Greek Olympic champion calls for more to come forward on sexual abuse

Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou leaves the prosecutor's office, following her statements on being sexually assaulted by a sports official in 1998, in Athens, Greece, January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Former Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou told Greek prosecutors on Wednesday about the sexual assault she said she faced from a sailing federation official more than 20 years ago and called on others to come forward.

Bekatorou, who won gold in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, has unleashed a long-suppressed debate in Greece over sexual abuse, winning broad political backing and praise from President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

"I testified regarding my personal case," she said, as she left the prosecutor's office after a three hour meeting. "I hope other women and people will come out and speak so society can be healthier and we will not be afraid to speak out."

The comments were reported in Greek news websites Proto Thema and iefimerida.

Bekatorou, now 43, broke more than two decades of silence late last year with an account of how she had been assaulted by a senior member of the Greek sailing federation as a 21 year-old at the start of her career in 1998.

For Greece's generally socially conservative society, her account came as a deep shock, giving the country its first direct taste of the kind of sexual abuse allegations highlighted internationally by the "MeToo" campaign.

Although under Greece's statute of limitations, the incident occurred too long ago for prosecution, Bekatorou's testimony may help more recent cases come to light as prosecutors investigate. A number of allegations have emerged in other sectors besides sport.

Earlier this week, Elli Stai, a prominent former television presenter, wrote in the daily Ta Nea about an assault when she was beginning her career in the 1980s and her guilt at feeling she could not report the incident to anyone in authority.

A group of students in Thessaloniki in northern Greece have also complained about sexual harassment at their university.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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