Rape and sexual offences

During 2016, 20,300 sex offences were reported, of which 6,720 were classified as rape. In the Swedish Crime Survey, 1.7 per cent of the respondents stated that they were exposed to sex offences during 2015.

Percentage exposed to sex offences

Exposure in the population (16–79 years of age) to sex offences, 2005 – 2015. Source: SCS

In the Swedish Crime Survey (SCS), 1.7 per cent of the population (16 – 79 years of age), corresponding to approximately 129,000 persons, state that they had been exposed to sex offences. This is an increase as compared with 2014, when 1.0 per cent stated that they had been exposed. The level of sex offences remained relatively stable during the period 2005 – 2012, but after that there has been an increase.

Sex offences are a type of offence where repeated exposure is relatively common. About one-third (35%) of the persons who were exposed to sex offences were exposed more than once in 2015. Roughly one-tenth (or 12%) were exposed ten times or more. The estimated number of incidents is 482,000, which is significantly more than any other year. However, as the results have shown considerable variations throughout the years, the results of any single year should be interpreted carefully.

It is important to note that sex offences comprise a broad spectrum of offences – everything from minor incidents, such as indecent exposure, to very serious incidents, such as rape.

It is likely that these different types of sex offences differ in respect of crime scene and relationship to the perpetrator. Moreover, as a result of the sensitive nature of the question, it is likely that the SCS fails to fully include the incidents which are the intended subject of the survey.

Gender and age

Significantly more women than men have been exposed to sex crimes; 3.0 per cent of women and 0.4 per cent of men state that they were exposed to sex crimes during 2015. For men, the percentage of victims has remained at approximately the same level throughout the period. For women, sex offences were at a relatively stable level during the period 2005 – 2012 but the result for the past three years shows a higher level.

Age

Exposure to sex offences, 2015. Percentage for each age group. Source: SCS

For women, exposure diverges relatively dramatically between the age groups (0.1% – 5.0%), and since exposure has increased significantly in the youngest group over the last year, the divergence has increased. Among men, the results also show higher levels of exposure in the younger age groups – but the levels are very low, and the variations are small when measured in percentage points (0.1–0.7%). The most exposed persons are women between 16 and 24 years of age, of whom 9.0 per cent state that they had been exposed to sex offences during 2015.

Victimisation of different groups in respect of sex offences

As is the case for the majority of other offences against the person, exposure to sex offences appears to be more common in certain groups of the population. Single persons with or without children are exposed to a greater extent than persons living in a couple with or without children (2.8% and 2.7%, respectively, as compared with 0.7% and 1.3%, respectively).

Residents of multiple dwelling blocks are exposed to a greater extent than residents of detached or semi-detached dwellings (2.5% as compared with 1.0%). Exposure to sex offences is more common among persons living in major metropolitan regions (2.4%) as compared with those who live in other larger city (1.6%) or in small towns or in rural areas (0.9%). The percentage of persons exposed to sex offences is higher among persons born in Sweden with two parents born abroad (2.6%) than persons born abroad and persons born in Sweden with at least one parent born in Sweden (1.0% and 1.8%, respectively).

Where the level of education is concerned, there is hardly any divergence between the different groups. Previous years, with the exception of 2005, persons with not more than a compulsory level of education have been more exposed (1.8%) than persons with an upper secondary level of education or post-upper secondary level of education (1.7% and 1.6%, respectively). This is also true this year, albeit with a smaller margin.

Statistical analyses show that when one corrects for the effect of other background factors, such as age and gender, the difference in exposure for sex offences in groups with different levels of education disappears. However, the difference between various family constellations remains.

Crime scene

Type of crime scene for sex offences, 2015. Percentage of the total number of reported incidents by crime scene. Source: SCS

Circumstances surrounding sex offences

Since very few sex offences against men were reported to the SCS, neither the crime scene nor the relationship to the perpetrator of the sex offence is broken down between men and women. Almost six out of ten sex offences (59%) occurred in a public place, and approximately 14% occurred at a workplace or school. Nearly one in five (18%) of the incidents occurred in residences and 9% in another location. The breakdown of crime scene for sex offences has varied somewhat throughout the years and there is no clear trend over time.

Relationship to the perpetrator

Relationship to the perpetrator in conjunction with sex offences, 2005 – 2015. Percentage of the total number of reported incidents by each form of relationship. Source: SCS

In 69 per cent of the cases, the perpetrator was completely unknown to the victim, in 21 per cent of the cases the perpetrator was an acquaintance, and in 10 per cent of the cases the perpetrator was a closely-related person. The breakdown in respect of the relationship to the perpetrator in conjunction with sex offences has varied somewhat over the years since the survey began, and it is not possible to discern any clear trend in the results. One should be aware that just as is the case with threat and assault offences, there is reason to believe that incidents where persons have been exposed to sex offences by a closely-related person, or in the home, are particularly underrepresented in the survey. This type of exposure may be experienced as particularly sensitive and it thus may be difficult to gain information about it through a questionnaire.

Persons exposed to a sex offence are asked about the sex and age of the perpetrator. The majority have a conception of the sex as well as the age, but 2.6% state that they do not know whether the perpetrator was a man or a woman, and 5.8% state that they can not estimate the age of the perpetrator. Among those who made such an estimate, the perpetrator was indicated as a man in 92% of the instances. In almost six out of ten instances (58%) the exposed state that they either know or estimate that the perpetrator was 34 years of age or younger. Under certain circumstances these kind of estimations are difficult to make for those exposed, and the results should therefore be interpreted carefully.

