Domestic Violence in Greece: How to Seek Help – Guide From a British Expat

Domestic violence in Greece may be a different picture to what you are used to in your home country. No one should ever have to tolerate violence and abuse in their intimate relationships but unfortunately, this is more common than many people realise. 

About This Guide

It is hard to find information on where to go and what to do when you are going through domestic violence in Greece. I decided to compile this guide to help others that may be suffering from this – whether they are locals or expats. 

This guide is fairly beastly. Feel free to use the Table of Contents to navigate to the relevant sections. Please note that some sections may be triggering. 

Background

Karpenisi, Central Greece
Karpenisi, Central Greece

I moved to Greece in summer 2017 to live with my partner – a Greek Policeman. The relationship started all rainbows and sunflowers as most abusive relationships do. I had been in the relationship just under a year when I felt that things were not the way they should be.

It took me another 18 months before I started to hear terminology like “abuse”, “narcissist”, and to realise that I was in an abusive relationship. I had been googling things like “why does my partner always criticise me?” and as I started reading more and more about abuse, I felt like I was reading about my partner and I realised that this was a common pattern of behaviour.     

Is Your Relationship Abusive? Signs to Look Out For 

Domestic Violence in Greece
Domestic Violence in Greece

A lot of people hear the word “abuse” and their minds automatically conjure up the image of a man that is physically violent towards his partner.  Abuse does not have to be physical. It can also be emotional, psychological, verbal, financial, or sexual. Arguably some of these more psychological forms of abuse can be just as, if not more damaging than physical abuse.

Today, it can feel as though words like “abusive” and “narcissist” are thrown around a little too much. People refer to their partners as being “a bit of a narcissist” when the reality is that they were just a bit of a douche. There is a significant difference between a partner who is unpleasant and a partner who is abusive.  

Signs of Emotional Abuse 

Some of the signs of emotional and psychological abuse are detailed below. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you an indication as to whether your own relationship is abusive or not. 

  • Criticisms – Does your partner pick fault with everything you do to the point where you feel that you can never do anything right?

  • Put-Downs – Does your partner put you down and knock your confidence?

  • Silent Treatment – Does your partner use the silent treatment to punish you if he/she does not get their own way?

  • Gaslighting – Does your partner twist reality to say that things did not happen or that you are remembering the situation wrong?

  • Control – Does your partner tell you what to wear or what to eat? Do they consider your refusal as disrespectful?

  • Threats – Does your partner threaten to kick you out after a minor argument? Do they threaten that they will self-harm if you leave?

  • Mood Swings – Do you find that you are constantly stepping on eggshells so as not to anger your partner? Do you find that you never know which version of him/her is going to come home from work?

  • Withholding Sex and Affection – Does your partner withhold affection and imply that you need to jump through hoops to “earn” their love?

  • Verbal Abuse – Does your partner call you names or tell you that you’re dumb/stupid/etc?

  • Isolation – Does your partner isolate you from your friends and family or try to turn you against them?

Physical and Sexual Abuse 

No form of abuse is acceptable and no form is worse than another. Physical and sexual abuse is often much more clear cut and easy to identify than psychological abuse. 

Non-consensual sexual activity is abusive. Your partner should never threaten you with physical violence or act upon those threats.

Domestic Violence in Greece:
The Statistics

Metsovo, Greece

Domestic violence is a problem all over the world – Greece included. Statistics from the Domestic Violence Department of the Hellenic Police (ELAS) show that domestic violence in Greece rose by 34.5% in the height of the country’s economic crisis. 

Data from the women’s charity WINHellas also indicates that:

  • 1 in 4 women in Greece will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives

  • 50% of women murdered in Greece are murdered by their romantic partners

  • 25% of women in Greece have experienced physical or sexual violence since age 15

Domestic violence has no gender – men can indeed be victims too. However the majority of those abused in Greece are women. 

Greece is a patriarchal society. A 2019 study conducted by EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) found that Greece is the worst country in Europe for gender equality. 

Greek traditions and culture don’t help the situation either. The topic is seldom discussed and it is all very hush hush. Domestic violence is considered a private matter between families and romantic partners. It is often pushed under the rug – Family know that so and so hits his wife, but it is better than being alone or getting a divorce. 

