Skip to content

Crime reporting and conviction rates, and attitudes

October 31, 2009

Looking up statistics for the endnote to my last post got me interested. I initially thought of adding still more info there, but it grew to the point that I thought I’d move it to a different post (with less chance of getting overlooked, as well).

I’ll include the original:

* Actually, I thought it was rather telling that the English-language publisher apparently did not think that a book called Men Who Hate Women would sell in the UK. Which also has a distressing record of rape convictions (up to 7% of reported rapes at last check, from 5.6% in 2002).

Come to find out, “Sweden had a conviction rate of 8 percent from 1993 to 1997, according to data collected by the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University. That compares to Finland’s 17 percent conviction rate, Norway’s 15 percent, Germany’s 17 percent and Czech Republic’s 22 percent in the same years.” By another report (from figures released in 2003, apparently) Sweden and the UK are about even. That did surprise me a bit.

Especially since the U.S. isn’t exactly great in this department, but is apparently doing better (at 13% recently):

The higher U.S. conviction rate for rape is attributable both to the higher U.S. police-recorded rape rate [all these are per 1000 population] and to a United States criminal justice system that catches and convicts rapists at a higher rate than England’s system. According to the most recent statistics on crime (1996) and the justice system (1994 in the United States, 1995 in England), the U.S. police-recorded rape rate is three times England’s (figure 5), but the U.S. rape conviction rate is over eight times England’s (.212 versus .025) (figure 20), indicating that a rape in the United States is more likely to lead to conviction than one in England.

The new stuff:

Estimated reporting levels were 16-36%% in the U.S. (depending on source) and 10-20% in the U.K., going by figures from between 2003 and 2005. Sweden’s reporting rate may be 5-10%, and “[e]qually disturbing is the statistic from BRÅ stating that in 2007, less than 13 percent of the 3,535 rape crimes reported resulted in a decision to start legal proceedings.” This is slightly lower than the U.S. conviction rate.


In Sweden, 46 incidents of rape are reported per 100,000 residents.

This figure is double as many as in the UK which reports 23 cases, and four times that of the other Nordic countries, Germany and France. The figure is up to 20 times the figure for certain countries in southern and eastern Europe. . .

The high figures in Sweden can not it seems be explained purely by an increased tendency to report rapes and other more minor sexual offences.

Rape simply appears to be a more common occurrence in Sweden than in the other EU countries studied, the researchers argue.”

Part of this may well be down to the legal definition of rape being broader. The law may be counting more things as Real Rape, but it doesn’t look as though enforcement is keeping up. (Social attitudes may not be doing so either.) I am trying to ignore the xenophobic nutjobs turning up on Google, insisting that Muslim gangs are responsible for all the country’s sexual assaults–alongside the usual “loose women, feminism, and moral decay” brigade.

I’m glad that gender issues really do not seem to be relegated to the Swedish “special interests” (low priority, definitely not human rights) bin to nearly the same extent as they are in the US or the UK: my main points of comparison. AFAICT, saying that men who hate women really do exist outside the Taliban will not get you dismissed as some sort of vulgar bigoted harpy nearly as often there these days; I suspect it’s still not so popular to point out that more than a few are Swedes, however. Backlash has apparently not stopped people from calling themselves feminists to the same extent. Frankly, I had expected better practical results from the (at least surface) more enlightened social policies. Part of this may well come from Nigel’s lens of privilege, though, since he’s the Swede I live and discuss things with. I was particularly interested in running across another side of things, given that context.

This does seem like a good demonstration of how you can’t legislate a change in people’s attitudes. Social policies are a good start; unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the more enlightened attitudes have necessarily filtered into people’s personal relationships. How much lip service has been going on?

From one of the Swedish articles referenced above, Swedish rapists ‘enjoy impunity’: Amnesty International:

In addition to challenging victim and crime stereotypes, perceptions surrounding ‘typical’ perpetrators must also be considered. The UN Special Report discusses how there is a widespread belief that the type of men who commit intimate-partner violence are not typical, ‘normal’ Swedes.

They are usually imagined as somewhat ‘deviant’ – unemployed, uneducated, alcoholic or from non-Western backgrounds, and so on. However, as Ertürk challenges: “In absolute numbers, the vast majority of the perpetrators of intimate-partner violence are ‘ordinary’ Swedish men.”

In a country where women’s rights feature high on the public agenda, there is a pervasive “fear of public shame – being regarded as a tragic failure in a country of supposed gender equality” especially among well-educated and successful Swedish women, which creates yet another obstacle for the victims of violence and rape, the UN report concludes. . .

In its conclusion, Amnesty blames “deeply rooted patriarchal gender norms” of Swedish family life and sexual relationships as a “major societal flaw” and a reason for the continued prevalence of violence against women in Sweden.

Aha. Looks like we’re getting somewhere now, with The Big P getting specifically pointed at. I have seen something closely resembling the “not typical, ‘normal’ Swedes” belief, close up, as an extension of “not typical, ‘normal’ men”. I guess nobody wants to look at who has been physically assaulting the 46% of women who say this has happened because of their gender (we’ll get back to that figure later)–not to mention the fact that nearly half the women they know have been assaulted because they’re female. As one Canadian source succinctly stated, “It is estimated that over 80% of women who are sexually assaulted do not report it due to feelings of shame and humiliation or due to their fear of re-victimization through the criminal trial process.” Similar applies to “domestic violence”. Any extra layer of shame for the victim can only do harm; I know about that firsthand.

