Ex EU commissioner criticised over comments on rape case

Androulla Vassiliou

Former European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has found herself in trouble after comments she made over the weekend about a rape case in Greece that was branded as victim-blaming as reported by Cyprus Mail

Vassiliou took to Twitter to comment on a news story from Thessaloniki where a young woman said she was drugged and raped in a 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,” she wrote.

The tweet sparked outrage among social media users in Greece and Cyprus, who quickly commented on her tweet.

“How do you say ‘victim blaming’ in the Cypriot dialect?” one user wrote, while others demanded Vassiliou resign from her post as vice-chair of the University of Cyprus board.

Those who weighed in included Greek athlete Sofia Bekatorou, whose revelation of her own sexual assault prompted dozens of others to come out with their own accounts, sparking Greece’s #MeToo moment.

“It’s a shame if that’s your comment,” she Tweeted.

A criminology professor in Thessaloniki responded that “maybe she was drunk, maybe not, it doesn’t matter when it comes to the actual act of rape”.

“Of course it doesn’t,” Vassiliou replied, adding that “it would be prudent for young girls to be aware of the dangers lurking around”.

“Rape is rape, Mrs Vassiliou,” former presidential spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos tweeted, “a condemnable and heinous act. Anything else is irrelevant”.

Papadopoulos added that such comments are infuriating, especially coming from women, and “considering this one came from the vice-chair of UCY’s board”.

Similarly, Diko’s Athos Antoniades called on Vassiliou to retract her “senseless and dangerous” comment, as a former EU youth commissioner.

“Does how the victim got there excuse or mitigate attempted rape?” he said, adding that when police investigate a rape case “personal conclusions are not relevant”.

Vassiliou said that she had been misunderstood, as her “intention was not to suggest there was an excuse for the perpetrator but highlight the need for our girls to be twice as cautious with such invitations”.

“Then I suggest you clear things up because you are sending the wrong messages due to bad wording,” Antoniades responded, adding that he believed Vassiliou.

A minute later Vassiliou posted a new Tweet offering an apology.

“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”.

Around an hour later, Vassiliou posted a third tweet addressing the outcry.

“Have all of you who condemn read the first tweet or are you not interested?” it read.

By Antigoni Pitta