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Sun Sep 2, 2012, 06:12 AM

Naomi Wolf: Sweden's Other Rape Suspects [View all]

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/sweden-s-other-rape-suspects-by-naomi-wolf

Sweden’s other rape suspects

By Naomi Wolf
Published on Aug. 31, 2012

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.

- snip -

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.

- snip -

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.”

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