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Immediate protection measures for all rape survivors
It is not enough to call on survivors to report. The state has a duty to ensure that the authorities act promptly and appropriately.

Georgia Bika is a courageous woman who did not hesitate to report, from the first moment, to the authorities her rape, in order to punish the guilty and protect other women.

By entering the public sphere with her face and name, she was instrumental in undermining the dominant culture of rape, which imposes fear and guilt on victims, leading them to silence. Guilt this time changed sides.

Thousands of people on social media and in feminist marches in Athens and Thessaloniki stood by her, demanding the unraveling of the case, justice, support for her and every survivor of sexual violence by the competent authorities and State structures.

The case of Georgia, however, brings to the fore something else: the systematic re-victimisation of rape survivors, which is the result of long delays, or even reluctance to respond promptly by the prosecuting authorities, as well as inadequate, problematic and lengthy institutional procedures, particularly in cases of sexual crimes.

The normalisation of re-victimisation and poor support for survivors are the main reasons why the victims often choose not to report.

In this particular case, and although securing evidence early on is particularly important in rape cases, Georgia was asked to provide an insufficient sample (only urine, not blood) for toxicology tests, 18 hours later. Furthermore, it is a fact that the “rape pill” cannot be detected after 12 hours.

Serious questions are also raised by the decision to carry out the toxicological tests in a laboratory in Switzerland, while so far it remains unclear whether there is a specialized laboratory in Greece that could have carried out these tests.

Another important factor, was the delay of her examination by the Forensic Service, which took place 3 days after the incident, a time during which the victim should not get washed. Evidently, this process clearly puts at risk the timely securing of evidence, while the consequences on the psychology of the survivor are incalculable.

Unfortunately, all of the above do not constitute isolated incidents. In our country, if a survivor reports her rape, she will be lucky if she is examined in time by a forensic pathologist, as the Forensic Services have public service opening hours, they are not on call in the evenings, they do not operate on Saturdays and Sundays, nor on holidays!

If the incident takes place in an area that does not have a Medical Examiner, the victim will have to travel kilometers on her own, in order to be able to find an open Forensic Service in a neighboring prefecture. The question remains why the regulation of Law 3772/2009, Government Gazette A ́112 / 10.07.2009, no. 9, does not apply, according to which: “the forensic scientists … are obliged, if the circumstances so require, to perform forensic acts beyond the applicable opening hours of the services, as well as on non-working days”.

But the systemic and institutional shortcomings in the field of protecting the rights of rape victims do not end here: The survivor testified for hours to the police authorities, alone, without the presence of a lawyer. This is standard practice, as victims are not informed by the authorities that they have the right to be accompanied by a lawyer when they first testify.

Moreover, although the newly passed Article 228 of the Criminal Code provides for the appointment and co-presence of a specialized psychologist in the pre-trial investigation, Georgia testified alone without psychological support in an extremely painful process.

Finally, it is worth noting that in the vast majority of rape cases, in the absence of training and clear protocols, the authorities do not refer victims to competent bodies for psychosocial support. Delays in criminal proceedings are systematic, contributing to the creation of a general climate of impunity.

It is often observed that the testimonies of victims of sexual offences are not carried out in the appropriate way for their protection, while the competent authorities call the victim repeatedly for additional statements.

It goes without saying that it does not suffice to invite survivors to speak up and report incidents of gender-based violence and their abusers.

The state has a duty to ensure that in all cases of complaint without exception, the competent prosecuting, forensic and judicial authorities will act promptly, vigilantly and will exhaust all the possibilities provided by the country’s legal framework of the country, taking timely the prescribed actions to certify the crimes and ensure the integrity of the evidence, in order to allow for the immediate (criminal-law) protection of victims.

There is a lot of experience from many other countries that have made significant strides in supporting survivors. With this in mind, and on the basis of our many years of experience in all-round support for victims of gender-based violence, we unite our voice and claim the following:

  • To create forensic services in all prefectures and to immediately fill the gaps in the existing (13) ones, while ensuring the immediate access of victims to a forensic pathologist on a 24/7 basis.
  • To equip all hospitals and structures of secondary or primary health in the country with rape kits, while providing for training of the medical and nursing staff, in order to ensure immediate access of rape survivors to medical care. In this context, all additional tests should be performed (pregnancy test, PEP test / post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection, etc.).
  • To create rape crisis centres in large urban areas / hospital units, according to international experience, following the one-stop-shop model. These are rape centers that operate 24/7 in several countries in Europe and the USA, employing specialized medical personnel, and which cooperate institutionally with health, psychiatry, justice structures, aiming at the immediate and multifaceted support of survivors.
  • Alternatively, Sexual Assault Referral Centres / SARC can be created in which medical care, practical and emotional support are provided, and forensic examinations are carried out. It is noted that a woman can turn to a SARC, without a special police
  • In addition, evidence may be kept in a relevant database, in order for the survivor to use it for her complaint at a later time, or whenever she so decides.

Diotima Centre, 2/2/2022


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