Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweden’s Other Rape Suspects

NEW YORK – It is difficult for me, as an advocate against rape and other forms of violence against women, to fathom the laziness and willful ignorance that characterize so much of the media coverage of the sexual-assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. To report that we are simply witnessing Swedish justice at work, one must be committed to doing no research – not even the bare minimum of picking up a phone. In fact, we are witnessing a bizarre aberration in the context of Sweden’s treatment of sex crime – a case that exposes the grim reality of indifference, or worse, that victims there and elsewhere face.

If I were raped in Uppsala, where Assange is alleged to have committed his crime, I could not expect top prosecutors to lobby governments to arrest my assailant. On the contrary, “ordinary” Swedish rapists and abusers of women should assume that the police might not respond when called. When I tried the rape-crisis hotline at the government-run Crisis Center for Women in Stockholm, no one even picked up – and there was no answering machine.

According to rape-crisis advocates in Sweden, one-third of Swedish women have been sexually assaulted by the time they leave their teens. Indeed, according to a study published in 2003, and other later studies through 2009, Sweden has the highest sexual-assault rate in Europe, and among the lowest conviction rates.

When I reached the Stockholm branch of Terrafem, a support organization for rape survivors, a volunteer told me that in her many years of experience, Sweden’s police, prosecutors, and magistrates had never mobilized in pursuit of any alleged perpetrator in ways remotely similar to their pursuit of Assange. The far more common scenario – in fact, the only reliable scenario – was that even cases accompanied by a significant amount of evidence were seldom prosecuted.

This, she explained, was because most rapes in Uppsala, Stockholm, and other cities occur when young women meet young men online and go to an apartment, where, as in the allegations in the Assange case, what began as consensual sex turns nonconsensual. But she said that this is exactly the scenario that Swedish police typically refuse to prosecute. Just as everywhere else, Sweden’s male-dominated police, she explained, do not tend to see these victims as “innocent,” and thus do not bother building a case for arrest.

She is right: According to a report by Amnesty International, as of 2008, the number of reported rapes in Sweden had quadrupled in 20 years, but only 20% of cases were ever prosecuted. And, while the prosecution rate constituted a minimal improvement on previous years, when less than 15% of cases ended up in court, the conviction rate for reported rapes “is markedly lower today than it was in 1965.” As a result, “in practice, many perpetrators enjoy impunity.”

Until 2006, women in Uppsala faced a remarkable hurdle in seeking justice: the city’s chief of police, Göran Lindberg, was himself a serial rapist, convicted in July 2010 of more than a dozen charges, including “serious sexual offenses.” One victim testified that she was told her rapist was the police chief, and that she would be framed if she told anyone about his assaults. Lindberg also served as the Police Academy’s spokesman against sexual violence. The Uppsala police force that is now investigating Assange either failed to or refused to investigate effectively the sadistic rapist with whom they worked every day.

In other words, the purported magical Swedish kingdom of female sexual equality, empowerment, and robust institutional support for rape victims – a land, conjured by Swedish prosecutors, that holds much of the global media in thrall – simply does not exist.

In the Assange case, the Swedish police supported the accusers in legally unprecedented ways – for example, by allowing them to tell their stories together and by allowing testimony from a boyfriend. But other alleged victims of gender-based abuse, sometimes in life-threatening circumstances, typically receive very different treatment. In particular, according to WAVE, a pan-European consortium of service providers for rape and sexual-abuse survivors, when migrants, who comprise 13.8% of Sweden’s population, report rape and abuse, they face high systemic hurdles in even telling their stories to police – including longstanding linguistic barriers in communicating with them at all.

Likewise, Swedish intake centers for victims of male violence are woefully underfunded – like all support services for rape and abuse victims across Europe and North America – leaving many women who face threats to their safety and that of their children waiting for unavailable places in shelters. When I emailed the Rape Crisis support institute in Uppsala, listed by the global rape-crisis organization RAINN, I received an automatic reply saying that the facility was temporarily closed.

So, for most raped Swedish women, the shelters are full, the hotlines inactive, and the police selectively look the other way – that is, unless they are busy chasing down a globally famous suspect.

