Tuesday, April 6

The Bjästa Case

This case has been gnawing on me for weeks, so I have to write about it. I haven't seen any reports on it in foreign media, which is funny because in all its cruelty it displays so much of our horrible dispositions towards rape, and the mentality of "all-against-one" that can ethically cripple a society entirely.

There is a 58-min documentary from Swedish television available here: Uppdrag granskning (until 9th of July), that goes through most of the things I have noted below.

Last year, a 14 year old girl in the small town Bjästa in Sweden was raped by an older boy at the same school. She was forced to perform oral sex on him at the toilet floor, where he had pinned her down. A few days later she went to the police, and her report was later found to correspond to the boy's eventual confession. And yet no one believed her. The teachers, the social workers, the local priest, school children and their relatives - even their parents, all stood behind the young boy who was convicted of raping a child. She was deduced to be a liar. Because he was too handsome, too kind to ever rape someone. He shouldn't have to

And the problems and prejudices are already overwhelming. So if you're good looking you can never commit a crime! Especially not something as horrifying as rape. It is a pathetic comfort. And if you're kind, with a day job, or a place in school, you must be functioning much too well to ever rape someone. And the final evidence must be that with his sympathetic demeanour, he shouldn't have to rape someone. God forbid any of us were ever in a situation where rape was necessitated. A 50-something year old parent made this claim in a phone interview with Swedish television. A support group for the perpetrator on Facebook quickly reached 4000 members, more than the number of inhabitants in Bjästa. Messages surfaced on the group wall hoping that "the cunt" (referring to the rape victim) should be raped and killed. Burnt at the stake. Raped with poles. Cut into small pieces and have every bone in her body broken. Because she was lying and spreading rumours, as the perpetrator was too handsome and kind to ever do something like that. He was too popular to be removed from the community and forced to do community service. Even after two courts convicted him due to the overwhelming evidence and concurrent confessions from the two parts involved.

At the summer leaving ceremony in the local church, the victim was absent. The local priest invited the boy, who had then been forced to change schools (sparking a strike amonst the pupils at his old school in Bjästa), to the ceremony, where he handed out flowers and hugged his old classmates. The priest, in an interview, claimed to not know he had been convicted, and named him "poor boy". And of course, poor boy, 15 and convicted of rape. Whatever compelled him to do so must be a heavy, painful psychological presence, especially considering this behaviour repeated itself. After the ceremony he raped another girl, a childhood friend. He was convicted again, based - again - on overwhelming evidence, even biological; they found his DNA in her underwear. And upon hearing this the priest said, again, "poor boy... and necessarily, the girl too".

So the first victim moved to boarding school, 500 kilometres from her hometown. The school never took any responsibility for one of their pupils having been raped in the school toilet, and they did nothing to effectively stop the harassment. The two afflicted girls were openly attacked in school corridors and on the street. The mindblowing apathy of small, Scandinavian communities - no one ever confronted this harassment. No one wanted to face the painful reality of their friend, son, brother, or fellow community member being a rapist. Because rapists are only creepy old men lurking in the shadows, raping women and children, dysfunctional and lonely beings dragging corpses around to be buried beneath the front lawn. And rape only ever happens between strangers, in the streets, by chance, or surprise. If only the statistics didn't disprove these two last sentences, I might just be able to excuse the attackers, and the passive bystanders.

(And then again, a human being isn't inclined to face reality if it is too painful. And a harrowing criminal case is a huge blow to a small community. Rumours are age-old and the collective mentality ever more so. But how could this overrule any, single voice of conscience? And it is tarnished by, of course, the pervasive classic, the misconception that the woman is always to blame for rape).

ETA: more excellent points, at Lisa Magnusson's blog.

7 comments:

  1. There's not much to say besides how terrible and disgusting this is. :( It reminds me a little of The Visit.

    The boy was convicted, though, has he started jail time yet?

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  2. Because of his age at the time (15), he was sentenced to four months of community service, which he has now completed. However, the municipality is taking charge of him (I suppose he is going to be put in a youth care institution of some sort?) until he is 18.

    I don't know about Sweden, but the sentences for rape in Norway at least are very low, usually a few months in prison, up to a year or two if the victim is a minor. 60% of the cases are dismissed (if I remember correctly). :(

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  3. Another source says he was sentenced to "closed youth care" and a treatment programme.

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  4. I saw this documentary as well. Ugh... proud to be Swedish :/
    Concerning prison sentences, Norway is in the process of increasing theirs if I'm not mistaken. We've had two gruesome rapist-muder cases in Sweden in the last decade, and it was like WHOA when the first one (from my home town) got 14 years. 14 years was considered a very-very-very long sentence (he raped a certain number of women, ripped off the ear of one, beat out the eye of another...). The second one actually got life (although Swedish "life" is very rarely actually "life") for raping and murdering a 10 year old girl and a 30 year old woman.

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  5. Good lord, that simply makes me sick. Victim blaming in itself is disgusting and I cannot imagine what goes through a person's mind when they condemn a woman to her shame, but that it happens on such scale... that's horrifying. Nothing less.

    And three months of community service for RAPE? Who cares if he's 15? He knowingly, willingly, RAPED ANOTHER PERSON. And did it again. And will probably do it again, and again. He is clearly a threat to the public and should be removed from the streets and rehabilitated, rather than let off with a slap on the wrist. I am horrified at this attitude.

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  6. I am not at all surprised by these events. Having been an individual like herself, I understand both views. Its sad and infuriating, but justice has become nothing but a pretty theory painted on someone's wall. As has the value of the human soul, hung dry.

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  7. my mother did jury duty once, they argued that because the rape victim had naughty devil on her underwear that it had to of been consensual sex. it was a long trial but he was convicted. the guilty man had terminal cancer so I'm not sure what his sentence was.

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