Sweden and rape

I’ve written before about the dangers of comparing international data, but a recent stat floating around reminded me that it’s not just public health data that’s tough to compare.

There’s a stat going around about the rapid increase in Swedish sexual assault.  The article shows this graph:

Which purports to show a 500% increase in sexual assault…with a particular rise between 2004 and 2005 (I don’t speak Swedish, so if this graph is actually about something else, my apologies).

Anyway, I vaguely remembered around the Julian Assange case that there was some assertion that the Swedes had a particularly broad definition of rape, so I went digging to see if I could find anything about what was going on.

I found this report from the BBC, which included this tidbit:

“But the major explanation is partly that people go to the police more often, but also the fact that in 2005 there has been reform in the sex crime legislation, which made the legal definition of rape much wider than before.”

Apparently the Swedes also count sexual assault by individual act, even if the incidents were by the same perpetrator (ie if she was assaulted twice in one night, that’s two rapes….in the US we count people reporting they’ve been raped as one per person), though it’s unclear when that counting convention started.  There has also been a major push to attempt to increase reporting rates and increase police knowledge around the subject.

According to this Amnesty International report, there likely has been a real rise, though likely not as dramatically as the chart above would suggest.  Apparently the number of cases being brought to trial has risen, but the conviction level has stayed fairly steady.

Off topic, but the BBC article above also points out that Australia and Canada have the highest kidnapping rates in the world, in large part because they count custody dispute issues (where one parent takes the child during non custodial time) as kidnapping incidents.  Interesting stuff.