I am sharing a personal story here about why I decided to leave Greece for a while. I am out of Greece at the moment and will not be returning until matters I had to report to the Greek police are resolved or at the very least, not ignored and handled better.
(Trigger warning: abuse/domestic violence)
Why I’m Leaving Greece (For Now)
I love Greece and generally have had a wonderful experience living in the country. I have made a career out of exploring beautiful Greece and writing about it.
In the process, I have met wonderful people and worked with incredible Greek businesses. But in the last year, I’ve had some traumatic experiences in my personal life.
Yes, I can distinguish between the general Greek population and a few morons. However, the things I experienced in my final months were beginning to make me extremely stressed and unwell.
Even typing them out, makes me feel quite traumatised. Writing about it now, I don’t know how best to move on from the trauma.
I will return to Greece when it’s time. While I am outside of the country, I’ll be still working on creating and updating Greek travel content. But I need space.
Leaving an Abusive Relationship
In 2019, I ended a long-term relationship with a Greek Policeman because he was violent and mentally abusive. It got gradually worse over time until I didn’t recognise the person I had first met.
In our final encounters, he punched me in the face, tried to throw me out of a moving car, repeatedly slammed my head into the car dashboard, and threatened to kill me. He made several violent threats, tried blackmailing me for money, and harassed my family members.
Mental abuse was easier to dismiss. But when he started assaulting me, something finally snapped within me and that was the final straw.
Eventually, I went to the police in Athens with a pile of evidence, almost hysterical and asking for help. They did nothing.
They didn’t even issue a case number or raise a criminal complaint. Instead, they told my ex-partner, their colleague, all of the details of my report.
This made him incredibly angry and caused him to harass me further. I contacted the British Embassy but they couldn’t get involved.
Reporting it to the British Police
In early 2020 I was visiting family in the UK when the harassment continued. He would harass and verbally abuse my relatives via their contact numbers.
He would call someone, hang up, call, hang up, repeatedly over hours over various phones. I reported him to the British police for harassment.
They could not assist as he was in Greece and simply told me to change all of my contact information. I told him that the British authorities were investigating him to scare him into leaving me alone.
In response? He did not leave me alone but sent a formal email from his Athens police email address to the Derbyshire Police in the UK saying that I was “defaming” his character. Best of all, he told them I was insane and I wasn’t even his girlfriend!
So, I had to go about proving to the British police that I had been with this man for years and already tried to obtain a restraining order in Greece. It was such a waste of police time.
They found it really bizarre and contacted him in Greece telling him to leave me alone. He didn’t contact me again and I thought it was over.
I decided to return to Greece and not have my experience ruined by an unstable man. I moved to Skopelos instead of returning to Athens where we lived.
In November 2020, I was asked to give a statement to the Greek police, a year after the fact. I told them I was in Skopelos and they organised for me to give the statement there. I spent three hours in the station answering questions and reliving everything.
The Police Raid
On the 28th of February 2021, five armed Greek police from my ex-boyfriend’s department in Athens broke into my house in Skopelos through an ajar balcony door. Why? Citing “defamation” of my policeman ex-partner.
They broke in while I was half-naked and running a bath. They confiscated all of my electronic devices and I still don’t have them back.
I was downstairs in the bathroom and I could hear multiple male voices outside. They started banging on the front door and when I didn’t answer, they surrounded my house banging on every window.
I lived in the middle of nowhere. Nobody had my address so I wasn’t going to answer the door to a group of men I didn’t know.
I continued running my bath convinced that eventually, they would go away. I stood there debating whether I should get in the bath or whether I should call someone. Concerned, I messaged several friends on the island like “I think there’s a lunatic outside my house”.
Eventually, I heard someone say “Melissa” from within the house. I went up to see who it was, fully expecting it to be some kind of psychopath or that I was going to be attacked.
My landlord had some boundary issues and often popped over unannounced so I thought that perhaps he had let himself in. I was surprised to be met with a policeman.
I followed him into my living room wondering what on earth was going on. Four other armed police were standing there in a line.
At this point, I had not had any contact with my abusive ex for over a year and left him almost two years before. I honestly couldn’t understand why there were police at my house. My first thought was that someone I knew must have died.