Domestic Violence Charities in Greece 

Domestic Violence in Greece
Domestic Violence in Greece

If you are trapped in an abusive relationship in Greece, don’t fear – there are plenty of domestic violence charities and shelters available to help you. Whether you need someone to talk to and give advice, or you need help in making an escape, you will be able to find help in Greek and English.

Many Domestic Violence charities in Greece are able to provide a free Lawyer, if necessary, to help you win your case should you need to file a restraining order, or if the matter goes to court. 

Dial 100 in an Emergency

If it is an emergency and you believe that your life may be in danger, don’t hesitate to call 100. This is the emergency police number. Someone will come and remove the individual. 

SOS15900 

SOS15900 is Greece’s national helpline for abused women. I called them, and I found them to be rather helpful at first. However, when I needed legal advice, they did not respond. In any case, it is worth calling them for advice as your first point of call. 

You can also contact SOS15900 via email ([email protected]). SOS15900 are apparently able to offer free legal aid. However as I mentioned, they never responded to me. The email contact to request free psychological and legal aid is [email protected], and the telephone contact is 00302105783265. 

This website is viewable in both English and Greek. You will find a list of local consulting centres detailed on their website, in addition to the contact information for each specific centre. 

Diotima 

Diotima is a non-profit organisation that aids with women’s issues. They are able to provide support and legal advice to abused women. In my experience, they were the most helpful company I encountered. 

When I contacted Diotima for advice, a Lawyer got back to me immediately and was able to offer me free advice. You can reach them on [email protected], or via the telephone number +302103244380.

WIN Hellas 

Win Hellas is a small domestic violence charity managed by Mada Papadakos. I spoke with Mada and she was very helpful. The Win Hellas website is only available in Greek, but you can find help and resources on their social media.

The email address for WIN Hellas is [email protected], and their contact telephone number is 2108996636 (open 9am until 4pm). Mada also has a wonderful Ted Talk discussing her experience with domestic abuse. 

Kamia Anohi (Καμιά Ανοχή)

Kamia Anohi are a women’s organisation that are worth being aware of. They fight for women’s rights and in the battle against femicide. You can find their page on Facebook. 

Prakis 

Praksis is a Greek non-profit organisation that exists to aid vulnerable people. They specialise in matters concerning refugees, however they may be able to offer assistance and free legal advice. 

My Experience with Domestic Violence in Greece 

I met my partner in 2017 and we were together for two and a half years during the time I lived in Athens. It wasn’t until we had been together for almost a year that the situation started to go awry. He was lovely in the beginning. 

The Start of Emotional Abuse

I moved into his apartment and it started with little things that I didn’t realise were abuse at the time. I have always been self-conscious about aspects of my appearance and he would criticise me for them and turn them against me. 

“Why do you bother wearing makeup? I can still see your acne scars. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not”

“Take a look at Greek women and how much more effort they put into their appearance than you do” 

“Stop wearing that lipstick. It makes you look worse, not better.”

“Are you really wearing that? I don’t want you to look like a wh*re to the others”. 

These things should have been a major red flag right away. However it was so out of character at that point in time that I couldn’t understand why my (apparently) sweet, lovely boyfriend was being so nasty to me. He told me that he was trying to help me. He even said that he was embarrassed to introduce me to his friends because of the way I looked. 

He became so obsessed with my appearance, and controlling over what I wore and what I ate, that I found myself sinking into depression and dressing like a frumpy old woman because he never made me feel attractive and I lost all my confidence. 

Escalation of Abuse 

I would try and tell my partner how his comments made me feel and he would become furiously angry. He never wanted to listen. He began criticising practically everything I did until it felt as though I couldn’t do anything right and I was constantly stepping on eggshells. 

If I left a window open and a mosquito got in, I was stupid. If I had ordered food, and the delivery was late, obviously I had done something wrong. He would stand over me, watching me cook food or wash dishes and picking fault with everything. 

I worked from home, and I was also the main breadwinner between us. He would come home from work and start checking if the items in the fridge had expired, if I had made the bed, and if there were any crumbs on the floor. I began to feel so incredibly anxious when I knew he was coming home from work that I would sacrifice my own work to run around his apartment making sure everything was perfect – bed made, throw blankets folded in perfect symmetry. He never appreciated anything, and would lose it if he found so much as a strand of hair on the bathroom floor.  

