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Finland is EU’s second most violent country for women

A major new study by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency has found that 47 percent of women in Finland have experienced physical or sexual violence at some time since the age of 15. Only Danish women were found to have experienced more abuse out of the 28 countries studied.

Perheväkivalta.
Image: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva

Over the past year 42,000 women were interviewed across the whole European Union for the research, in the most extensive study into violence against women and girls ever conducted.

In all of the six main areas covered by the survey, Finland was found to have levels of physical and sexual violence against women that were at times significantly above the European average. Almost half of Finnish women - 47 percent - reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, compared to a Europe-wide average of 33 percent.

Slightly higher numbers of women in Finland said they had experienced physical violence by a non-partner (30 percent) than those suffering physical abuse from a partner (27 percent). However, in both these cases the levels in Finland were around 50 per cent higher than the European average of 20 per cent.

Milla Aaltonen, from the Finnish League for Human Rights – the country's representative of the Fundamental Rights Agency, who carried out the research – said that the prevalence of domestic abuse has been known about for a long time. “Nonetheless, these figures are shocking,” she said. “Violence against women is a serious human rights violation. Today’s study confirms that Finland is one of Europe’s most violent places for women,” Aaltonen said.

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  • Toiset Soundit

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    Not downplaying the problem. But. Let's not forget that in the Nordic countries women (and society as a whole for that matter), have been -since generations now- been made aware of violence against women, of gender inequality and so on. Combined with the openness of Nordic societies (which implies less shame-induced "socially desirable" answers in surveys) this leads me to throw in the proverbial grain of salt. This European survey has furthermore been based on a great deal of national surveys ...

    • Balen

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      not to mention the ambiguity of the concept of "violence"! Which is almost as ambiguous as the concept of "poverty", which can mean anything from lack of food to inability to buy an iPhone!

    • maranatha

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      I would take the same opinion. May be the term violence is interpreted differently by different nations in EU, or may be Finnish women are so sensitive to consider a very small details as "violence" where it can be counted as normal in some different culture. This doesn't really show a clear image. The implication that Finnish men are the second most violent people to women in EU would not be true, either.

    • WifeOfAGentleFinn

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      On second thought, that last question is a bit problematic.

      • Or have you consented to sexual activity because you were afraid of what might happen if you refused?

      How many non-abused women out there might honestly answer yes if they have ever been "not in the mood", but only agreed to it because they were insecure and worried that if they withheld sex they may lose their partner or their partner would have an affair?

    • WifeOfAGentleFinn

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      .... in addition, for sexual violence, they listed ... "Since you were 15 years old until now/in the past

      12 months, how often has someone:

      • Forced you into sexual intercourse by holding you

      down or hurting you in some way? [IF NEEDED:

      By sexual intercourse we mean here forced oral

      sex, forced anal or vaginal penetration]

      • Apart from this, attempted to force you into

      sexual intercourse by holding you down or

      hurting you in some way? [IF NEEDED: By sexual

      intercourse we mean here forced oral sex, forced

      anal or vaginal penetration]

      • Apart from this, made you take part in any form

      of sexual activity when you did not want to or

      you were unable to refuse?

      • Or have you consented to sexual activity because

      you were afraid of what might happen if you

      refused?

      The questions on physical and sexual violence were

      asked separately regarding the current partner,

      previous partner and other persons."

    • WifeOfAGentleFinn

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      I had the same doubts about the validity, but read a summary of the report and think it might be more valid that I initially thought. There was a note in the summary that that details the questions asked. I'm satisfied that it these questions would obtain pretty accurate responses across cultures, provided it is believed to be anonymous. For physical violence it was "

      Since you were 15 years old until now/in the past 12 months, how often has someone:

      • Pushed you or shoved you?

      • Slapped you?

      • Threw a hard object at you?

      • Grabbed you or pulled your hair?

      • Beat you with a fist or a hard object, or kicked you?

      • Burned you?

      • Tried to suffocate you or strangle you?

      • Cut or stabbed you, or shot at you?

      • Beat your head against something?

    • Oho

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      My first thought was also about the definition of violence but when we look at the violence resulting after consumption of alcohol, the research might be true. Slapping and small physical fights are not uncommon among drunk men and women. I know a handful of girls who were slapped by boys/men while being drunk.

      Binge drinking habits contribute to this violence against women.

    • Barreto

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      and regarding interpretation in what is violecnce to a Finnish women and what it can be for lets say for an Italian women the study also took care of that BECAUSE THEY ARE PROFESSIONALS

      here is what is said :

      "How did you ensure the results are comparable?

