Victim-blaming muzzles Greece’s battered women

Athens: Efforts to combat domestic violence in Greece lag far behind those of other European countries, with deep-seated prejudices often leaving victims afraid to seek help, say experts and battered women themselves.

Maria, a civil servant in her 30s, said she was told at an Athens police station after her then boyfriend beat her up: "If you don't file a complaint now, you deserve being beaten."

In a side street near Athens' city hall, Agapi Gyrichidi offers psychological and legal help to battered women.

"In Greece, the stereotypes are still great," she said in the sober office of the Research Centre on Gender Equality (KETHI).

"Women think they have to be patient, that things will get better, that they will be bad mothers if they leave the home," she told AFP.

"We try to give them the confidence to press ahead despite their fears."

Maria, who declined to give her family name, said she hesitated for more than a year before denouncing her boyfriend.

The last straw came when he beat her up in an Athens street, leaving her with a black eye. While the police intervened, she had to make her way to the station unaccompanied and on foot.

At the police station, one officer "didn't understand why my boyfriend was so violent, asking me: 'what did you do to him?'"

Maria also told of negative comments aimed at her by neighbours.

"Lots of people think women are to blame for men's behaviour, that this kind of violence... belongs to the private sphere and people shouldn't get involved," she added.

Her ex-boyfriend was convicted but for other crimes -- and there was no compensation.

In Greece's patriarchal society, women are often cloaked in a blanket of silence and violence against them usually stays within the family, says Maria Stratigaki, a professor of social policy at Athens' Panteion University.

"It is considered a private matter, the state doesn't get involved," added Stratigaki, who specialises in gender equality.

"The mentality is also fed by the influential Orthodox Church, which advocates a traditional image of the family where the man is the boss."

Greece did not see its first centres for abused women until 2011 -- "30 years after other European countries" -- Stratigaki noted. - AFP