We have been here before. Last year, when my left-wing colleagues were virtually unanimous in believing the New York Police Department’s narrative of a certain victim and a guilty-before-due-process rapist, I made the same call – to the local rape-crisis center. There, Harriet Lesser, who works every day with victims whose alleged attacker is not the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, confirmed that the official support shown for the victim – in advance of any investigation – was indeed unprecedented.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that Assange, much less Dominique Strauss-Kahn, committed no crime against women. Rather, Assange’s case, as was true with Strauss-Kahn’s, is being handled so differently from how the authorities handle all other rape cases that a corrupted standard of justice clearly is being applied. These aberrations add insult to the injury of women, undefended and without justice, who have been raped in the “normal” course of events – by violent nobodies.

  • Contact us to secure rights


  • Hide Comments Hide Comments Read Comments (24)

    Please login or register to post a comment

    1. CommentedPehr Björnbom

      Equador has proposed that the Swedish trial of Mr. Assange should take place in the Equadorian embassy. Before they said that he could be trialled in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, now they suggest that Mr. Assange be moved to the embassy in Stockholm for the trial.

      However. I don't see much difference whether the Swedish court would have carry out this trial on the embassy in London or in Stockholm. In both cases a Swedish trial would take place on Ecuadorian territory. This would be rather peculiar. Has anything like that happened before, that the trial in some country has taken place in the embassy of a foreign country?

      Instead I think we have to face that the Swedish legal procedures against Mr. Assange have been blocked once and for all by the asylum that he has got from Ecuador. Something else is needed to solve Mr. Assange's unfortunate situation.

      My suggestion is that Ecuador starts negotiations with the lawyer of the two Swedish women, Mr. Claes Borgström, in order to compensate the two women for loss of their legal rights. Ecuador could offer the women for example $20000 each on the conditions that they drop their cases against Mr. Assange. I hope that this would result in the inhibition of the Euoropean arrest warrant and that Mr. Assange could be free to go.

      I hope that the lawyer of the two Swedish women, Mr. Claes Borgström, may give Equador advice how this unfortunate situation of Mr. Assange could be solved in this or some similar way.

    2. CommentedPehr Björnbom

      I have read the original documents in Swedish reporting about the investigation against Mr. Assange and I find Göran Rudling's views reasonable.

      I think that one issue that is overlooked in this case is the personal circumstances of one of the victims. She is a leftist-environmentalist-feminist public intellectual in Sweden with her own blog. She is politically active in the Swedish political opposition and in her blog she has a footage from 2010 where she appears in a demonstration close to the leaders of the social democratic party (Mona Sahlin), the left party (Lars Ohly), and the green party (Maria Wetterstrand).

      I have read her blog and have got a good impression of her. There are no questions about her honesty. This has probably contributed to the accusations being considered as a serious matter by the prosecutor.

    3. CommentedMark Hayes-Newington

      I speak without side. I certainly don't know what the Swedish rape statistics are or are not.

      However, it seems the placing of an event in a place where other events serve to exaggerate the pointbeing made does seem a fault. Especially when ones argument begins with an exhortation to others to do research.

      Many legal descision are difficult to understand when viewed from outside of the courtroom. On balance the Swedish people enjoy a quality of life for thier population which is or should be the envy of most on this planet. And thier positioning on equality and consideration for others might teach many a lesson or two.

      This together with no strong historical evidence that they bow to US pressure makes me confident that Assange can expect a fair trial.

      The issue I fear will come from US use of the ridiculous anti terror legislation it foisted on the world. This seems to allow extradition to the States on the pretext that you overstayed a parking meter in Seattle in 2003.

    4. CommentedGöran Rudling

      Mr Vopper -- Mr Vopper -- Mike -- Hello -- anybody there?

      You did not understand why it is important that Naomi Wolf now has relocated the alleged rape from Enköping to Uppsala. I think that the article below will make you aware that Naomi Wolf is fabricating her story. She has moved from just misrepresenting facts to make them up.

      If you have any comments I would like to know.

    5. CommentedMike Vopper

      It is curious that Goran Rudling is labouring the error that it is Enköping as opposed to Uppsala.

