Timeline of domestic and gender-based violence press coverage in Greece

By Voula Touri and Georgia Petraki

From March 23rd, when the lockdown in Greece began, until its revocation (4rth of May) two femicides were committed and there have also been cases of savage abuse.

Few days later, there was a Facebook post that went viral from a Greek doctor pointing out that during his shift: “Forty incidents were recorded in total in the Emergency Orthopedic Clinics of the General State Hospital in Nikaia, which was on duty yesterday. Five of them were incidents of domestic violence”. The increase in the ratio is huge given that before the quarantine the ratio was about 2 in 300 cases, the doctor says.

At the end of March, the president of the Hellenic Society Forensic Medicine, Grigoris Leon, spoke of “hidden” incidents of domestic violence. As he pointed out: “According to official statistics, in our country there is a percentage increase of 6.4% of complaints of domestic violence between February and March 2020. Compared to other countries, however, it is clear that the phenomenon of domestic violence during the period of lockdown remains “hidden”, meaning that the vast majority of victims refuse or hesitate to report it. “

Dr. Leon continued that “although my doctor’s office remains available only for emergencies, like most colleagues, I have already been called upon to examine victims of domestic violence.”

On 27th of March, a woman went to the police station to sue her husband for beating her. The police officers didn’t respond because they had  the “serious issues of the pandemic” to deal with, and after the complaint of the woman and the women’s organization that supported her “DIOTIMA”, the lawsuit was finally accepted on 30/3.

On 30th of March, the feminist activist group “Kamia Anohi”( No tolerance) started an on line petition with the title : Home Is Not Safe For All (until 4/5, 6150 people have signed it) demanding from the Greek Government and the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality to take a series of actions and measures.

On 2nd of April, there was an online press conference given by the European Network Against Violence, the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality and the “Child’s Smile”. They announced that during March there was a 16.4% increase in phone calls  to the SOS line -15900 for cases of violence against women and 6.4% for cases of domestic violence . Call increase was also observed in LGBTQ+ psychological support line “Next to you” – 11528.

On 6th of April in Greece, the media coverage of gender-based violence was very low and sporadic but this relatively changed after the tweet of Secretary-General of the  UN António Guterres “ Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for COVID-19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes. Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world. I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic”

On 7th of Arpil PrimeMinister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged victims to call a help line, SOS 15900. “Staying home doesn’t mean we suffer violence. If you are victimized at home, call SOS 15900 or, in case of emergencies, 100,” he wrote on Twitter. “If you can’t talk, send an email at SOS15900@isotita.gr,” he added. The same day, the President of Democracy Aikaterini Sakellaropoulou retwetted and added “We stay home but we don’t stay silent.”

At the same day the Department of Feminist Policy and Gender of SYRIZA political party, published “18 suggestions to help tackle the problem so that no woman is left alone in domestic violence in the pandemic”

On 8th of April the political party “Kinima Allagis”(Movement for Change” released a video  “We stay home and break the silence” and proposed the option of digital complaint using social media or the use of a code word in neighborhood pharmacies, to notify the authorities, as well as and the utilization of the “Help at Home” network.

On 10th of April, the campaign “Mask 19” was also launched in Greece. If someone asked their pharmacist for a “Mask-19”, then they should discreetly keep their customer’s details and update the SOS 15900 line of the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality.

On 11th of April the feminist association “Mov” (Purple) printed and circulated posters encouraging people to contact the SOS 15900 line for victims of gender-based violence.

Prof. Sotiris Tsiodras the representative of the Ministry of Health for the corona virus pandemic in Greece, in his daily brief condemned the incidents of domestic violence, noting that they are inadmissible. “I’d rather walk outside to calm my anger and get fined than hurt my companion,” he said.

On 14th of Apri, updated guidelines for citizens and entities to tackle domestic violence were announced from Greek Police.

On 24th of April the Attica Region and Doctors Association of Athens, in cooperation with the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality, provided the possibility of psychological and counseling support to victims of domestic violence during the period of lockdown due to the pandemic, through the 1110 Helpline.

On 28th of April the General Secretary for Family Policy and Gender Equality Maria Syrengela during her interview in “efsyn” newspaper, mentioned that according to the statistics of the SOS 15900 line from the date of designation of the Covid-19 as a pandemic, on March 11 until April 21, the line has received an increased number of calls. 63% of the calls concerned incidents of violence. The General Secretary has provided special temporary accommodation for women victims of violence and their minor children, with free housing and food, for emergencies and free medical examinations for women. 

On 5th of May according to the press release  of the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality, the statistics of the SOS 15900 line,  in the whole last month, (April) show that the calls for Incidents of violence in April reached 1,070, while the corresponding ones calls in March were 325.

Furthermore the incidents of domestic violence in April increased, from 166 calls on Mars to 648 calls on April. So calls for domestic violence incidents almost quadrupled in the month of quarantine compared to the month before.

According to the same source, most of the victims were spouses – partners (in 61% of cases) while 10% of cases was violence against children (77 children). In terms of victims’ requests, 40% wanted psychosocial support and 36% legal counseling and assistance.   41 calls concerned hosting requests to shelters. In 15 cases, the situation was urgent and the victims had to be evacuated immediately from their environment. The victims and their children were hosted in special accommodation provided by the General Secretariat in cooperation with the Hellenic Society Forensic Medicine.