Rape report rocks the Progress Party

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UPDATED: Two Progress Party officials have been suspended after a female party colleague reported to police that they’d raped her after a pre-election event in August. She complains party leadership hasn’t sufficiently come to her aid, but party leader Siv Jensen wasn’t informed of the alleged sexual assault until Thursday.

Jensen broke away from intense negotiations to form a new non-socialist government in Norway when news of the rape charge broke on Thursday. On Friday she said she still knew “very little” about the substance of the charges, but called them “very serious” and said she wanted to make sure the woman was getting the help she needed.

Waited to file charges
The woman reported the alleged rape to police on Tuesday of this week, several weeks after she says it occurred. “It’s normal that rape victims don’t report an assault at once,” her attorney, Hege Salomon, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It’s often a process they must go through, they want to tackle it themselves without involving the authorities, and in this case it has to do with someone who is loyal to the party. That’s also a reason why she hasn’t reported the rape earlier.”

Salomon claimed it was “coincidental” that the woman was reporting the rape right in the middle of the government negotiations, which the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) is involved in for the first time in its 40-year history.

“She has no motive to harm the party,” Salomon claimed, but added that the woman was disappointed that an earlier attempt to send an e-mail to Jensen and to one of the party’s female candidates for parliament, Aina Stenersen, failed. Jensen said she was sorry if the woman felt she’d been overlooked, but claimed she’d never received the e-mail allegedly sent. “Now I’m most concerned that she’s taken good care of,” Jensen said.

Advised to go to the police
Per Arne Olsen, another official at the Progress Party, says the woman replied to one of many mass e-mails sent by Jensen during the election campaign that had a “no-reply” function, to explain why Jensen never received it. The mail to Stenersen came via Facebook on August 28, followed by a mail to other party leaders on August 29.

“And then we responded right away, and I contacted the woman myself within an hour,” Olsen told NRK. “Our clear advice was to file a police report.” He said he was glad the woman finally did report the rape, nearly a month later, and claimed the party had offered her whatever support she feels she needs.

He added that the woman wouldn’t initially identify her alleged attackers and that she declined the party’s offer of help. He said he could understand that she felt the case was very difficult, and he respected that.

“I didn’t inform Siv Jensen about this,” Olsen said, because Jensen was so busy with the campaign, the election and now, government negotiations. “We’ll take care of this case, and let the top party leaders (Jensen and her deputies Ketil Solvik-Olsen and Per Sandberg) continue to negotiate.” He said he’s responsible for dealing with the matter, in line with party guidelines.

Kari Janne Lid of the Oslo Police District confirmed that a rape report had been filed. She said they were in the earliest stages of their investigation and thus declined comment. Both men involved deny that a rape took place but said they asked to be relieved of their party duties while the investigation proceeds.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund