Former EU Commissioner chided for victim shaming

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Former European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou found herself in a social media firestorm after a tweet about a rape case in Greece was perceived as victim-blaming.

Vassiliou posted a tweet on a news story concerning the alleged gang rape of a 24-year-old woman after being drugged at a Thessalonica hotel on New Year’s Eve.

“And how did the 24-year-old find herself in the hotel suite? One must know all the facts before jumping to conclusions,” Vassiliou tweeted.

The tweet caused a social media outcry, with users accusing her of blaming the rape victim.

It generated 722 comments and 500 retweets, but the backlash continued after Vassiliou apologised.

“How do you say ‘victim blaming’ in the Cypriot dialect?” one user wrote, while others pointed out that she is the vice-chair of the University of Cyprus board.

One of those offended by Vassiliou’s tweet was Greek Olympic gold medallist Sofia Bekatorou who reported she had been sexually assaulted, launching Greece’s #MeToo movement.

“It’s a shame if that’s your comment,” tweeted Bekatorou.

Dozens of athletes and women in both Cyprus and Greece were encouraged to come forward and report their abusers after Bekatorou spoke out.

Cyprus Olympic shooter Andri Eleftheriou was one of them.

Others asked Vassiliou what difference it would make how the woman got there.

“Maybe she was drunk, maybe not; it doesn’t matter when it comes to the actual act of rape,” replied a criminology professor at Thessalonica university.

To defuse the situation, Vassiliou posted: “Of course, it doesn’t, but it would be prudent for young girls to be aware of the dangers lurking around.”

This only prompted further anger.

In a third tweet, Vassiliou apologised, saying she had been misunderstood.

Her intention was not to suggest an excuse for the perpetrator but to highlight the need for girls to be twice as cautious with such invitations.

“I apologise if through my post I gave a false impression that I wanted to blame the victim.

“On the contrary, as a mother, I worry about young girls who fall victims to and are seduced by crooks”.

Reportedly, the 24-year-old woman was at a club in Thessaloniki on New Year’s Eve when she was approached by the owner of the club, who told her it was about to close at 2 am due to coronavirus restrictions.

He told her that a group of some 25 people would be heading to a hotel where they would continue partying.

Allegedly at the after-party, one of the guests had spiked her drink to be gang-raped by the owner of the club and another two well-known businessmen.