Gaslighting and Lack of Emotional Intelligence 

If we had a disagreement – because I asked him to stop criticising me, or I expressed any dissatisfaction at the things that happened between us, it was always my fault. 

I would be upset about something and try and raise it with my partner, and he would block my number, or leave the room, and basically not give me any opportunity to discuss it. He would come back again after time had passed and expect me to just shut up and forget about it. If I raised that we had not even discussed the topic properly, he would yell at me to stop repeating myself – but things were never resolved. 

Sometimes he would give me the silent treatment for days, or threaten to leave me or kick me out because he was just not mature enough to have an adult discussion. He started making fun of me to his friends and helpfully suggested I see a Psychiatrist because I was obviously crazy. 

The Cycle 

Abusive partners are not abusive constantly. They flit between nice and nasty. People that ask why people stay in these situations are asking the wrong questions.

My partner could do something unspeakably horrible, and then he would come home with some cakes from the local bakery, or to take me out for dinner. He’d be sweet for a couple of weeks and I’d give him another chance. Then he would do something awful again and I’d berate myself for giving him another chance. I tried to leave so many times and always came back because I loved him and I wanted to believe he could change. 

Violence 

Emotional abuse is every bit as unbearable as physical abuse. I cried almost every day in my relationship and I often felt trapped and in despair about what to do. If I look back, it’s easy to tell myself that I should have left, but I was in a strange place mentally and it wasn’t easy. 

When my partner eventually became physical, something clicked in my mind and I realised that I had to get out. We had an argument and he punched me in the face so hard that I had to check that my teeth had not been dislodged.

I told myself that I should leave but I was in absolute shock and we had booked a trip to Karpenisi together for a few days later. I decided to go on the trip while I figured out what to do. In Karpenisi, he stormed angrily out of a restaurant because I couldn’t decide what to eat fast enough. 

I chased him to the car, and he bashed my head into the dashboard, pulled my hair, and wrestled with me to try and throw me out of the car on a country road in the middle of nowhere at night. That was the final straw for me. 

I recorded the ordeal on my phone just in case something happened to me and someone found me later which is incredibly dark and disturbing to admit.  My ex partner blackmailed me for money and threatened to send explicit photos of me to his contacts. A normal person does not do that. 

Domestic Violence in Greece:
The Law 

Metsovo
Metsovo

Domestic Violence is an offense under Greek law. There is a dedicated department within the Hellenic Police that deal with domestic violence, and those found guilty may be required to serve time in jail. 

Physical, Psychological, Emotional, Sexual and Financial abuse are punishable by law under Law 3500/2006. With that said, the reality after speaking to several Domestic Abuse survivors seems to be that cases in Greece are not always handled the way they should be. Don’t be disheartened, it is always worth fighting for justice and documenting the incidents. 

Should Domestic Violence be Reported? 

If you have experienced domestic violence in Greece, your safety is the most important thing. Call 100 if you believe that you are in immediate danger, and consult Domestic Violence charities if you need help discussing your options for leaving or finding a shelter. 

Once you are in a safe place, you may wish to consider reporting the person for domestic violence. This is, understandably, difficult. It is worth reporting the incidents, however, so that the police have everything on file, and so the individual does not think that he/she can get away with doing the same thing to someone else in the future.  

Contacting the Police in Greece 

Domestic violence complaints in Greece should be reported to the Domestic Violence Department of the Hellenic Police. Their contact details are provided below. 

The Hellenic Police’s specialist Domestic Violence department can advise you of the process and legislation in Greece. You can also find a more generalised account of the process for handling crimes in Greece via the European justice website here

In an instance where the Hellenic Police do not provide assistance, you can also escalate your complaint to the Greek Ministry of Citizen’s Protection, and the Internal Affairs Department of the Hellenic Police. 

The contact details for both of these escalation contacts are also provided below for your reference.

Email response times can be slow. If you don’t hear anything for a week or so, follow up again. 

The best way to contact the Hellenic police is to visit the station in person, with your supporting evidence. Failing that, make a phone call to the Domestic Violence department of the Hellenic Police to have an initial discussion. 

Pressing Charges for Domestic Abuse and Seeking Legal Advice

If you decide to press charges against your Abuser, you may need the assistance of a Lawyer. Refer back to the Domestic Violence agencies above to see who is able to provide you with free legal advice. Alternatively, the below Lawyers were recommended to me by other expat women in Athens who have suffered domestic abuse. 