      To ensure comparability, FRA carried out a pilot study in 2010-2011 in six Member States –

      Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain. The pilot was based on a draft questionnaire. A combination of methods was used to explore differences in how respondents in different countries may understand items in the survey. The results fed the further development of the questionnaire before it was finalised and translated for use in all Member States. Differences between countries and within countries in rates of violence against women are also reported in other surveys e.g. the WHO’s study on women’s health and domestic violence, and the US national intimate partner violence and sexual violence survey."

    • Barreto

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      ohohoh look so many people trying to save the face of Finland all mighty but here is a fact mentioned in the study:

      "Participation was voluntary. The interview could be interrupted or rescheduled to ensure that the interview was carried out in private. The respondent could say at any point whether she was comfortable to continue or not. Respondents could also mention any experiences which they did not want to disclose in the interview in a self-completion questionnaire. The survey used only female interviewers."

    • Balen

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      Exactly! And it's preposterous to even remotely suggest that the level of violence of any type or against any group in Finland is higher than, for example, Spain, Italy, or Greece! I think it would be viable if you choose a certain (specific) type of violence with detailed description of the form and intensity of it, that would make sense, though totally futile!

    • NeutralCommenter

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      The problem with these studies is that they only ask the women if they have felt violence against them - physical, sexual, or economic.

      A study will be complete and accurate if if asked the same questions to the men.

      Truth has come out in latest studies in US and other places that women are more likely to initiate violence from their side. Lesbians have the highest violence and hetrosexual the least.

      If same questions r asked to men then I am sure the men the figures would be higher.

      This kind of study just aims at spreading misandry and perpetuating the myth of female victimhood.

      Women are very good at manipulation as compared to men.

  • MistralFrost

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    Ouch. I'm truly shocked considering that Finnish women are supposedly the ones wearing the "pants" in most Finnish households. On second thought, maybe that's precisely the reason why?

    • AuroraBored

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      My thoughts exactly. Perhaps some Finnish men don't like their women to wear the pants and therefore resort to violence to level the field. I also agree with Toiset Soundit. Let's also not forget that there is plenty of domestic violence against men. But in a country where women are supposedly wearing the pants, men are probably very reluctant to report it.

    • AuroraBored

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      Also, I remember reading an article on yle.fi re. violence against Thai women by their Finnish spouses. Often alcohol plays a role. And probably the language barrier is cause for some domestic disputes. However, it is not just violence against Finnish women but also violence against Finnish men and foreign partners of Finnish men/women.

  • Burcu

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    Somehow this sounds unrealistic to me. How finns define/ perceive physical or sexual violence might be milder than the others.

  • Tulkas

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    Yes of course, nordic societys are always the best and the most advanced and southern people are no more than savages...sorry to wake up you from your own dream cloud, but Finland was just a couple of years ago among the European countries one with the highest rates ( exactly almost 4 times higher than my country,and don't think it has changed too much since then) of dead women killed by their partners. And there's no ambiguity in the word DEAD. And yes, I'm spanish (a southern savage yep) living in Finland and with a finnish girlfriend who has stayed time enough in my country to know that what is written is this article is true. Finland is a great country, but stop thinking nothing bad happens here, cause this is one of the biggest problems you have, together with alcohol, even both problems are closely linked too many times.

    I'm really tired of the clichés about Spaniards, italians and so on, sorry. And in my case, I'm basque, my "original" society is not so different as u think

    • jepjep

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      I think your point of wife/partner killing is emphatic. Similarly almost 70% women have been raped because men had sex with them when they were drunk and in no way in a position to give consent. That falls exactly under the definition of rape. Whether the man was drunk or not doesn't make any difference. So imagine a society where rape is so widespread but still culturally accepted.

      We should accept the realities. Alcohol is the root cause of most of this violence and many other problems. Until alcohol culture is changed, nothing will change.

    • Clau

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      I agree, this is not a dreamland.. I see a lot of problems that families have here, much more scandalous what I ever heard in Italy! Clichès...I have enough also!

  • Fifty Percent

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    This is a sample survey not a scientific research paper substantiated by accredited sources. Far from major and only one years time. Also, this is EU nations combined, not only Finland. If this survey only included every single Finnish female aged 15-110, the percentage would drop dramaticallly. Females at age 15 can have physical conflict at school with same gender peers. A lot of pertinent information is lacking in this survey and this news article.

    Violence can mean anything depending on the context. What type of questions were asked in the survey? What is margin of error? Out of all the females[Finnish] in my family and their in-laws including friends and neighbors, not one has experienced any violence. Who is the article implying is the aggressor? The photo depicts male above female. Lets not forget males experience more lifetime violence than females. This survey and news article are both very generalized and blankets a wide range of definitions for violence.

    • Barreto

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      I guess you didn´t even bother to go actually read the report!!!

      This was a randomized questionnaire....

