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Threats and harassment

In the Swedish Crime Survey, 5 per cent of respondents state that they were exposed to threats during 2015. During 2015, 52,200 offences involving illegal threats were reported; this is a 2 per cent increase as compared with 2014. The number of reported molestations decreased by 1 per cent to 57,200 reported offences.

Percentage exposed to threats

Percentage of persons in the population (16-79 years of age) exposed to threats, 2005 – 2015. Source: SCS

Exposure to threats

In the Swedish Crime Survey, 5 per cent of the population (16 – 79 years of age), approximately 375000 persons, state that they had been exposed to threats during 2015. This is an increase as compared with 2014, when 4.1 per cent stated that they had been exposed. With the exception of the first two years, threat offences have remained at a stable level during the entire measurement period.

Most of the victims (66%) state that only a single incident during 2015 was involved. There are a few people with a very high degree of repeated exposure. For example, 5 per cent of victims were exposed to 10 or more threats. Accordingly, the number of reported incidents is more than double the number of exposed persons (980,000 events).

Gender and age

Women are exposed to threats more often than men (5.2% as compared with 4.7%) and this difference has been noted since 2006. Women are also more frequently exposed to more than one threat (1.8% of women compared with 1.5% of men). With the exception of the youngest victims (16 – 19 years of age) there is a strong link between threats and age, where exposure essentially declines as the age of the studied group increases. Persons aged 20 – 24 were exposed considerably less than persons in the group aged 75 – 79 years of age (7.5% as compared with 1.0%). Even taking age into consideration, the allocation between age groups remains the same.

Victimisation of different groups in respect of threats

There are also differences between different groups in the population in respect of exposure to threats. Single persons, with or without children, state that they have been more exposed than persons living as a couple with or without children (9.1% and 6.1%, respectively, as compared with 5.0% and 3.4%, respectively). It is more common for residents of multiple dwelling blocks (5.8%) to be exposed to threats than residents of detached or semi-detached dwellings (4.1%). Residents of major metropolitan regions and other large cities are exposed to a greater extent (5.2%) than persons who live in smaller towns or in rural areas (4.3%). The number of people exposed to threats is also greater among persons born in Sweden with two parents born abroad (7.2%) than among persons born in Sweden with at least one parent born in Sweden or persons who are themselves born abroad (4.8% and 5.2%, respectively). Exposure to threats is, moreover, somewhat greater among persons with a post-upper secondary level of education (5.3%) than among persons with an upper secondary level of education (4.8%) or a compulsory level of education (4.3%).

When one corrects for the effect of background factors such as age and gender, the differences in exposure to threats between groups with different educations disappears. However, the difference between different types of families remains.

Circumstances surrounding threats

Public places are the most common type of crime scene for threats (43%). After that comes workplaces or in school (29%) or in a residence (23%). Men (50%) are subject to threats in public places to a greater extent than women (38%). However, women (29%) are more likely than men (17%) to be threatened in residences. There is essentially no difference between men and women in respect of the number of threats which took place at work or in school (29% for both women and men).

The perpetrator is completely unknown to the victim in respect of more than one-half of the threats (56%). Women state that they have been exposed to threats by a closely-related person to a greater extent than men (16% as compared with 5%). It is somewhat more common for women to state that the perpetrator was an acquaintance (33% as compared with 28%), while men were exposed to threats from a completely unknown person more often than women (67% as compared with 51%). These different types of relations to perpetrators have remained relatively constant in respect of each other over time. Since the study was commenced, it has been most common among both men and women for the perpetrator to be completely unknown. In the same vein, during all surveys, it was least common for the perpetrator to be a closely-related person.

Those exposed get to answer questions related to the gender and age of the perpetrator. Most have a perception of gender as well as age, but 2.2 per cent state that they do not know whether the perpetrator was a man or a woman, and 2.8 per cent state that they cannot estimate the age. The results show that those with a perception of gender or age respectively, state that the perpetrator was a man in most intances of threat (89%) In one-half of the cases (51%), the exposed state that they either know or estimate the age of the perpetrator to be 34 years or younger. In some circumstances it can be difficult for the the person exposed to know whether the perpetrator was a man or a woman, and even more difficult to estimate the age. The results should therefore be intepreted with caution.

In respect of the presence of alcohol or drugs in connection with threats, the victims in slightly more than one-half of the cases (46%) state that the perpetrator was under the influence. In 10 per cent of the incidents, the victim personally was under the influence of alcohol. As is the case with assault, in connection with threats, there is a significant difference between men and women in respect of the presence of alcohol and drugs. Men state more often than women that the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol or drugs (53% as compared with 40% of the incidents) or that they were personally under the influence of alcohol at the time (16% as compared with 5% of the incidents).

