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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Rape debate frustrates Oslo police

Police in Oslo appear frustrated over a rash of media reports lately that portray the city as the rape capital of Scandinavia. They suggest the statistics and media coverage can be misleading, while national politicians debated in Parliament Wednesday over measures to reduce rapes.

The latest sexual assaults over the weekend have sent concern over rape to new levels, even though it’s been an issue all year long. When another rape occurred late at night in the park surrounding the Royal Palace, in the heart of Oslo’s more fashionable areas, police were suddenly once again being verbally assaulted themselves.

“I’m shocked by the numbers of rapes in Oslo,” Herdis R Magerøy, leader of the DIXI Center for rape victims in Oslo, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The numbers she was referring to, reported in local newspapers and on NRK, have shown a doubling in the number of rapes reported to police in Oslo so far this year, to 48, while newspaper Dagsavisen reported that 351 persons have visited a rape crisis center after assaults or attempted assaults that haven’t all been reported to police. That compares to 371 in all of 2010, meaning the numbers are running much higher this year.

“It’s incredible that it’s so much worse here than in Stockholm and Copenhagen,” Mågerøy told NRK, after the national broadcaster reported declines in the other two Scandinavian capitals while Oslo’s numbers are rising. She doesn’t think either the police or the politicians are doing a good enough job in tackling the problem of sexual assault.

Opposition politicians both at the city and state levels, meanwhile, also criticized police and the Justice Ministry that’s ultimately in charge of them, for not following through on measures used in other cities, like Stavanger, to lower incidents of rape. Siv Jensen of the Progress Party claimed that women’s new fear of walking alone in Oslo after nightfall is “an admission of failure” on the part of the authorities. She and others are calling for more police on the streets, more use of DNA evidence and distribution of more information about Norwegian society and respect for women to immigrants. Police have confirmed that immigrant men are over-represented as assailants in rape cases, but recent rapes also have involved Norwegian men.

Police, meanwhile, indicated on Wednesday that both the much-debated statistics and their methods are, perhaps, misunderstood. The numbers, according to Hanne Kristin Rohde of the Oslo Police District, can reflect more reports of rapes, not necessarily more rapes, adding that “we don’t really know what’s going on out there.” Rohde also told NRK that police do indeed use DNA evidence as an integral part of rape investigations. She claimed that reports to the contrary, which also spurred criticism from police in Sweden, were a misunderstanding.

Her colleague, deputy police chief Hans Halvorsen, told NRK he thought the police were well-staffed in downtown Oslo over the weekend, “yet still there were two rapes.” NRK has also reported that more women are buying alarms to carry with them while walking at night.

As debate hit the highest levels of government, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg responded to Jensen’s remarks by agreeing that “rape is serious” and the Justice Ministry and police are taking the issue seriously. A separate police unit is being set up to deal with rape cases, Stoltenberg said, and “I agree that we need more police on the streets.” That’s why his government has doubled the number of police being educated and trained, he said, while the police were the biggest winners in this year’s state budget. More police are on the way, he said.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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