Sexual harassment and abuse are one of the least reported crimes, said the prevention coordinator of RISE Counselling and Prevention Centre, Dimitra Sakelli on Wednesday.
Survivors of sexual abuse report the crime after many years or never according to Sakelli, mainly due to feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation.
“The victim is consumed in self-criticism and self-blame without realising that the victimisation is entirely and undoubtedly due to the perpetrator’s behaviour,” Sakelli wrote on RISE social media page.
Another reason mentioned is the fear of revenge from the abuser, or financial dependency on him/her.
Her statements came after several women recently spoke up about their personal experiences with sexual abuse following the example of Greek Olympian athlete Sophia Bekatorou who reported she was raped by a senior official of the Hellenic sailing federation back in 1998. Initially, the local women only reported the crime to the media instead of the police.
Sakelli referred to the mishandling of such cases by the police and the justice system “where victims are re-victimised through ignorance”.
“Distrust in the legal process, impunity, non-existent convictions and humiliation during the process are the main reasons for not reporting it,” she added.
The painful examination and interrogation process that force people to relive their traumatic experiences in detail, are also part of the reason why they avoid filing a police report.
“The fear they will not be believed,” is another common concern after people experience sexual harassment and/or abuse, while they may also worry that they will be judged and criticized.
According to Sakelli, sexual abuse survivors do not realise how important it is to seek help, nor how to do it. This may be psychological, medical or legal assistance.
“There is no information or access to support services and this discourages the victim to overcome the distrust of the authorities’ ability to provide assistance,” she added.
Finally, victims are always faced with a social stigma throughout the process, Sakelli said.
RISE prevention is the first establishment in the island of Cyprus that provides programmes for prevention and psychoeducation for children, teenagers and families.
Cyprus police this week said they created a specialised team to look into sexual harassment allegations. The decision was taken after Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis personally met with female sports shooter Andri Eleftheriou and encouraged her to file a police complaint related to her abuse dated more than ten years ago.