Exposure to harassment

Percentage of persons in the population (16-79 years of age) exposed to harassment, 2005-2015. Source: SCS

Exposure to harassment

Harassment may be, for example, being stalked or receiving unwanted visits, telephone calls, messages, and suchlike on repeated occasions. The Swedish Crime Survey defines harassment as a series of more or less serious incidents. Each and every one of the incidents need not be criminalised and is not necessarily classified as an individual offence under the law. In those cases where the aggregate series of events is criminal it may, however, be assumed to fall under categories of offence including, among others, aggravated violation of integrity, aggravated violation of a woman's integrity, molestation, breach of domestic peace, or unlawful stalking.

In the Swedish Crime Survey, 4.4 per cent of the population (16 – 79 years of age), approximately 356,000 persons, in 2015 stated that they had been exposed to harassment. This is an increase as compared with 2014, when 4.0 per cent stated that they had been exposed. Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of exposed persons gradually decreased from 5.2 per cent to 3.5 per cent. Subsequently, the percentage has increased.

Gender and age

Women are exposed to harassment to a greater extent than men (5.7% as compared with 3.7%), a difference which has persisted since 2005. Over time, young persons (16 – 19 years of age and 20 – 24 years of age, respectively), have stated the highest degree of exposure to harassment, while exposure has been lower among middle-aged and older persons. However, the latest measurement shows that the differences between ther various age groups has grown smaller, mostly because an increase in exposure amog middle-aged men in the latest measurement. But it is still those in the youngest age group (16 – 19) that are exposed to the highest degree, whereas the oldest age groups (65 – 74 and 75 – 79) are among those least exposed. Exposure is particularly high among younger women, 8.3 per cent of woman aged 16 – 19 were exposed t0 harassment in 2015. Contrarily, among men the most exposed age groups are those aged between 25 – 44 and 45 – 64 (4.2% and 4.1%, respectively)

Victimisation of different groups in respect of harassment

Exposure to harassment is higher among persons with not more than a compulsory level of education (5.3%) or an upper secondary education (4.7%) than it is among those who have completed a post-upper secondary education (4.0%). As is the case with a number of other offences against individual persons, harassment is more common among single persons, both without children (6.2%) and, above all, with children (10.6%) as well as among residents of multiple dwelling blocks (5.5%) than other groups of the population. It is also more common for persons with two parents born abroad to be exposed to harassment (6.5%), than persons who are born abroad or in Sweden with at least one parent born in Sweden (4.6% and 4.8% respectively). The percentage of exposed persons appears to be approximately the same regardless of whether one lives in major metropolitan regions (4.7%), larger cities or rural areas (4.8% and 4.7%, respectively).

Correcting for the effect of the other background factors, such as age, the differences in exposure to harassment in respect of women remain such that those with post-upper secondary education are less exposed than those with only a compulsory level of education. The difference in exposure between persons who live in different types of family constellations also remains when one corrects for the effect of the other background factors, and this was true in respect of both women and men.

Circumstances surrounding harassment

In 51 per cent of the cases, the perpetrator was a completely unknown person, i.e. a person who the victim did not know previously. Approximately every third victim states that the perpetrator was known (31%) and 14 per cent respond that the perpetrator was a closely-related person, while 5 per cent state that they do not have any idea who the perpetrator was. The relation to the perpetrator differs somewhat between women and men. Among both men and women who have been exposed to harassment during 2015, the most common answer is that the perpetrator was a completely unknown person or an acquaintance. On the other hand, women respond significantly more often than men that the perpetrator is a closely-related person (15% as compared with 11%). Men respond more often than women that the perpetrator an acquaintance (35% as compared with 28%).

The percentage of cases where the victim cannot answer whether the perpetrator is known or unknown has declined since 2005, as has the percentage of cases where the perpetrator is known to the victim. At the same time, the percentage of completely unknown perpetrators has increased, but the trend appears primarily to apply to harassment against women.

Harassment can be more or less serious. One indicator of the degree of severity may be how the incident is perceived by the victim. In the Swedish Crime Survey, the question was posed as to the victim's perception of how frightening the incidents were. Close to every sixth person (15%) responded that the incidents were very frightening, 35 per cent responded that they were rather frightening, while others either stated that they did not find them particularly frightening or at all frightening (total 50%).

Another indicator of the degree of severity which also sheds light on the scope of exposure is the number of reported incidents. Approximately one-third of the victims (31%) state that fewer than four incidents were involved. An equal number (33%) state that 4 – 10 incidents were involved, and almost one-quarter (23%) stated that 11 – 99 incidents were involved. In the latest measurement, 12 per cent state that the harassment comprised a very large number of incidents (100 or more).

