Article by Anna Whicmann for Greek Reporter
In Greece, six women have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in a period of just seven months. The series of brutal, disturbing crimes, which many argue should be called femicides, has highlighted the issue of domestic violence in abuse in the country.
The latest murder happened in the neighborhood of Dafni in Athens on Friday. On the afternoon of July 30, a 40-year-old man willingly appeared at a police station in Athens to confess to the murder of his 31-year-old wife.
The police then entered the home, where they found the victim’s body. When asked why he committed the crime, the murderer simply stated that he was jealous.
Despite his attempts to appear like a good family man toward the outside world, friends of the victim claimed that she revealed that she was being abused by her husband before the murder.
Shockingly, neighbors called the police to report domestic violence in the home just over two weeks before the murder. Two police officers arrived at the scene, where neighbors had heard the woman screaming, but never went upstairs to the apartment.
Those two officers were put on temporary leave while the Greek Police investigate their handling of the case.
On Saturday, the Greek Ministry for Civil Protection stated that police officers are “required to do their duty,” and that “there is no place in the Greek Police Force” for those who don’t.
Often, when women are killed in domestic violence situations, the public wonders how such a horrendous crime could go unnoticed and unreported by the people around her. Many argue that intervention could have stopped some of these violent murders.
Yet it seems that despite warnings and reports, no action was taken, causing the public to call for answers, and potentially more robust support systems for victims and harsher punishments for abusers in Greece.
Murder of Caroline Crouch shocked Greece
The issue of abuse came to the forefront of Greek society when 20-year-old Caroline Crouch was murdered next to her newborn baby by her 33-year-old husband Babis Anagnostopoulos in the Athenian suburb of Glyka Nera.
The murder shocked the public, as violent crime is relatively rare in the country, and killings of this type are not common. As time went on, and details emerged, the case became even more disturbing.
Anagnostopoulos, a helicopter pilot, confessed to killing his wife and staging the scene, which included killing the family dog and disabling security cameras, to make it seem as though strangers entered the home and murdered his young wife.
He blamed the crime on foreigners, stating that the intruders were speaking broken Greek and could have been Albanian, an ethnic group that is often the victim of discrimination in Greece.
After two month of professing his innocence and blaming a mysterious group of foreigners, Anagnostopoulos was arrested and confessed to the crime.
Investigators had determined from text messages that the couple had fought the night before the murder, and that Crouch was determined to leave her husband.
From the statements of her friends and family, and her own diary entries, the police pieced together a picture of a relationship based on control, abuse of power, and manipulation.
Crouch femicide sparked country-wide discussion of femicide, abuse
The murder of the young woman, who was raised on the island of Alonissos, disturbed Greek society.
The fact that her husband seemingly disposed of her so easily, almost as though she were an object, distressed the country, who faced the brutal reality of domestic violence.
Additionally, questions of racism and discrimination emerged in Greece after many felt that Anagnostopoulos’ accusation that the intruders were foreigners was too easily believed.
At this time, feminists and victim’s rights advocates in Greece pushed the public to face this crime as a femicide, or the murder of a woman because of her sex. They argued that Crouch’s womanhood enabled her murderer to see her as his possession, a possession he felt he could get rid of when it was convenient for him.
While the murder of the young mother at the hands of her husband was the crime that set off the discussion surrounding murdered women in Greece, it was not the first femicide in the country in the past seven months.
Young woman, brother, murdered by estranged husband
Just one month before Crouch’s murder, 28-year-old Konstantina Tsapa and her brother were murdered by her estranged husband in Makrinitsa, a village near the city of Volos.
Tsapa left her husband, who went on to brutally stab her and her brother, after years of abuse.
Experts and victim’s advocates argue that the time after leaving an abusive partner is actually the most dangerous period for the victim, as the abuser feels that they are losing control and are willing to do anything to get it back, including murder.
Like Anagnostopoulos, Tsapa’s murderer claimed in his confession that he “blacked out” before stabbing the young mother.
He claimed that he went to the victim’s house, with a knife, to visit his child, and the young mother and her brother wouldn’t allow him to see the child, causing him to murder them in a rage.
Femicides in Crete, Athens
Earlier in the year, in January 2021, a 54-year-old woman living in Meskla, Crete was killed by her 47-year-old husband, who is Norwegian.
The man claims that he stabbed his wife, who was the mother of two children, 14 times because he was drunk. He asserts that he was so drunk that he does not remember committing the horrifying crime.
In early June, a woman, aged 64, was killed by her 75-year-old ex-husband in the Athenian suburb of Agia Varvara. Her body was found in a pool of her blood just outside of her apartment building.
Her former spouse, who allegedly was so abusive that he would beat his ex-wife brutally in public, according to a friend of the victim, claimed that he shot the woman because her “behavior [toward him] was totally despicable.”
Young woman in Greece murdered by boyfriend in what he calls a “bad moment”
While on vacation with her boyfriend on the island of Folegandros, a young woman named Garyfallia, 26, was horribly beaten and then thrown off a cliff into the sea by her partner.
The man, aged 30, claimed that he killed the victim in what he calls a “bad moment” because she was “making fun” of him.
According to the coroner’s report, Garyfallia was brutally beaten and then thrown off a cliff into the rocky sea below while she was still alive.
When her body was first discovered in the sea by fisherman, police were immediately suspicious of foul play, because she had an injury on her eye that was consistent with a beating.
Her boyfriend was missing at the time, but was found sitting alone on a nearby beach the day after the murder.
Despite the evidence, the confessed killer asserts that he never beat her, only that he pushed her off the cliff to her death.
Coronavirus lockdowns were hell for domestic violence victims
While much of the world was locked down at home, staying safe from the coronavirus, victims of domestic violence were trapped at home with their abusers, in what can only be described as hell.
Without any excuse to leave the home to escape the violence, victims were left at the mercy of their torturers, many of whom became even more violent due to the stresses of the pandemic, including loss of work.
In Greece alone, calls to 15900, the emergency distress line for crimes against women, including victims of domestic violence, increased by 230% during the country’s first lockdown.
The majority of calls, 84%, were related to domestic violence. Married couples make up 56% of the instances of domestic abuse, and those in intimate relationships make up 13%. A total of 12% involve members of the family, such as fathers, brothers, or other relatives.
The World Health Organization (WHO) posted a warning on their social media sites about the rise in violence against women due to COVID-19.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, risks of violence increase due to: More time at home with abusers! Rising stress! Isolation from social support networks! Limited access to critical services! We must END violence!
“Violence against women is causing harm to millions of women and their families and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine.”