Thousands of children under assault

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State authorities fear that thousands of children in Norway, maybe as many as 55,000 under the age of 18, may have been or are the victims of sexual assault. Unreported assaults are a major problem, despite a sharp rise in the number of cases that result in police charges.

The state police force’s own statistics show an increase of 126 percent in the number of cases reported to police from the first half of 2006 to the first half of last year, reports newspaper Aftenposten. The actual number, however, remains relatively small, with 251 cases involving sexual assaults against children under the age of 16.

“There is nonetheless more openness, which has led to more reports being filed,” Inspector Knut Erik Huseby of the Police Directorate told Aftenposten. “There’s more consciousness of the problem among the authorities and the public.

Serious court case begins
The issue has hit the headlines once again as a court case against five adults accused of serious assaults against four children over a period of several years begins this week in Elverum, Hedmark County. The children’s own parents are among those charged in the case that involves two families in the small community of Nord-Østerdal in Alvdal township, in northern Hedmark.

The children’s parents plus another man are charged with forcing the children to perform sexual acts, sometimes involving the parents, while others restrained the children. Some of the assaults were filmed or photographed.

If convicted, the adults can face up to 21 years in prison. Prosecutors have asked for prison terms of at least 13 years.

‘Neither special nor unique’
“The case in Alvdal isn’t special,” Turid Kavli of a trauma center that treats adult victims of juvenile assaults told Aftenposten. “What’s special is that the police uncovered the case, and that it came out in the media.”

Kavli’s group, which cooperates with a national organization (Blålys) that aids assault victims, said demand for help is so high that many must often wait 18 months for treatment.

“Many of our patients have been victims of networks as bad as the one in Alvdal,” Kavli told Aftenposten. “Nor is it unique that the assailants are the parents or others close to the family.”

Kavli said it was impossible to know how many children have been victims of assault, while Margrethe Wide Aasland of the Institute for Clinical Sexology and Therapy in Oslo estimates that 5 percent of all children under age 18 are affected. That amounts to 55,000 children. A recent survey of 7,000 youth indicated 1 percent had been assault victims, 80 percent of them girls.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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