Finland Sees Spike in Reported Rapes as Police Cite Increased Awareness
05:00 GMT 29.07.2022 (Updated: 09:27 GMT 29.07.2022)
According to the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency, up to 62,000 Finnish women experience sexual violence each year, but only a fraction of these crimes are reported. The police attribute the rise in reported assaults to a more open public debate, as well as new legislation. By contrast, other factors such as immigration are often neglected.
The number of sexual offenses reported to the police has been growing in Finland in recent years, rising almost 50 percent since 2017.
There were 1,262 rape reports filed with the police in 2017. By 2021, the number had risen to 1,836 in a country of 5.5 million, national broadcaster Yle reported
According to the police, the rise in reported incidents does not necessarily reflect an increase in the number of crimes committed, but rather a new keenness to report. The police said that public debate around sexual offenses and new legislation has led to a rise in coming forward.
“It has certainly affected people's understanding of what constitutes a crime and what their rights are,” Saara Asmundela, a commissioner of Central Finland's Police Department, told Yle.
Over the past few years alone, more than a dozen support centers for victims of sexual violence have been established in hospitals across the country, where help is provided irrespective of whether the crime has been reported.
Approximately half the visitors to these centers tend to report the crime to the police immediately, and the other half do so within the following year. In most cases, failure to report the incident is because the victim is trying to forget it, according to police. However, the sooner a crime is reported after it has happened, the greater the chances it will be solved, the police noted.
According to the support center staff, only a fraction of people who have experienced sexual violence actually apply for support.
“The number of people who experience sexual violence is actually much higher than the number of those who come to us for treatment,” midwife Sanni Saarimaa told Yle, noting a positive trend in more people “daring” to seek treatment.
According to the Finnish branch of UN Women, one in three Finnish women experiences intimate partner violence at some point in their lives.
According to the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), every year between 41,000 and 62,000 women experience sexual violence in Finland.
And in 2021, a study, commissioned by Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s administration and carried out by the Finnish Youth Research Network and the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, found that foreign-born individuals, despite making up less than seven percent of the Finnish population, accounted for nearly 38 percent of the country’s rape suspects in 2020.
Finland is not alone, as similar results have been found elsewhere in Europe, including Germany, France, Denmark and Sweden.
However, official reports tend to draw a veil over this factor, instead emphasizing others such as social disadvantage, antisocial behavior, use of intoxicants and a criminal past.