I don’t even know HOW he knew I was in Skopelos. Whether it be by stalking my social media or that the police (his colleagues) told him when I gave my statement.
Refused Access to a Lawyer
Three police were from Athens Cybercrime (my ex’s department), two were from Skopelos PD. They absolutely ransacked my house.
The police emptied drawers, flipped mattresses, and threw my belongings everywhere. They broke my suitcase by sitting on it and yanking it open.
As soon as I greeted them, they immediately snatched my phone out of my hands and refused to allow me to call a Lawyer or contact anyone. The Police asked me if I had any other devices and I told them yes, my laptop. I had a half-written email open on the screen and went to save it.
A policeman screeched at me not to hide things (hide what? I am a Travel Writer, not espionage), and forcibly yanked my arm away. I had an old, broken spare phone at the bottom of my suitcase that I had forgotten about.
When the police found it, the Skopelos Police Chief yelled at me “Forgot about this, did you? Thought we wouldn’t find it, did you?” I was screamed at in Greek and spoken to like a piece of dirt.
I repeatedly asked to call my Lawyer and they eventually told me that if I cooperated, they would let me. In disbelief, I led them all around the house while they searched for devices. I gave them all my passwords and phone codes when requested.
In the end? They refused to let me call my Lawyer as they had promised!
I got really upset and was screamed at by the Greek Police to shut up crying. I was barely dressed because I was about to get in the bath when they came.
This entire time, I had been leading them around shivering, with bare feet and no underwear. I asked to put more clothes on and an Officer followed me to watch me change. What exactly was I going to try against five armed policemen?
Attitudes of the Greek Police
I was yelled at to sign a document that I couldn’t understand. Eventually, I (stupidly) signed it because honestly, I wanted them to just leave.
I can read Greek but I don’t know every word. Fortunately, as it transpires it was just a list of what items were taken.
I couldn’t believe that they wouldn’t let me call a Lawyer. Eventually, I tried to reach over past one of the policemen to get my phone.
It was a mistake thinking I could lunge past a policeman, grab my phone and run off to call my Lawyer. But I was shaken up and confused.
Another policeman restrained me, holding my arms behind my back. I SHOULD have been entitled to call my Lawyer. I didn’t even understand what was going on.
This all happened on a Sunday afternoon. They left and I was left alone in rural Skopelos.
Everything on the island was closed and I had no way of contacting anyone. Before leaving, one policeman turned to me and said “there are no cameras recording in here are there?”
Why? Behaving in a disrespectful manner you know is wrong?
The Greek Police raided my house for what? Reporting a Greek Policeman who abused me for years?
He had tried the same “defamation” nonsense with the UK police where it was instantly dismissed. Since then, I hadn’t spoken to or thought about him!
The police refused to give me copies of any of the documents I signed (illegal). A Skopeliti friend later called them for me and they told him that if I went into the station, they would give me the copies to give to my Lawyer.
I went into the station the next morning to get them. They refused to give me the documents they had promised the night before.
I got upset again, having trekked across the island at 7 am and being told they would give me the documents. They just sat there smirking.
A Disgruntled Landlord
I bought a new phone in Skopelos town to tell my family and friends what happened. I was able to call my Lawyer who couldn’t believe the entire situation.
He said that never in the history of Greece had he heard of such extreme measures for “defamation”. In the days that followed, he was able to obtain a copy of the document I signed.
He stressed to the police that I should have been given it in the first instance. They lied and told him that I never asked for it and I was “foreign and confused”.
There is a second document that must be provided in instances like this. This document should detail what the charges are, who has the electronic devices, and why. To this date, my Lawyer and I have not been able to obtain this document.
When I got home from the police station after trying to obtain this document with no avail, the man that owned my villa was standing outside the property. I thought he came to ask if everything was okay but no.
He gave me a lecture about how Skopelos was a small community and I should keep my head down. He said that people in the village were gossiping about how two police cars were outside his house and I was making him look bad.
I just stared at him, dumbfounded by what I was hearing. He said if it happened again, he’d ask me to leave the property (!)
I explained the entire situation to him – my abusive ex-boyfriend, the police raid. He didn’t believe that the police would raid my house for such a silly reason.
Then, he set about searching the property! For what? Racks of coke? Guns? Do I look like the female Pablo Escobar?
