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Busted Pedophile Ring Stirs Debate in Sweden

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Seventy-two suspected Swedish pedophiles have been identified in a database containing millions of downloads. One of the men is a church youth leader, whereas another is a head of listed company. Three of the suspects were previously convicted of offences pertaining to child porn. This disclosure made pedophilia a hot topic in Swedish media.

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The identification was made possible through an investigation by Swedish newspapers Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet of download logs from file-sharing sites, which was earlier compiled by Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang. Over 7,300 downloads reportedly had connections to Sweden and were examined by Swedish reporters. By checking IP addresses, usernames and e-mails, the journalists were able to identify the 72 child porn viewers aged 18-72.

"We can see that there are thousands of people out there who do it [download child pornography] every month," Chief Inspector Anders Ahlqvist told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter about downloading explicit material depicting the sexual abuse of children.

According to Svenska Dagbladet, police are often able to identify the perpetrators, but since the percentage of convictions is low, investigations are often put on ice.

The films in question contain, among other things, rough sadistic child abuse.

"This is pretty typical stuff," Bjørn-Erik Ludvigsen, Chief Inspector at Norway's National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos), told Aftonbladet. "There is everything from pictures featuring naked children on the beach to videos showing serious sexual assault, such as penetration of toddlers," he added.

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According to Dagens Nyheter, many of the men contacted admitted their guilt and agreed to meet with reporters. Many of them are said to be repentant and struggling with their sexual orientation, and admitted to having suicidal thoughts.

Meanwhile, the number of tips of child abuse that the Swedish children's rights organization ECPAT is receiving is increasing by the year, peaking at 7,000 tips in 2016. At the same time, the helpline Preventell is receiving daily calls from pedophiles who are afraid to commit child abuse. Almost a quarter of Preventell callers are pedophiles who claim to be sexually interested in children and admit to having downloaded child abuse material.

"Most callers are worried they're about to go over the limit and commit an abuse," psychologist and researcher Catherine Görts Öberg at Karolinska University Hospital, which runs the helpline, told Svenska Dagbladet.

Ninety-five percent of those who call Preventell and express worries about being sexually attracted to children are male, but every twentieth caller is a female.

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The Preventell helpline is connected to Anova Sexual Medicine, a department at Karolinska University Hospital, where people who are at risk of committing sexual abuse are treated. In addition to medical assessment by a doctor and cognitive behavioral therapy, patients receive medication with testosterone inhibitors. A total of 550 persons at risk of committing sexual abuse are treated in Sweden each year.

"Pedophilia is a sexual addiction shared by a part of the population and regardless of how disgusting as it is, it can neither be cured or removed by punishment," columnist Matilda Molander concluded in her opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter, advocating more accessible preventive treatment for potential abusers.

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