“It takes but one person, one moment, one conviction, to start a ripple of change”
The person to start a ripple of change in Greece was Sofia Bekatorou: a sailing gold medalist from the 2004 Olympics. The athlete recently shared that a sports official sexually assaulted her when she was 21 years old.
On November 13th 2020, the date of her first denunciation, Bekatorou challenged the cultural and mass reflex of a profoundly patriarchal, traditional society that has generally “lagged” in providing the right platform and resources to movements that confront abuse: such as #MeToo. So, what happened when Greece’s most solidified identity bedrocks – the artworld and the Olympic races – were threatened to be expunged of their reputation?
With Bekatorou’s pioneering conduct came a waterfall of shared experiences from other women in the realm of sexual abuse and harassment. Greece has since lounged in a dramatic upheaval of testimonials and protests promulgated through media platforms, with the trending #ΜεΤηΣοφια, which translates as #WithSophia, making headlines.
Back to Brazile and her ripple of change. Greece has its rippling person, but does it have her consequent change?
The Greek government has since exacted its obligation to reform those who abuse humanitarian rights by sentencing some of those convicted. The media and prominent figures thereof have also not shunned away from publicly condemning and naming men faced with numerous horrific allegations of abuse and harassment. It is rare to name names; it is even rarer when these names are well-known and respected by the Greek community.
But is this enough? Absolutely not.
Penalizing those who have committed verbal and physical crimes of abuse is, shockingly, the minimal safety measure a society of order should ensure its citizens. And cycles of crime and punishment are most definitely not enough for the thousands of victims. Punishment is the stoic reaction to these atrocious actions, but it does not mitigate trauma.
So, what’s next?
As a Comparative Literature major recently exposed to theoretical linguistics, I have grown mindful of how heavily each linguistic member impacts how we interpret a given sentence. The verbs, grammatical tenses, and adjectives are crucial.
The mantra “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” has run the show for years, but I beg to differ in this case. When reading front-pages and interview transcripts, we interpret and internalize the words we read and not as much the tone they are delivered in.
A disturbing example of how words can be a weapon against progress is how accustomed we have grown to the passive voice when reporting instances of rape and murder:
“18-YEAR-OLD FROM NAFPAKTOS BEATEN AND SEXUALLY HARASSED BY POLICE”
“HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT FALLS VICTIM TO RAPE BY SEVEN OF HER CLASSMATES”
“SHE WAS RAPED IN TWO STAGES”
“THE SHOCKING NEWS OF THE 19-YEAR-OLD WHO WAS RAPED IN HERAKLION”
These are all translated headlines published in the recent Greek media that have unreluctantly made their way from “savvy” journalists to public consumption, a perfect example of the “shock factor” trumping the dire need for accountability.
By implementing the illustrated passive voice, not only do we assign erroneous stress on the object of the sentence (the victim), but we also obliterate responsibility from the subject of the sentence: the abuser.
For a society to exact lasting, positive change, we must perform a gory “autopsy” on how our minds work. We must contemplate the words we employ to narrate instances of abuse. After years of exposure to this grammatical pattern, do we also default to using the passive voice? If so, do we do so consciously or have we surrendered the free-will of word choice?
Sadly, we are all prey to the ever-growing “clickbait” culture that prioritizes “wow-factor” headlines instead of reporting ethical or factual substance.
We can find unity in our mindlessness; at least we’re all in this together!
But let us hitherto draw the line of sporadically falling victims to “70% Sales” articles instead of “Girl is Raped” articles.
Faced daily with this choice, let’s choose our words to change our minds.
“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
– Pearl Strachan Hurd