Police in western Norway were investigating four reported rapes over the weekend at one of the biggest outdoor events of the “russ” partying season for graduating high school students. Meanwhile, a recent study shows that teenagers from Oslo’s affluent west side drink more and party harder than their peers on the east side.
With the annual Norwegian season known as “russ” in high gear, teenage alcohol abuse is particularly high. While the Norwegian word “russ,” with a double-s, is not to be confused with the Norwegian word “rus,“ meaning intoxication, the two often go together. The annual russefeiring (russ celebration) runs from late April through the 17th of May: Students finishing high school wear red or blue overalls that reflect their areas of studies, ride around in special buses (russebusser) and party almost continually. It’s great fun for many, but public disturbances, incidents of alcohol poisoning and sexual assault are particularly high during the russ season (russetid).
Four young women reported rapes during the weekend’s annual gathering for russ from around the country at the amusement park Kongeparken south of Stavanger. One of the assaults was reported to be a gang rape at a roadside rest area outside the park. Police were thus searching for six suspects after the three-day long event but had no indications the rapes were connected or involved the same assailants. Newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad reported that all the suspects were either russ themselves or young men dressed in russ clothing.
Around 12,000 teens attended the Kongeparken russetreff (meeting place for russ) during the weekend, with some driving long distances to take part in the partying. The russ season can be expensive for the teens and their families, with many often spending large sums of money on the party season, some of it earned themselves, some of it provided by their parents. For some, especially those students who take up administrative positions and organize events during the season, it can be a chance to start building their careers. Others avoid the mayhem, because they want to study for their exams, are not attracted by the heavy partying or because they simply can’t afford it.
Police call for more parental vigilance
Parents on Oslo’s west side, meanwhile, are now being urged to prioritize both their russ and younger teenage children over their own social lives. That’s because a long-perceived split between east- and west-Oslo (østkanten and vestkanten) also holds true, apparently, when it comes to teenage parties, with heavy drinking and drug abuse more widespread in vestkanten.
Fully 43 percent of ninth and 10th graders (14-, 15- and 16-year-olds) from the wealthy Ullern area of West Oslo admit that they have been “considerably drunk,” according to a survey of young people in Oslo conducted by Norwegian Social Research (Norsk institutt for forskning om oppvekst, velferd og aldring, NOVA). The study indicated that youth from west Oslo, particularly boys, are also most likely to have used hash or marijuana and it confirmed links between high social status and alcohol use among parents and children in the capital.
“The parents are drinking with both hands, and so are the young people,” police superintendent Hanne Persson of the Majorstuen police station in west Oslo told newspaper Aftenposten. She describes parents who “don’t drive their children to parties and don’t collect them either,” and of others who visit their cabins at the weekend, leaving their teenage children alone at home.
Many young people in west Oslo are also bored with their everyday lives, according to Persson. “They have travelled and experienced more in their 15 years than the average Norwegian does in his whole life. Alcohol and drugs then become a way to escape the boredom,” Persson told Aftenposten.
Persson also thinks that the difference in partying between west and east Oslo is striking: “It goes without saying that it is not so appealing to hold a (home-alone) party in a three-room flat in Ammerud (a far less affluent area on Oslo’s east side),” she pointed out. “Parents need to be present, and not so preoccupied with their own work, travel and social lives. They need to know what their children are up to.”
The NOVA survey, which questioned pupils in the 9th and 10th grades, as well as the first year of high school (videregåendeskole) also revealed that parents in west Oslo drink the most in the capital. Many have “continental drinking habits” which may influence their childrens’ own attitudes towards alcohol. Half of the ninth and 10th graders in Ullern who took part in the survey, said that their parents drink on a weekly basis. Just under 10 percent said it was on a daily basis.
Kari Andreassen, who manages the Ullern area for the municipality of Oslo, wrote in a feature article for Aftenposten last week that resourceful, highly educated parents in Ullern, under pressure to succeed at work, financially and in family life, often have a higher threshold for seeking help. She wants to prompt parents into taking more responsibility for their teenage children, and to feel that they can get help from outside agencies.
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