Reported sex offences

Number of reported sex offences: all reported offences, of which sexual molestation, rape (including aggravated), and sexual coercion, exploitation, etc. Source: Reported offences

Reported offences

In 2016, a total of 20,300 sex offences were reported; this is a 12 per cent increase as compared with 2015. The number of rapes reported to police increased by 13 per cent to 6,720 between 2015 and 2016.

The number of reported rape offences has increased over the last ten years (2006-2015). The increase can be partially explained by the entry into force of new sex offence legislation on 1 April 2005. This legislation entails, among other things, that certain acts which were previously classified as sexual exploitation are now classified as rape. The effect of the statutory change appeared in the statistics such that the number of reported offences in respect of sexual coercion and exploitation declined in the years immediately following the statutory change while the number of reported rapes increased. As from 1 July 2013, the sex offence legislation was again made tougher; among other things rape was expanded to include cases where the victim reacts passively.

In the Swedish system, individual reports regarding a great number of offences may affect and give rise to variations in the statistic. For instance, when a single case is reported that turns out to involve hundreds or even thousands of instances of offences committed against an individual over the course of many years, every single incident is recorded as an offence in the year it was reported. It is also important to remember that non-reporting is particularly extensive for sex offences and changes in the inclination to report can affect the number of rapes in the statistic.     

Reported offences regarding sexual molestation increased to 10,600 (+21 %) while reported sexual coercion, exploitation etc. decreased to 1,290 (-10 %).

A total of 3,010 rape offences against children aged 0 to 17 years of age were reported in 2016. In 88 per cent of the cases, the victims were girls.

International comparisons

There are no international standards for how crime statistics should be produced and presented and this makes international comparisons difficult. Keep in mind that comparisons between countries on the basis of crime statistics require caution since such statistics are produced differently in different countries. Criminal statistics do not provide a simple reflection of the level of crime in a given country. Criminal statistics are influenced by both legal and statistical factors, and by the extent to which crime is reported and registered. These factors can vary from one country to another.                

Cleared rapes

Person-based clearance rate² for rape offences. Source: Processed offences

Processed offences

In 2016, 6,160 rape offences were processed, the same level as the previous year¹. Investigations were commenced for 92 per cent (5,660 offences) of the processed rape offences, while 8 per cent (503 offences) were dismissed with no investigation. Investigations were limited for a small number of rape offences (11 offences).

There was at least one person registered as suspected for 61 per cent (3,790) of the processed rape offences. The person-based clearance rate² for rape offences in 2016 was 11 per cent, a decrease by three percentage points as compared with 2015.

The conviction rate² was 12 per cent for 2016. Since investigations were commenced for most processed rape offences, the conviction and person-based clearance rates are essentially at the same level.

Persons suspected of rape

All persons suspected of rape, 2007 – 2016. Source: Persons suspected of offences

Persons suspected of offences

In 2016, 35 persons per 100,000 population were suspected of rape, which is approximately the same level as the previous year (+1 %). Since 2007, the number per 100,000 population has increased with 6 suspects, or 20 per cent. Changes made in the legislation in 2005 has had effect on the development, since the legal definition of rape was broadened.

Persons found guilty of sex offences

Number of conviction decisions of sex offences as the primary offence, 2007 – 2016.  Source: Persons found guilty of offences


Convictions

There were 1,190 conviction decisions³ in 2016 in respect of sex offences, corresponding to an increase by 2 per cent, or 28 decisions, as compared with 2015. Offences related to sexual molestation stand out with an increase of 8 per cent , or 36 decisions. The number of conviction decisions for sex offences has increased by 21 per cent as compared with 2007.

Of the 1,190 conviction decisions in respect of sex offences in 2015, 171 had rape (including aggravated rape) as the primary offence. This is a reduction– 5 conviction decisions, or 3 per cent – as compared with the preceding year. During 2007 – 2016, the number of conviction decisions in respect of rape as the primary offence decreased by 46 decisions, or 21 per cent.

In 2016, there were 115 conviction decisions of rape of a child (including aggravated rape of a child). This is the same level as the preceding year.


¹) The statistic for processed offences reports the number of reported offences where the police, public prosecutor, or other investigatory authority has taken a decision regarding the offence.

²) Person-based clearance means that a person suspected of the offence has been tied to the offence through an indictment, the issuance of a summary sanction order, or the issuance of a waiver of prosecution. The person-based clearance rate reports the number of offences with person-based clearances during one year as a percentage of the number of processed offences during the same year. As from 2014, an adjusted person-based clearance rate is reported. The metric is essentially structured in the same way as previously, however, it is calculated based on all processed offences instead of all reported offences. The conviction rate reports the number of person-based clearances during one year as a per cent of all investigated offences, excluding offences with limitations of investigation during the same period.

³) The statistic regarding persons found guilty of offences reports the number of convictions which were issued during the year. "Conviction decision" means a conviction in a district court or decision of a public prosecutor, such as a summary sanction order or waiver of prosecution, during one calendar year. A single individual may be found guilty of an offence in different ways and on several occasions during one year. A conviction decision may contain decisions regarding several offences and several sanctions.

Facts

  • 20,300 sex offences reported to the police (2016)
  • 1,160 conviction decisions in respect of sex offences (2015)
  • 97 per cent of those suspected of sex offences are men (2016)
  • 15 per cent of sex offences take place in the home of the victim or perpetrator (2014)
  • 11 per cent = person-based clearance rate for rape (2016)