home violence.
The violence has led to interventions by the authorities, together with a choice to start out a nationwide video marketing campaign in November that urges ladies to depart abusers and provides free emotional help and authorized recommendation. The video flashes apologies — “I didn’t imply it,” “My child,” “I’m sorry” — in knife-shaped blocks of textual content. The police have opened particular workplaces to take care of home abuse instances.
However activists and officers say that rather more must be completed to forestall extra ladies from dying or struggling silently for years. That features extra coaching for cops, who critics complain generally fail to notice warning indicators. In a single current case that horrified the nation, a girl was stabbed to demise simply weeks after the police did not intervene when referred to as by a frightened neighbor.
The rise in home abuse mirrors will increase elsewhere that, partially, seem like a side effect of Covid lockdowns, prompting the United Nations to talk of a “shadow pandemic.” Pope Francis has additionally addressed the difficulty, denouncing the rise in home violence worldwide as “almost satanic.”
In Greece, the police recorded acts of home violence towards 5,705 ladies within the first 10 months of final yr, up practically 60 p.c from the identical interval of 2020. A number of the leap might be attributed to extra ladies talking up, however that doesn’t diminish the scope of the abuse.
The variety of ladies who have been killed in episodes of home violence was up, too — to 16 within the first 10 months of 2021, from 9 for the entire of 2020.
The brutality of the killings in Greece final yr shocked the nation, dominated protection within the information media and, in some instances, made international headlines.
The violence has fueled debate on a subject that till lately had been nearly taboo in Greece, mentioned Vasiliki Petousi, a sociologist and head of gender analysis on the College of Crete.
“The importance of the household in Greece, and its unity, has usually spurred many ladies, and sometimes their relations, to hide their abuse,” Ms. Petousi mentioned. However extra ladies are talking out, one thing she attributed partially to a rise in public consciousness campaigns and media protection. A call by the Olympic crusing champion Sofia Bekatorou final January to make public sexual assault allegations against a sailing federation official prompted broader dialogue about abuse on the whole, Ms. Petousi added.
One other pivotal second got here in Could with the demise of Caroline Crouch, killed whereas her baby was close by. Her husband, Charalambos Anagnostopoulos, a Greek helicopter pilot, admitted to suffocating her and is awaiting trial on homicide costs.
Katerina Kostaki, a psychologist at a counseling heart in Athens, one in every of a nationwide community of 43 such facilities, mentioned that the gravity of the violence had spurred extra victims to come back ahead. “Girls have been so scared that they’d be subsequent that they began speaking,” she mentioned.
The facilities and a 24-hour cellphone line have been busy. In 2021, the facilities acquired 5,491 visits, up from 4,925 within the earlier yr, and the cellphone line obtained 6,797 calls, up from 4,619 in 2019.
“The figures present the influence of the pandemic on abuse,” mentioned Maria Syrengela, the Greek deputy labor minister in control of gender equality. “The violence has actually elevated, however so have appeals for help as ladies listened, realized and trusted that there are services to go to and consultants to take heed to them.”
In the identical month that the federal government started its video marketing campaign, the Greek Supreme Court docket prosecutor, Vasilis Pliotas, referred to as for instances of home violence to be fast-tracked, referring to “excessive, inconceivable, unrestrained, abhorrent and exceptionally harsh homicides which have shocked society.”
The Greek police additionally plan to open extra particular home abuse workplaces. Over the previous two years, some 73 workplaces have been launched nationwide to watch such instances. As well as, six frontline items, with personnel specifically educated to help victims, opened in metropolis precincts on the finish of final yr — 5 in Athens and one in Thessaloniki.
The Greek public order minister, Takis Theodorikakos, mentioned this previous week that extra frontline items could be opened to sort out the issue, citing the current rise in instances.
Even with the eye on home violence, there have been indications of cops mishandling abuse instances. In July, two cops have been suspended after failing to adequately reply to a name for assist by a girl reporting home violence being dedicated towards one other girl in her condominium block within the Athens suburb of Dafni. The decision had been flagged by the emergency service as “excessive precedence,” however the two officers who went to the scene didn’t intervene.
Lower than three weeks later, the girl who had been abused was stabbed to death. The police mentioned that her husband had confessed and was in custody, charged with homicide.
Ms. Papapantoleon, the lawyer, mentioned an entrenched view by the police that home abuse was not all the time severe had precluded systematic motion. She mentioned that officers wanted extra coaching.
Giorgos Kalliakmanis, the top of the police union for southeastern Athens, the place the Dafni stabbing occurred, mentioned that officers have been instructed to take home violence significantly however that extreme calls for on them and a scarcity of specialised coaching may very well be obstacles.
“Officers are overworked, coping with instances starting from checks on Covid measures to thefts,” he mentioned. “If 90 p.c of home instances they’ve responded to previously are easy arguments, they may not give sufficient weight to the extra severe incidents.”
He referred to as the actions taken within the Dafni killing an “remoted incident,” noting that the officers despatched to the scene “didn’t consider it correctly and may have dealt with it in another way.”
The pressure is attempting to raised put together its officers to answer instances of home violence and commenced specialised coaching programs on the finish of the final yr with the assistance of psychologists and prosecutors, he added.
The justice system has additionally been criticized. These convicted of abuse are generally given lenient sentences as a result of they declare to have been provoked or as a result of they haven’t any prior convictions. Ms. Papapantoleon mentioned that limits may very well be launched on the quantity by which sentences may very well be diminished due to such mitigating circumstances.
The political opposition, notably the leftist Syriza get together, has proposed that the time period femicide be included in Greece’s felony code as a separate offense carrying heavier punishment.
An initiative has additionally been taken on the European degree. In December, the European Fee laid out rules to tackle hate crimes, together with gender-based violence, after calls by European Parliament members in September for these offenses to be categorized as a “significantly severe crime.”
Ms. Syrengela, the minister, mentioned that Greece aimed to do extra to fight abuse.
An “motion plan for sexual equality” unveiled in December consists of initiatives aimed toward curbing home violence, together with extra public consciousness drives and bolstering the participation of ladies in decision-making roles within the labor market and elsewhere.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis mentioned that the plan would sort out Greece’s “social illnesses,” together with violence towards ladies.
“There’s a enormous silent majority which are nonetheless not talking out,” mentioned Ms. Petousi, the professor, who referred to as for extra counseling facilities and different sensible measures to encourage victims of violence to come back ahead. “There may be a lot, a lot, rather more to be completed.”