Sweden’s Rape Data – Part 2

By Robert Whiston FRSA  Sept 2nd 2010

When we left Part 1 we were looking at Table 485 (right), which indicated the age of victims and considering the apparent inconsistencies with the age profile of offenders versus victims.

Table 526-A (also in Part 1) depicted offenders in age groups from 15- 24 to 60 +. For Part 2 this has been converted into a graph (see below). The number of people found guilty of a criminal sex offence was highest in the 30 – 39 age group. 

To underline this discrepancy in Swedish data, Table 526-A from Part 1, has been converted into a chart (see ‘Persons found guilty’ below).

The ‘Combined’ trend line is composed of both rape offences and sex offences other than rape. ‘Rape Only’ is as its name implies.

Trend lines moving in opposite directions require further inquiry. We can see in Tables 485 a lessening in victimisation during the middle years, e.g. 35-54. But in ‘Table 526-A’ we see the very opposite, namely an increase in offending among 30-39 year olds, which takes in part of those years.

It is only after the post 50 or 55 age that both trends move in harmony.

Could it be that cases where the persons  subjected to violence or physical threat, do not result in criminal proceedings in Sweden because of their superficial nature ?

Could it be that by the age of 30 or 39 such threats of violence or physical violence result in action being taken and the incident reported to the police ? We are left to speculate.

Fig 3 displays the numbers “proceeded against” for rape in England & Wales in all courts for the year 2006. The lower of the two trend lines (the pink line) displays the number found ‘guilty’ irrespective of actual guilt or innocence.

Although the age intervals are different for the English there is, nonetheless, a sympathetic movement around the age groups of25-45.  

There has been a propensity, most probably for political and funding purposes, to depict Britain as a land benighted by prevalent sexual offending.

Sweden had a population of 8,876,000 in 2000 and by 2009 it had grown only to 9 million. Britain’s population is approx 6 times larger at 55 million, yet looking at the two charts; Britain’s total for ‘guilty’ rape convictions is inverse to its size, e.g. 50 for Sweden with a population of 9 million and 150 convictions for a country of 55 million.

There are numerous tables and charts showing England & Wales (see Fig 4, below), as having one of the world’s highest rates of rape offending. But as we can see from the charts above the patterns of sex offending is very similar in both Sweden and Britain.

Below is one the many tables showing Britain, in 2006, as a world leader among women reporting rape (not actual rapes, just reports to police). It is taken from “Different systems, similar outcomes ? Tracking attrition in reported rape cases in eleven countries” a 2009 publication by Liz Kelly & Jo Lovett.

Its authors, Liz Kelly & Jo Lovett, more or less have to concede that Pan-European comparisons are almost impossible given the different reporting rates, differing procedures adopted, type of legislation in force, the onus of proof and standards required. Many countries are, therefore, far from Britain’s facilitating stance.

In Part 1 we saw how re-arranging data into 10 yearly grouping can alter profiles.

There are no direct comparisons between Swedish English data. This is particularly apparent in age groupings. Fig 3 (above) is reproduce here as a bar chart and renamed Fig 5 to aid visual comparison with bar charts available from Sweden.

Fig 5 and Fig 6, below, attempt to standardise the age intervals for the two sets of data.

Fig 5 related to the number of court proceedings in England & Wales for rape only, in all courts, for the single year of 2004. In that year there were 254 cases that came to trial involving persons aged between 10 to 17 and there were 30 guilty verdicts (approx 12%). But the actual percentages are not of as much interest as the trend lines by age of accused.

For comparison purposes the age group ranging from 10  to 19 in the English data has to be ignored as it is not comparable to the 15 – 17 Swedish age groupings.

If we take the age of 19 as a common starting point we see that in both the Swedish and English data the peak has already been reached, if somewhat suddenly at 19-25 and 18-29. But whereas in Sweden the trend drops by age 20-39, in England it remains at the same level, i.e. from 26 – 45.

If Sweden convicts 42 persons for rape in the 18-29 age group and, say, 37 in the 30 – 39 age group (see Table 526-B in Part 1), then one would expect England to convict 6 times that number, i.e. 246 and 222.  But England, in 2004, only convicted 140 in each of the age groups from 19 to 45.

Fig 5 depicts in Blue rape cases taken to trial in 2004, with the dark Red bars exclusively depicting guilty verdicts for rape offences. Fig 6 is slightly different in that it shows, in Blue, Swedish guilty verdicts for general sex offences with dark Red bars showing guilty rape verdicts (for the year 2000 only).

Immediately, one can see that the dark red bars in both charts move in sympathy to age of offender, namely downwards with greater age. The fact that one has data from 2000 and the other from 2004 is immaterial since the offending levels are consistent over time.

One could speculate that as rape is a small proportion of the many types of sex offences that criminalized the proportion shown in the Swedish date, i.e. ‘all sex offences’ might very well reflect the ratio of lesser sex offences to be found in English courts.

Types of Offending

In the 10 years since 1999 – when the Home Office’s sex offending review of team (SORT), began its work in readiness for the 2003 Act, attitudes have evolved, albeit slightly.

There is now an acceptance that some false allegations are made; there is now an acceptance that a second victim is the person wrongly accused of rape; there is now an acceptance that false allegations of rape are not the faintly absurdly small figure of 2% but more likely to be 15% +.