      On Sep 3rd, David Allen Green published in the New Statesman: 'The legal mythology of the extradition of Julian Assange'

      Green made blatant material errors regarding the date of Assange's August 30th interrogation and two crucial assertions that Assange was informed of all the allegations against him at that interrogation. Mr Rudling however, posted a fawning endorsement opening with:

      "It is so pleasing to read your article since you are concerned about the facts of the case and not dealing with the myths. Excellent read....... "

      Obviously Mr Rudling is selective when it comes to distinguishing between facts, errors and myths, perhaps he has an agenda?

        CommentedSuzanne Nguyen

        So you don't see the relevance of the location of the alleged assault toward key points in Wolf's argument?

        CommentedGöran Rudling

        Dear Mr Vopper,

        You are absolutely correct that the interview with Julian Assange was on the 30th of August 17:43 - 18:37 and not on the 31st as David Allen Green stated. You are also correct in mentioning that Julian Assange was not informed of all allegations against him at the time for the interview. It was not until 1st September that most of the allegations (rape, sexual molestation) were known. I made a mistake of not pointing it out since I did not think it made much of a difference. But you are correct. One up to you.

        I don't know how much you know about the geography of Sweden. But it is important. Excuse me if I am pointing out the obvious. The alleged rape did not occur in Uppsala as Naomi Wolf claims. It happened in Enköping. The crime was first reported to Klara Närpolisstation in Stockholm and was investigated by City Åklagarkammare in Stockholm. When the case was re-opened it's been investigated by Västerorts Åklagarkammare in Solna, a suburb of Stockholm.

        As I thought you immediately noticed in my first comment, the Uppsala police force has never been involved in the Assange investigation as Naomi Wolf claims. And I can assure you, it never will. Is this important? Naomi Wolf's claim is that the Uppsala police force does not seriously investigate rape. And since they don't it is proof that the case against Assange is extraordinary. Do you now see that her one of her central allegations is false?

        When I spoke to a friend of mine about this she said with a sigh:
        "Yeah, I met Naomi in my school in '96,
        she was master at stating the obvious,
        now -------------- the imaginary".

        If you can be so kind to read the post below and point out what facts you think are incorrect I would be very happy.

    6. CommentedDee Kay

      All of which makes me wonder why Assange himself has called Sweden “the Saudi Arabia of radical feminism”?

      But more seriously, any look at rape statistics, especially reporting, prosecution and conviction levels is always going to be depressing.

      But when you factor in estimated reporting rates - which are thought higher in Sweden than most places - other countries fair just as badly, the US being just one example. Including those that went unreported, the US and Sweden have similar per capita levels of rape and prosecution, and the Swedes have the higher conviction rate.

      Now, I'm not saying that the reporting, prosecution or conviction rates are satisfactory in Sweden. It's just that the picture is no more depressing in Sweden than in many other places.

      (And here's the stats, for those interested...

      A study by the University of Kentucky found 37% of rapes reported in the US during 2007 were prosecuted, and 18% of those ended in a conviction. But it's estimated that less than 10% are actually reported. That would mean an actual figure of 325 rapes per 100,000 people, which would result in 11 prosecutions and 2 convictions.

      Meanwhile, the quoted Amnesty study found 20% of the roughly 4000 rapes reported in Sweden during 2008 were prosecuted, with just over 250 convictions. But the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention estimates that up to 20% of cases are reported in Sweden - which is in keeping with similar findings in neighbouring Denmark. That would mean an actual figure of 295 rapes per 100,000 people, which would result in 12 prosecutions and 4 convictions.)

    7. CommentedMelanie holzman

      First, I am an American woman. I was gang-raped four times before my 21st birthday. I was abducted by gunpoint at 33.

      No one makes an arrest with he said/she said; there must be evidence!

      I think every mother, father, sister and wife would want that for the men in their lives.

      If you invite a male and both of you are consenting adults, in the US it is domestic. It’s really a civil case. I am fairly confident the taxpayers and prisoners appreciate that.

      In Assange case, that was outrageous. It was a joke in the worse way. That was using anything to get even. As far as helping woman, absolutely not: there has been too much wolf calling.

      This does far more damage to females then you can imagine. My guess is though you have not been where I have.

      Write about what you know.

        CommentedMelanie holzman

        My mistake. I didn't get the last paragraph where you point out the peculiarities of the Assange and Strauss-Kahn case.

        I think I have read too much about these cases and jumped to conclusions. My apologies, Ms. Wolf.