If your Abuser continues to stalk, harass, blackmail, or threaten you after ending your relationship, you may need to file for an emergency court order and a restraining order. Your Lawyer can send them a “cease and desist” letter to warn them about this action. 

  • Mixalis Triantafyllos, Attorney at Law –  +306978878887

  • Adriana Nakka, Attorney at Law – +306944521397

Involving Foreign Embassies 

If you are involved in a domestic violence case, it is worth contacting your country’s embassy in Athens. The British Embassy were extremely helpful and were able to liaise with the Greek authorities on my behalf in order to get the matter taken seriously. 

British Embassy in Athens 

British Embassy Athens,
Ploutarchou 1, 
Athina 106 75,
Greece

Email Address: [email protected]

Telephone Number: +302107272600

Twitter: @UKinGreece

American Embassy in Athens 

US Embassy Athens,
Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 91,
Athina 115 21,
Greece

Email Address: [email protected]

Telephone Number: +302107212951

Useful Resources for Survivors of Domestic Abuse 

It is common to feel angry, emotional, and traumatised as you deal with the aftermath of domestic abuse. Seeking psychological help may be very worthwhile. 

If you plan to remain in Greece, the Domestic Violence agencies above can provide psychological support. You can also browse online to find assistance in your city. Consider consulting with your GP, as they may be able to prescribe medication, or recommend counselling for PTSD and anxiety after abuse. 

Forums and Websites for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Reading about domestic abuse, and interacting with other survivors was very useful for me. Some websites that you may be interested to browse are detailed below. 

Women’s Aid Survivors Forum

The Survivor’s Forum by Women’s Aid is a British forum, but it may be useful for people of all backgrounds and nationalities. Here, you can discuss your situation with other survivors. Women’s Aid have also created this useful Survivor’s Handbook with tips and advice.  

Narcissistic Abuse Forum 

There is never an excuse for being abusive. However, the more you read about abuse, the more you will notice that not only is the situation more common than you had perhaps realised, but that many Abusers demonstrate narcissistic personality traits.This website and forum is dedicated to victims of narcissistic abuse 

Love Is Respect 

Are you unsure as to whether your relationship is abusive or not? What is abuse and how can you remove yourself from an abusive situation? Love is Respect is a useful educational resource on understanding and dealing with abuse. It targets a young audience, but it is very useful regardless. 

Refuge Charity UK 

Refuge is the UK’s main domestic violence charity. They also operate the UK’s 24/7 domestic violence hotline (0808 2000 247). Their website contains a lot of information and resources on domestic violence. 

If you are British, and divided between Greece and the UK like me, you may wish to call them for advice while you are in the UK.

My Facebook Group 

I have a Facebook Group for expats and travellers in Greece. While it is not a domestic abuse group or forum, it may be useful for you if you need to speak to someone in Greece, or get out and meet someone for a coffee, etc. It goes without saying that you are always welcome to reach out to me too. ([email protected]

Useful Books for Dealing with Domestic Abuse 

Reading about abusive behaviours will help you to process your situation, and to help stop you from falling into abusive relationships again in the future. The below books come highly recommended. I will add to this list later. 

  • Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men – Lundy Bancroft

  • Living with the Dominator – A Book about the Freedom Programme – Pat Craven

  • The Body Keeps the Score – Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk

When Abuse Transcends Across International Borders

The laws surrounding domestic violence vary significantly from country to country. You should note that the abuse should be reported to the police in the country where it occurred. 

This means that if you reported violence and domestic abuse in Greece, and left Greece to return to your home country, it is still the Greek authorities that you have to deal with. In my case, I had a discussion with the British Police and they were not able to get involved with the Hellenic Police.

Parting Words 

As of writing this post (April 2020), I am still dealing with my situation. This post will be updated periodically. I spent the last three years living in lovely little Pagrati, Athens. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need something. Geia sou, Melissa xo 

Disclaimer: High Heels and a Backpack is in no way affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article. The information here should not be used as a substitute for advice from a professional Psychologist.  


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

2 thoughts on “Domestic Violence in Greece: How to Seek Help – Guide From a British Expat”

  1. Hi Melissa, thank you very much for sharing your experience as well as all the information. Indeed in Greece this is a matter usually dealt with secretly, or not dealt with it at all. I hope you are better now. Filakia!

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