Compared with the other types of offences against the person included in the Swedish Crime Survey, a relatively large percentage of those exposed to harassment state that they do not know whether the perpetrator was a man or a woman (16%), whereas approximately 64 per cent state that it was a man. Close to every fifth person (22%) that were exposed to harassment in 2015, state that they cannot estimate the age of the perpetrator, whereas nearly two out of five persons (37%) state that the perpetrator was 34 years of age or younger.

Reported offences

Number of reported unlawful threats and molestations, 2006 – 2015. Source: Reported offences

Reported offences

During 2015, 52,200 offences of unlawful threats were reported; this is an increase by 2 per cent as compared with 2014. The number of reported molestations declined by 1 per cent to 57,200 reported offences.

As compared with ten years ago, the number of reports of unlawful threats increased by 13 per cent, while the reports of molestation increased by 65 per cent. With respect to unlawful threats and molestation of persons under 18 years of age, it may be noted that the reports, like those of abuse of young people (7 – 14 years of age), clearly decline during the summer months.

Unlawful stalking was introduced into the Swedish Penal Code on 1 October 2011. In 2015, 596 offences of unlawful stalking were reported, which corresponds to a reduction of 11 per cent as compared with 2014.

In 2015, 5,320 breaches of the Non-Communication Orders Act were reported, a reduction by 9 per cent as compared with the preceding year. According to information from the Public Prosecutor, 4,040 non-communication orders were issued during the year, which is less (+9%) than the preceding year. In conjunction with this type of offence, it is common that an individual perpetrator commits a repeated number of violations of a non-communication order, which results in a large number of offences in a single report. Individual large matters of this type may give rise to relatively great variations in the number of reported violations between different years.

Cleared offences

Person-based clearance rate² for unlawful threats and molestation, 2006 – 2015. Source: Processed offences

Processed offences

In 2015, 52,600 offences of unlawful threats were processed¹. An investigation was commenced for 83 per cent (43,700 of the processed offences, while the other processed offences (17%) were dismissed with no investigation. Of the processed threat offences, investigations were limited in 2 per cent (1,090), in which investigations were limited in most (1,050 offences) after investigation began. In respect of 52 per cent (27,300) of the processed offences, at least one person was registered as suspected of the offence. In total, 5,390 threat offences had person-based clearances.

The person-based clearance rate for unlawful threats in 2015 was 10 per cent, the same number as 2014. Compared with ten years ago, the level has declined by 4 percentage points. The conviction rate for unlawful threat in 2015 was 13 per cent.

Persons suspected of offences

Number of persons suspected of unlawful threats and molestation, 2006 – 2015. Source: Persons suspected of offences

Persons suspected of offences

In 2015, 6,640 persons were registered as suspected of unlawful threats. As compared with 2014, there were 193 more suspected persons, or 3 per cent. Before that, the number of persons supspected of unlawful threats  had declined from 2010 to 2014. In respect of molestation, 4,020 persons were suspected, which is a reduction by 50 persons or 1 per cent.  The number has declined since it peaked in 2010. As compared with 2005, the number of persons suspected of unlawful threat has declined by 9 per cent, while molestation has increased by 8 per cent.

Persons found guilty of violation of integrity

Conviction decisions for aggravated violations of a woman's integrity and aggravated violations of integrity (4a §) or unlawful stalking (4b §) as the primary offence, 2006-2015. As of October 1, 2011, repeated offences within certain crimes are counted as unlawful stalking. Source: Persons found guilty of offences 

Convictions

When they constitute steps in a repeated violation, acts such as assault, unlawful threat, molestation, and others may be classified as aggravated violations of a woman's integrity or aggravated violations of integrity. In 2015, 149 and 66 conviction decisions³, respectively, were taken with aggravated violations of a woman's integrity or aggravated violations of integrity as the primary offence. The number of convictions for aggravated violations of a woman's integrity and aggravated violations of integrity declined by 34 and 23 decisions, respectively, or by 19 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively, between 2014 and 2015. The number of decisions in respect of aggravated violation of a woman's integrity have declined by 194 decisions, or 57 per cent since 2006. During the same period, the number of conviction decisions in respect of aggravated violations of integrity increased by 75 decisions, or 53 per cent.

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

  • 52,200 unlawful threats reported to the police (2015)
  • 4,040 breaches of the Non-Communication Orders Act (2015)
  • 596 unlawful stalking offences reported to the police (2015)
  • 89 per cent of the suspects of unlawful threat were male (2015)
  • 10 per cent person-based clearance rate for unlawful threat (2015)
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