Police warn women not to go out alone in Swedish town
Women in a town in northern Sweden have been warned not to walk alone at night in the wake of a spike in violent assaults and attempted rapes.
Police in Östersund made the unusual move to ask women not to go out unaccompanied after dark, after reports of eight brutal attacks, some by ‘men of foreign appearance’, in just over two weeks.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, police said they ‘have never seen anything like it in Östersund’, a small town in the north of Sweden with a population of just 45,000.
It is extremely unusual for Swedish authorities to make such warnings, and it has not been well received in Sweden, a country proud of its progress in gender equality and women’s rights.
All incidents have taken place in Östersund since the 20th of February, and involved outdoor attacks where the perpetrators have been unknown to their female victims.
A police spokesperson added that in addition to the increased frequency, the attacks are also conspicuous as – despite being carried out late at night – none of the perpetrators were drunk.
‘The cases of the sexual harassment and attempted rapes have involved groups of up to three people,’ regional police chief Stephen Jerand told Sveriges Television.
‘What stands out is also that none of these perpetrators have been under the influence,’ he adds.
The most recent assault took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, when a woman was became the victim of an attempted rape by three young men in central Östersund.
She was brought to the ground by three unknown men shortly after 1am, after which the men tried to rip her trousers off, but the woman fought back and managed to escape.
The perpetrators have been described as ‘tall, slim, aged 18-25 and speaking Swedish with a foreign accent’.
Just a few hours later, police received another report of a lone woman being attacked by a young man in the same neighbourhood in central Östersund.
A police report states that an unknown man in his late 20s ‘whose appearance was described as foreign’ attacked the woman without provocation.
The man had reportedly walked up to her and punched her in the face with his fist, then thrown her to the ground, pushing her head into the asphalt, before running off.
Police also highlighted an additional four cases in the past two weeks, including a lone woman assaulted by three men, and a report of a group of ten-year-old girls being harassed by men in central Ostersund.
The warning has been widely criticised, including by representatives of the local government, with many arguing that women should not have to ‘adapt’ to abusers.
‘I am adverse to the solution being to tell women and children to sat at home, that can never be the solution for us,’ local government commissioner AnnSofie Andersson told Sveriges Radio.
Sweden welcomed nearly 163,000 migrants and refugees in 2015, more than any other European nation per capita.
The Scandinavian country, which has a population of nearly 10 million, imposed compulsory border-control ID checks in January to try to curb the influx.
Europe is facing it’s biggest wave of immigration since the Second World War, with millions risking their lives to leave war and terror behind, or simply to seek a better life on another continent.
The latest UN report shows that in the first two months of 2016, more than 130,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea – more than the total number for the first half of 2015.