        I think I may be over passionate because it is a misuse of a crime that seems to becoming commonplace.

    8. CommentedGöran Rudling

      Sorry for posting the links in a messy way.

        CommentedGöran Rudling

        Dear Nicklas Sundström,

        I don't have to warn readers about you and your comments. You do that much better by yourself.

        I note that you write:
        "I don't think we have the capability to sort things out ourselves anymore."

        I don't know you. I don't know how many you are or if you have multiple personalities. You write "we" as if all the people in Sweden cannot understand the facts of the Assange case. Speak for yourself.

        I commented on the fact Naomi Wolf in her article has decided to relocate the important events in the case to a completely unconnected city. One can't even call this willful ignorance, and she knows perfectly well that the events took place elsewhere. As I assume you do. The alleged rape took place in the city of Enköping. Not in Uppsala some 30 miles to the north-east. Agree?

        From your short comment I notice that you misrepresent facts too. Just like Naomi Wolf. The first extradition hearing was at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The court was sitting at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court.

        I don't think there is a desperate need for independent, qualitative and critical investigative journalism into this whole case. I think it is enough if people like you would do some fact checking before you use your keyboard.

        CommentedNicklas Sundström

        Just some words of caution in regard to the posts and poster above.

        As far as I understand, Göran Rudling was interrogated by the police in regard to the case of Julian Assange, and he also presented evidence for Assange in the first round of extradition court hearings at Woolwich Crown Court.

        He also runs a blog related to questions of gender and sexual policies in Sweden, and he furthermore also appears to have close private personal connections with parties involved in this case, so he has many layers of both personal and professional conflicting interrests resting in this case.

        In the best of worlds this would not mean anything, but I think it is prudent to be aware of this in regard to the current situation.

        On another wider level I think this underscores the desperate need for independent, qualitative and critical investigative journalism into this whole case. Journalism performed by a profession and individuals, not paying subservient lip service to any particular political or ideological agenda, but that places the responsibilities of accuracy, objectivity, fairness and truth highest.

        This need is especially desperate for Sweden, were this issue is now so emboiled in emotion and irrationality that I dont think we have the capability to sort things out ourself anymore, but requires assistance to calmly and rationally help us place things back into their proper perspective.

    9. CommentedGöran Rudling

      Dear Naomi Wolf,

      Recently I've discovered your writings about the Assange case. Have you seen my response to your other article yet?

      The alleged rape did not occur in Uppsala as you claim in this post. It happened in Enköping. The crime was first reported to Klara Närpolisstation in Stockholm and was investigated by City Åklagarkammare in Stockholm. When the case was re-opened it's been investigated by Västerorts Åklagarkammare in Solna, a suburb of Stockholm. The prosecutor in charge is Erika Lejnefors.

      "You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time." I think Abraham Lincoln said that.

      It seems you have got the facts quite wrong again. My offer of help remains open! I said that.

      Best regards,

      Göran Rudling

        CommentedGary Marshall

        Hello Goran,

        Naomi Wolfe is just one of those aged feminist morons whose time in the light has long passed. All she can offer is her absurd opinions; And if they conflict with the facts, so be it.


    10. CommentedLinus Svensson

      You write "If I were raped in Uppsala, where Assange is alleged to have committed his crime".

      The alleged rape was in Enköping.

    11. CommentedFred Phillips

      It is reprehensible for Rep. Todd Akin to say 'legitimate rape.' It is reprehensible for Naomi Wolf to write 'rape in the "normal" course of events,' even if she uses quotation marks. Doubly so given her timing, so soon after the Akin remark. He is a member of Congress. She is a 'world-renowned public intellectual.' (What an odd thing to call oneself!) Both therefore have responsibility to the public. Both are careless, but unlike Wolf, Akin can claim ignorance.

    12. CommentedDaniel Gomes

      Ana Palacio should consider suing Naomi Wolf for such 'ad hominem' attack against her.

      Miss Palacio, this article portrays enough evidence, backed up by reputable sources, to prove you wrong beyond reasonable doubt.

      It exposes your right wing bias in this case demonstrating with crystal clear logic that your main concern is not justice being made for rape victims.

      Out of respect for the victims, any decent human being in your shoes, would issue an apology.