Not too surprisingly, stats on the euphemistically termed “domestic violence” were harder to find, and I would not be surprised if the reporting gap were higher there, across the countries. Annoyingly, I couldn’t locate the Amnesty report, which probably does include some figures. I did run across an interesting article, from 2005: Behind Sweden’s Gender Lines, which offers some similar observations:

“There has been a strong women’s movement here that has achieved a lot,” said Lotten Sunna, Stockholm-based spokesperson for Feminist Initiative, a new empowerment movement that is focused on putting feminism even higher on the political agenda. “But that has also led to a false belief that we have reached equality, that we are there, and as a result of that things are starting to back up again.”. . .

Feminist Initiative’s platform describes Sweden as a country that is dominated by a “patriarchical power structure.” It says women are discriminated against, subjected to violence, exploited in the labor market, under-prioritized in health care and receive a smaller proportion of welfare benefits.

“We grew up believing that we would actually be equal to men,” said Sunna, who was a teen in the 1970s. “Swedish women get very angry when you discover that that is not the case.”

In a recent survey directed by Eva Lundgren, a sociologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, 46 percent of women say they’ve been victims of some form of gender violence in their lifetimes. Lundgren’s methodology has been criticized, however, for having too broad a definition of gender violence. Government data puts the number at around 12 percent.

Ah, letdown from the ’70s. I was born in the middle of the decade, and still feel let down in a lot of ways. I can’t say I’m surprised that similar has happened there.

Lundgren’s survey was the source for Stieg Larsson’s stats in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 46% sounds far more plausible if still low, based on reporting gaps and definitions (and experience elsewhere). Would getting shoved because you’re Black count as racially motivated violence? Especially if they have reason to think they’re more likely to get away with it–and that you’re less able to defend yourself, and that you have less right to be occupying that space than they do–because you’re Black? How about if someone considers it OK to grab your arm, with no sign of permission, because you’re Asian?* Direct substitution works. What counts as gender violence under a patriarchal power structure? Would most women even think of similar assaults as having been based on gender when asked about it? How “serious” does it need to be in order to qualify? Does injured dignity count, if it doesn’t cause visible bruises?

Showing my age again, I can’t help but think of L7’s “Everglade” (‘Said, “Get out of here girly, I`m just trying to have some fun.”‘), not to mention the jerk who shoved me and my walking stick out of the way on the bus the other day. That’s everyday stuff, which I spent years half-purposely not paying much attention to so I didn’t blow a gasket. Some people should have learned to keep their hands (elbows, etc.) to themselves before they were old enough to start school–and that this applies to dealing with all kinds of people.

Somehow I doubt this kind of low-level everyday unpleasantness is uncommon in Sweden. I certainly ran into some in Stockholm. Mostly, I’m feeling silly for having underestimated the deep influence of The P, in part because Nigel’s own personal Sweden has sounded like somewhere I really wouldn’t mind living. Getting some other people’s perspectives would be good.


* I may well turn violent myself, the next time some condescending and/or controlling dude grabs my arm. Especially trying to keep me from walking away.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2009 3:09 am

    What counts as gender violence under a patriarchal power structure? Would most women even think of similar assaults as having been based on gender when asked about it? How “serious” does it need to be in order to qualify? Does injured dignity count, if it doesn’t cause visible bruises?

    Good question.

    There’s been a succession of interesting posts on this topic at Shapely Prose not too long ago; your post reminded me specifically of this one, in which Fillyjonk wonders whether we learn to excuse, and expect, a certain level of intrusiveness just because we’re women and harrassment of women is so ingrained in our culture.

    Ah, letdown from the ’70s. I was born in the middle of the decade, and I still feel let down in a lot of ways.

    I was born in the mid-’80s, with the backlash already in full swing.

    The ’70s sound like they would’ve been a nice time to be alive. 🙂

    • urocyon permalink
      November 2, 2009 3:03 pm

      Excellent link–thanks. 🙂 I haven’t been keeping up too well lately. The last one I read (and bookmarked!) over there was Schrödinger’s Rapist.

      The most appealing thing about the ’70s to me was the level of hope that’s mostly been squashed by backlash. Sure, things weren’t perfect, but they were looking up–and there was reason to believe that they’d continue to improve. The work people had put into improving gender and race relations seemed to be paying off, rather than seeming to vanish down a rathole to the extent that it seems to do under the backlash. Another major factor I’ve seen a lot of 2nd Wavers mention? Since then, we’ve been strongly encouraged to view obstacles (low pay, harassment, violence, etc.) as personal problems, rather than widespread political ones. Some more consciousness raising sure would help, these days.

      If expectations of real change remained higher in Sweden, I can see why a lot of women would feel let down, as they can’t help noticing that with all the talk about true equality, it does not look likely under the existing system. I sure am tired of getting told that we’ve already got equality, in the face of all the evidence–so what else could you want or need?–and doubt it’s any more palatable where official policy change actually managed to go further.

      Yeah, I’m mostly going by observations from 2nd Wavers and other activists who were around in the ’60s and ’70s, including my mom. It did seem to me that the emotional climate around a lot of issues changed as the ’80s marched on, being sensitive to that kind of thing. Part of the perceived difference may just be from my turning more disappointed with experience. 🙂

  2. Domina permalink
    January 24, 2011 1:12 am

    A large part of the problem here is that you are looking at statistics that are CALLED the same but are based on different things. This sort of occurrence happens all the time in statistical analysis but for an example of the slewed figures in the United Kingdom, for example, take a look at this:

    You can find open discussion on the various claims made – by feminists and others – on this site:

    • urocyon permalink
      January 24, 2011 3:19 am

      Good point. It’s very difficult to compare statistics when the data are gathered and analyzed differently.


  1. How far to defend a corporation? - Page 2 - Message Board

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: