Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reaching Out

This is a post for the ladies, and the men who care.

Imagine this: you are in a foreign country. You don't speak the language. This country has a reputation of being quite safe and the locals are known for their friendliness. A stranger approaches you and offers to show you the ruins. It's broad daylight in public, so what could go wrong?

He offers you a bite of something he's eating, a local type of food, and you think what the hell, a little bit wouldn't hurt. After all he's eating it too.

Then everything gets hazy. Snow White's poisoned apple. You lose track of time and yourself and wake up in a strange room, alone with this man. He has drugged you and you have no idea what else he has done. You, your body which is precious and sacred to you, which you take care of and choose with love who you give it to - you have no idea what this stranger did to it and why he treated you with so little value. Like you were a nothing, a nobody.

Even if you were not raped, someone put something in your blood without your consent, took you somewhere you didn't want to go. You take care of yourself, there are people out there who love you. A fiance who is making plans to marry you.

What gave this man the right to do that to you?

On a scale of one to ten, how terrified would you be? Can you imagine this scenario? I can't, most of us can't because it's an unlucky few that have gone through the ordeal of having their body violated.

This is the story of Natalie Karneef, who came to Athens in 2005 and went through what I just described on the second day of her holiday of a lifetime. Her trial was due to begin this month, but the Greek courts have postponed it. To 2011. To start with, it was over 24 hours before she was able to find a hospital in Athens willing to run a rape exam on her. Then an agonising three months to see if she had been infected with an STD, or even worse, HIV.

This is unacceptable. The man they caught in connection with what happened to her had done the same 4 other foreign women. Unfortunately, there still exists a certain school of thought amongst certain men in Greece that foreign women are fair game.

I must say though that although assholes exist the world over, I did not expect the Greek courts to have the same attitude. Bah. She's a foreigner. No one in Greece to make a big deal of it for her. So what. They have sex with strangers on holiday all the time and then come crying to us afterwards that it was rape.

For shame. I say that not as a foreign woman in Greece. I say that as a woman. I say that as a sister. What if this had happened to Mr Zeus's niece? Or one of my Greek friends from bellydance class? Or my little sisters when they came here on holiday one summer?

What if it happened to someone you knew? What if it happened to you? This man has been left to roam the streets free once more, despite being convicted of other rapes. Us women who live in Athens could be coming into contact with him during our daily lives. Doesn't that thought make you feel completely revolted?

The Greek courts are a law onto themselves. There is not a lot we can do to make them take the issue of the abuse of women seriously.

We can, though, show our support to Natalie. She is one voice who wants to be heard out of God knows how many that choose to stay silent. I know that if this had happened to me, most likely I wouldn't have pursued it. Especially in a foreign country. I just don't have the courage and strength to last as long as she has.

So please, let's show her some support and drop in on her blog. Leave a comment, no matter who you are or where you are from. Let's let her know we are thinking of her and supporting her stuggle.

UPDATE: If you are a female blogger reading this, I ask you to link Natalie's blog in one of your posts. Let's look out for our fellow sisters. Let's not let this be a case of "There's nothing we can do." We can keep up to date with this case, and when it comes around again in January 2011 we can be present outside court. Numbers speak, maybe the judge will take notice.

Image; http://th07.deviantart.net/fs49/300W/i/2009/172/9/3/snow_white__s_poisoned_apple_by_daughterofthemist.jpg


Ελληνικο Παρατηρητηριο των Συμφωνιων του Ελσινκι said...

On behalf of Natalie and Dana thanks a mil.

Here is the statement of Dana, the other (Australian) civil claimant and alleged rape victim, after the postponement:

"I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by yesterday's outcome. I feel that I have done everything that the Court has asked of me. Having been summonsed to attend on four occasions and making arrangements on all of those four occasions, I have yet again been turned away without ANY progress in the case. In deferring our case because the defence lawyer has made a commitment to another case, no matter how significant, means that the Court prioritises her time and commitments over my own and Natalie's. It is not easy for us to attend and we also have commitments, including work commitments, which we forego in order that we can attend. I feel that the defence lawyer has committed to a work load that she is not able to effectively manage and the Court's decision yesterday suggest that it supports that. Recognising that the decision made yesterday cannot be reversed, I expect that when I attend once again in January 2011, that the Court will hear the case efficiently, effectively and to its conclusion."

Natalie Karneef said...

Thank you so, so much for this extremely well-told account of my story. I appreciate it more than you could know. As you say, there is power in numbers. The more women (and men) who know about this, the less chance it will happen again. Also, I believe that that awareness fights ignorance.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Ελληνικο Παρατηρητηριο των Συμφωνιων του Ελσινκι said...

May I add to all that that Natalie and Dana and their support team will appreciate direct support in the court room when the trial take place as judges and especially lay jurors do take note of the interest in the courtroom?

Beki said...

Thank you for posting this. Sadly, I think it's also a reflection on how women in general are treated throughout the Balkans. Bringing it to public notice (world-wide) is the best way to bring about change.

Anonymous said...

I have advertised your blog on the Thessaloniki womens networking organsiation bulletin board.