I was paying him cash in hand and did not have a contract. I decided to leave the very next day and moved to Skiathos.
A Skopelos Trouble Maker
In Skopelos, I had had another issue with sexual harassment from a group of young local men. People on the island recognised me from my blog/Instagram and on one occasion a guy showed up outside my house sending sexually explicit messages and pleasuring himself.
On another occasion, someone followed me home and asked me to sleep with him and his friend. This happened before the raid. I took a male Skopeliti friend with me to the police to report it all.
I don’t really know if sexual harassment like that was a crime but I dreaded going into Skopelos town because these particular men would always bother me. So, I thought it was worth reporting.
Honestly, the police acted like I was being silly and complaining over nothing. Then, I received a letter saying one of the men I had reported was suing me for making false accusations.
News of my qualms with this creepy young guy spread all over the island. Several Greek women reached out to say he had harassed them too.
Similarly, plenty of his male friends had some unpleasant and nasty things to say to me. I was called into the station for questioning.
I went into the police station with my Skopeliti friend. It is very anti-feminist but I always felt I was taken more seriously when I was with a Greek man.
When we arrived, the man had dropped all of the accusations, confessed everything, and said he was embarrassed and that he respected me and was sorry. Honestly, that situation was ridiculous and he should have been charged with wasting police time.
In any case, I feel like the Skopelos police began to see me as a trouble maker. Men harassing me and showing up outside my home to pleasure themselves and me reporting it to the police was seen as a “he said – she said”.
Unfortunately, I think there are plenty of people in this world today that still possess very little respect for women. When the raid happened, it felt as though the vibe among the Skopelos police was “what has this stupid woman done now?”
When the local guy initially tried to sue me, Skopelitis told me to get a lawyer because he was local and had some influence and I was not. Sorry, that is not how the law works.
Chased Off the Island
Skopelos is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. None of this is a reflection of the island.
But because of everything that happened to me, I could not have stayed there any longer or I think I would have had a mental breakdown.
I loaded up all my things and my rescue cats and took a taxi to Agnontas port (the ferry was leaving from there because it was a windy day). I wrote a letter to the villa owner and posted it under the doormat along with the key, notifying him by text.
As I sat waiting for the boat, I saw the villa owner speeding along the water driving about 100mph with steam practically coming out of his ears. He began asking me where I was going and said that I should come back with him immediately or he would sue me.
I could not believe my ears. He had threatened to kick me out the previous day.
Truthfully I think he was probably just upset because he had lost so much money due to the pandemic and my renting this property was the only income source. But still, this is not how you talk to people.
“I’ll sue you” is apparently the misogynist’s response to not getting their own way. I had paid in full and I had no contract.
I had no obligation to stay somewhere where the owner had threatened me and where I’d had such an awful experience. He then started screaming that if I left he’d have the police waiting for me at the other end.
I tried to discuss it with him logically and he just yelled at me to shut up. He repeatedly screamed “Is that your choice? You want me to call the police? Is that your choice? You want me to call the police?” and sped off never to be seen again.
I suppose he thought that mention of the police would scare me, two days after my house was raided. That, when you think about it, is sick and disturbing.
I have never even spoken to police anywhere in the world before this entire debacle. Even thinking about it now, it makes me feel crazy.
But the entire situation traumatised me. I called a Greek friend who called me at every boat port on the short journey from Skopelos to Skiathos because I was almost hysterical and super anxious. It was the first time I felt scared in Greece and I emailed the British Embassy just in case.
Moving to Skiathos
When I arrived in Skiathos, I half expected to see the landlord, my ex-boyfriend, or the police standing there but there was nobody and I almost cried with relief. It sounds so dramatic but as the bridge lowered to let me off the ferry I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.
I loved Skiathos and I had signed a six-month contract on a house there. I had already planned to move there before the raid.
A random guy on the boat helped me with my luggage and another helped me find a taxi. I got quite upset and I think it was just the shock of people actually being nice and normal after a crazy two days.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in the Sporades any longer because all of this had affected me really badly psychologically. My house in Skiathos was also in the middle of nowhere.
If I heard a car pull up outside or I heard a voice on the road, I was convinced it was the police or my ex-boyfriend. To clarify, I know I have done nothing wrong.