    13. CommentedAndrés Arellano Báez

      Let me be clear: I think that Assange and Dominique Strauss-Kahn are really the victims here. This column should be investigate in a more profound way, because here are the clues for a declaration of not guilty to these guys.
      Congrats for a wonderfull column.

    14. CommentedNick Nolan

      Sweden has a low prosecution rate for prosecution for all crimes, because Sweden is a civil law jurisdiction. Prosecutors must be be very confident that they can get a conviction before they charge the suspect. Compare this to countries with common-law jurisdiction like the US and UK almost every case goes to trial.

      Sweden has different legal system and culture, but it's very good. If Naomi Wolf wants to make argument, she should look at the conviction rates. These number tell the different story where Sweden comes up with really good conviction rate.

      Naomi Wolf is correct in the Assange case. It is handled very strangely. Her story about Sweden in general is completely bogus if you look relevant statistics that does not compare apples to oranges.

        CommentedNicklas Sundström

        @Nick Nolan,

        Naomi is (as far as I understand), actually primarily pointing out the relative changes in reported cases and convictions in Sweden over time, and Sweden has not changed judicial system, the reported changes are seen within the SAME system.

        What Sweden has changed, are among other things the laws concerning rape and sexual assualt, extending the concept of rape and molestation far outside the colloquial understanding of the words. Essentially watering down the concept to the point that, in the words of the accusers legal representative, Claes Borgström, 'you today need to be a trained lawyer to know if you have been raped or not'.

        There has actually been proposals put forward, in all seriousness, that legal documentation of consent be signed by both parties, before any hanky panky are allowed to commence... something that I think really should turn on all alarm bells.

        If you couple this with a situation were accused has been sentenced, exclusively on the word of the accuser, on the opinion that a raped woman never lies, you have in my mind created an exceedingly dangerous situation.

        If you to this add that these trials are normally held behind "closed doors", I come back to your ascertion that: "Sweden has different legal system and culture, but it's very good."

        To place your opinion in perspective, only last week a brand new opinion poll in Sweden showed a dramatic 40% decrease in confidence in the Swedish judicial system.

        So I am curious om what experiances and what knowledge you assert this?

    15. CommentedNicklas Sundström

      I can only agree fully with Naomi Wolf, and further support the conclusions presented in the article. It is almost impossible to understate how atypical and completly upside down this case has been handled by the swedish authorities.

      The really scary thing is how increadible easy it is to secure solid documented evidence for this, by just doing a couple of quick google searches and telephone calls, (As Noami did, and much more). I mean Sweden have been THE frontrunner and for a long time been pushing for public access, transparancy and to openness in regard to government and authorities.

      And at the same time, that so many prolific journalists that regularly writes for prominent international newspapers and news organizations, fail to do just this.

      How about doing a background check of the official "actors" in this case? How about the prosecutor, Marianne Ny? Has anyone looked into her case history, previous actions, the prosecutors office? I mean, you can hardly see the forest for all the trees...

      And in regard to JA, almost all documentation are already available online. Which is a story all in itself, and why not compare similar cases from Ny's recent personal professional history...

      I have a very hard time believing that the apparent lack of basic journalistic curiosity and footwork, from so many, into a case of this dignity, are due to honest negligence or credulity.

    16. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

      Courageous and clear. Naomi Wolf is never on the side of anything but the truth. Celebrity sexual crime is treated differently to that of "violent nobodies". An uncomfortable truth.

    17. Commentedjames durante

      Another, admittedly more unconventional, option for any so-called journalist who wanted to do even the least investigation of rape and the mistreatment of women, especially immigrant women, in Sweden, would be to read one of the most internationally acclaimed series of novels ever written by a Swede. Stieg Larsen's trilogy of novels about Lisabeth Salander are an exact fictional account of the pathetic statistics Ms. Wolf lays out here. probably a lot of journalists have read these novels and still never thought of actually looking at Asange's case versus a typical case in Sweden. But then when everyone is trying with heart and soul to emulate powerful white men in business suits, who is going to pay any attention to those who don't fit into the sanitized picture of the capitalist world order be it women, the poor, workers, or dissidents?

      A thousand bucks of Mitt Romney's money says that no one else even comments on this article. It doesn't fit into the capitalist scheme of profit at all costs (and turn your eyes away form the costs).