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.