But when someone is clearly mentally disturbed and holds a vendetta against you, it is unnerving. Particularly if they are a policeman in a country that has issues with police violence and corruption.
I spent several months in Skiathos and met wonderful people during that time. But I was constantly on edge.
I feel that the trauma I was dealing with over everything that had happened affected me too badly. I couldn’t enjoy myself or people’s company because I was constantly preoccupied with what had happened.
Because I didn’t know how much my ex-boyfriend was still watching me, I stopped posting to social media, turned location services off my phone, and became really concerned for my safety. I felt as though I had no one to go to for help and I could not go to the police because he was the police.
I had two-factor verification set up for my social media but I changed my passwords after my devices were taken to be sure. A few times I received notifications to say that someone was trying to log into my Instagram account.
Who do you know that has had their house raided by the police like that? This department deals with child abusers and murderers.
Yet instead, they had used police resources to send a team of officers to the remote island of Skopelos during a pandemic to seize the possessions of a woman that reported abuse from one of their officers. From what I can understand from my Lawyer, this team of police did not even have a warrant.
The Greek Prosecution did not work at all during the pandemic. When my Lawyer tried to follow up on the situation, my abuser’s report against me for “defamation” was just sitting in a drawer unactioned.
It is his own department, his long-term friends and colleagues, investigating me. It is his department that has all of my things – my phone with all my photographs, private conversations, text messages, and contacts.
I have since replaced all of my electronic items. But the one thing that truly sickens me is that an abusive ex-boyfriend I left long ago quite possibly was able to get my phone and sit and read through my messages, etc.
It is a disgusting abuse of police power for a man who has been accused of abuse to be able to organise raids on his ex-girlfriend’s house. How is this type of action even permitted?
I would have left Greece sooner, but having rescued three cats in Skopelos, I had to sort all of their paperwork. This was not easy, particularly with Brexit and the Greek bureaucracy.
To be clear, it is not that I wanted to leave Greece. I never would have left. But I had to remove myself from a toxic situation that was making me really unwell.
I lost so much money by abruptly leaving Skiathos but I had to do the best thing for my mental wellbeing. It is also worth mentioning the importance of empathy and understanding in situations like this.
Some older British ex-pats were quite nasty towards me for “harming the reputation of Skopelos” by talking about this or “asking for harassment” because I wore bikinis. People are never asking for harassment and abuse.
Everyone deserves to live how and where they want in peace without fear. You don’t have to make yourself unattractive to be deserved of respect.
You never know what someone is going through – situationally and in their own minds. That’s why you should always be kind.
Sometimes I wonder if things would have been simpler if I had not made any report at all. But then again, how can you be certain?
He may well have still harassed me long after I ended the relationship. At least I have a paper trail of all of the emails and correspondence with the police.
Recently, I was asked to appear in Athens and give another statement. My Lawyer quickly discovered that I had been repeatedly asked to present myself at the police station but… they had “accidentally” sent all of my mail to my abusive ex-boyfriend!
He had been opening all of my mail and the confidential information about my reports. I am not sure if that was truly accidental or not.
Court cases take years to be heard in Greece. It is also not that you simply report something and the police deal with it, especially if it involves one of their own.
Hiring a Lawyer was an additional expense. After a while, it began to feel as though I was hemorrhaging money paying for legal fees to stand up for myself.
Staying in Greece would have come with the promise of sailing around Greek islands all summer and continuing to live in Skiathos. But it also came with the real possibility of more drama from this individual.
I am deeply sorry for the way the Greek authorities handled this. Two years after reporting the assault and abuse, I just want to move on with my life.
For as long as I am in Greece, I feel that it will always be hanging over my head. I deserve much better.
I still do not have my personal belongings back. Apparently, if I want them, I have to file a court motion to request them, even though I have done nothing wrong. This is likely to cost hundreds of euros.
I will continue to work with my Lawyer on the matter, I will follow it through to the end. Similarly, I will continue to work with Greek Feminist Charities to address all of the problems with how abuse victims are perceived and treated in Greece.
When I feel comfortable, I will return. Perhaps before moving back I will just dip in and out of Greece as a tourist for a while.
But when there are 192 beautiful countries in this world, there is no sense in staying in the one where you feel unsafe.