Police say there has been a significant rise in the number of reports of sexual abuse of children, according to the daily Helsingin Sanomat.
According to police data, there were twice as many reports of aggravated sexual crimes against children during the first six months of this year as there were during the same period last year. Between January and June this year, police recorded 121 such cases, compared to just 60 last year and 30 in 2010.
Since the beginning of the year, police have received 553 reports of other forms of sexual abuse against children, the highest number in many years.
Legislative changes drive growth in reports
Police investing violence and sexual crimes told Helsingin Sanomat that reforms to two pieces of Finnish legislation are behind the explosion of sexual abuse reports involving children.
In June 2011 legislators amended the criminal code to make sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 an aggravated crime. Before the amendment, anyone found guilty of having intercourse with a minor would have been sentenced for sexual abuse of a minor, which is a lighter charge than aggravated sexual abuse.
Later on in December, amendments to child protection legislation came into force, obligating social and health care workers as well as teachers to contact police if they suspected that a minor was the victim of sexual crimes. Before the amendment, it was sufficient to lodge a child protection notice with municipal welfare officers, who would then handle the case.
Police add that the spike in cases could also be caused by an increase in internet-based sexual crimes, where perpetrators may target multiple victims. The law enforcers also believed that people have a lower threshold for reporting suspected sexual crimes.
The data about sexual abuse of children are based on police statistics, and do not reflect the number of criminal acts, perpetrators or victims because the method of recording the crimes varies.