However, there has yet to be a breakthrough in the way rape is regarded. For some reason, best excused perhaps by psychologists, rape is placed in the same category as homicide in the Pantheon of serious crimes. Rationally murder and rape are not comparable, in the same way common assault is not comparable with murder.

Repugnant as rape may be, murder, mass-murder, crimes against humanity and genocide are still the termination of peoples’ lives when rape is not.

Endless Fascination

The obsession by some women’s groups with rape is possibly unhealthy and possibly destructive. It would be wrong and misleading to describe their obsession as similar to a Stockholm Syndrome but there is something in their behaviours which falls outside normal responses to a crime or a personal assault.

“Stockholm Syndrome” is a psychological term used by criminologists to describe a hostage situation but where, paradoxically, the hostages come to admiration and empathise with the hostage-taker (based on a bank siege in Stockholm, Aug 1973). The reverse of this is known as the “Lima Syndrome” (1996), i.e. where hostage-takers come to feel sorry for their hostages and let them go.

It is this obsession – often by women who have never been raped – that blocks progress to the next tier in tackling the problem.

Hapless v Habitual

Some, if not all, women’s groups fail to differentiate between the Hapless rapist and the Habitual rapist.

Women’s groups can manage to differentiate when it is a woman accused of some heinous crime, say child abuse. Invariably, then the argument is trotted out that she was ‘depressed’, taking medication, was under an enormous strains, couldn’t cope, had been unhappy for a long time.

These argument are used even is the most obscene cases such as Myra Hindley and Rose West. 

Myra Hindley was put on trial with Ian Brady for the sadistic sexual killing of 5 (or more), children between July 1963 and October 1965. The sadism contained with in the audio tapes of their victims set new levels of depravity.

Rose West was charged with her husband Fred West that between 1967 and 1987 they both tortured, raped and murdered at least 12 young women and girls, many at the couple’s home. The levels of depravity were probably equal to or in excess of those in the Brady & Hindley trial but there were no audio tapes of the sadism for comparison purposes.

If we can differentiate between persistent murderers, recurrent murdering and accidental homicide, i.e. manslaughter, why can’t this distinction be applied to rape and sex offending ?

In cases where the female is charged with gross offences and where the above excuses are unlikely to be believed the judicial tactic is to ascribe it to ‘being under the influence of an evil mind’, usually a man, and if that looks unlikely to mitigate with a plea of hormonal imbalance resulting in ‘mood swings’.

Serial Offending

This seems to fascinate women and women commentators to the point of distraction. A commonly view held is that a rapist, having once raped, is likely to rape again, and again, and again. That logic results in the none too thoughtful conclusions that all rapists are serial rapists.

If that were true then once all rapists were in prison, all rapes would cease. The theoretical dead end this induces is overcome by falling back on the position that ‘all men’ are inherently rapists and therefore all men will rape, sooner or later.

Examination of the numbers in prison, vis-à-vis offences committed, and the number of offences committed by the same person, shows how ridiculously untenable is this position

Fig 4, below, shows that of a sample of 1.057 serious sex assault offenders (NB this also includes those that have committed rape), approx 375 had no previous convictions. Less than 150 had one previous conviction and less than 95 had one previous conviction.

The above table, taken from Police Research paper No 144 [1], is of males aged under 45 years, convicted for the first time in 1995-97 of rape or serious indecent assault of an adult female. There were 678 in the study with previous convictions and these were matched to a control group of offenders with a general criminal history.

The study revealed that:

  • 36% of the 1,057 sample had no previous convictions.
  • Only 7% of those convicted of a serious sexual offence had a conviction for previous sexual offences.
  • However, 50% had convictions for violence

The bad news is that when comparing the 678 offenders previously convicted of serious sexual assault with a matched control group of general offenders it was shown that:

 ‘A custodial sentence at the previous conviction, having a previous conviction for ‘other wounding etc.’, robbery (or assault with intent to rob), stealing in a dwelling, arson, kidnapping and cruelty to children all indicated a significantly increased risk of subsequent conviction for SSA.”.

However, overall the study was far more positive when it put its findings into perspective. It concluded that the analyses illustrated ‘only a slightly enhanced risk’ in terms of how much more likely certain offenders (those who possess certain types of previous convictions) are to be convicted of a SSA.

What can risk assessment professionals and other agencies take away from these findings ? The analyses illustrate risk in terms of how much more likely certain offenders (those who possess certain types of previous convictions) are to be convicted of murder or SSA, compared with other offenders. A good number of the findings indicate that many categories of conviction carry only a slightly enhanced risk of subsequent serious offending (greater than one, but less than twice as likely to receive a subsequent conviction for murder or a serious sexual offence than a general offender).

The difference between the Hapless and the Habitual offender in shown in Fig 4 and in the text above. The connection between the Hapless not re-offending is displayed in the interaction between the conclusions in Police Research paper No 144 and Fig 4.


[1]Murder and Serious Sexual Assault: What criminal histories can reveal about future serious offending  2002, (http://library.npia.police.uk/docs/hopolicers/prs144.pdf)  


One Response to Sweden’s Rape Data – Part 2

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