    • responder

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      I only wish scientifc papers were done as thoroughly as this survey. The questions were very specific and detailed. Do not critique the survey based on the newspaper report.

      The full survey (questionnaire and methodology)and fully detailed report are availble on-line

      http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2014/vaw-survey-main-results

      Separate questions on physical, sexual and psychological violence and harassment, and by whom were covered.

    • Eric

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      Its a very well known fact that finns are more violent then most other european countries having a murder rate of 3x that of Norway. Finland are very close to Russia who face a similar problem aswell. Finns are known for russian vodka, hockey, saunas and knives.

    • Read

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      It's rather shocking to read such uneducated comment, when the entire data and method is public. Denial is part of the issue itself, while you probably do not grasp what an abuse is. And I must question the ref to your neighbors etc. You most certainly do not know. And obviously so, because it is about people reporting abuse they have experienced, not about people thinking there's nothing wrong.

  • mich

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    One problem in Finland is that the media & news here do not tell anything that goes on here. People believe nothing bad happens in Finland because nothing is in the media. One old neighbour of mine while walking home was raped and beaten so badly she needed her face reconstructed. Was it in the news? No! How many women have been murdered in the last 10 years in Finland? Compared to population, alot but you don't hear about most of them. Recently, where the town I live in, an 18 year old was beaten to death by her boyfriend. Every time the news does not report on these crimes, people put themselves in danger by walking home from bars at 4 am instead of taking taxi because they are under the false belief that Rape doesn't happen here. It does, just like most countries. As for domestic abuse, anyone who tells me Finland does not have a high level of it is really living in a bubble. But for all the negative sides in Finland there are positives too.

    • nice point

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      Nice point Mich.This country sensors too much its own media.It gives the population here is an Oasis where no crime ever happens. In the city where I lived in Lapland happens the same thing,rapes are either not reported on the media or when they are reported.,its a very small "couple of sentences" wuty small font and never,I affirm again,never a follow up.So no one knows if the rapist is tall or short, fat or thin,white or dark.How can we protect our daughters,wives,girlfriends from a fellon when the press cannot even gives us a warning description about his looks?On the end all investigations are done secretly and we are not informed even whether the suspect was caught or not...all this "covering up" and "under the blanket" operations sounds like soviet style press...

  • DetailsPlease

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    Before blaming Finnish men, did the report also mention what percentage of violence was perpetrated by other women?

  • ArcticIce

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    Judging from some comments here, I get the feeling that some don't consider some form of violence as really violence. So, what is it then? Do we really need someone to end up in a hospital or worse the morgue to consider it as truly violent? C'mon people when it's baloney, no matter how you slice it it's still baloney!! Like the saying goes "If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck!"

  • Pablo

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    I'm very sceptical of this report. It's not like this is a scientific study - subjective definitions, how questions can be interpreted on a personal level, how open/closed are the women interviewed, etc. Still it's very important to do this kind of survey as violence against women is a widespread epidemic and the Nordic countries are no exception. As a Spanish native speaker and judging from personal experience (yes, I know anecdotes are not scientific data - neither is this survey) I find hard to believe Spain doesn't top the list.

    Since the reporter failed to point to the original study, here it is

    http://fra.europa.eu/en/press-release/2014/violence-against-women-every-day-and-everywhere

    And to the person claiming a bigger number of deaths in Finland than Spain due to VAW, would you care to post a link?

    • Santiago.

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      The source of the data is official reports delivered by governments of 40 countries.

      This is a screenshot of a graphic on the news (Spanish). The column on the right is about deaths of women (per 100.000 inhabitants) on the hands of their partners or ex-partners. The middle one is deaths of women in domestic violence.

      http://beizabaezbarbara164591.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/vielencia-a-la-mujeres-en-europa2.jpg

      Here is the original study where the data is reported. I insist: data provided by governments or governmental agencies, including Finnish Government.

      http://www.observatorioviolencia.org/upload_images/File/DOC1180979429_II%20Informe%20Internacional.pdf

  • Lysergo

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    So... Finnish women like to fight each other, big deal.

  • Sebi

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    Just because the article doesn't mention the approach taken, let's not assume that a huge study like this was done by people who didn't know what they were doing and assume we know better...Here's a quote from the paper:

    "A definition of violence was also not provided during the survey interview. This was

    to avoid restricting women’s understanding of violence to a fixed definition. Rather, specific acts or situations involving different forms of violence were described in

    detail in the course of interviews. For example, women were asked a range of questions, such as if they had been punched or kicked, if their hair had been pulled

    and if they had received unwanted and sexually explicit emails or text messages.[...]"

    Here's the link:

    http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2014-vaw-survey-main-results_en.pdf

    Do your homework ;)

  • result of years of feminism

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    Nordic countries are a few in the world where one can get a whole degree in feminism.young girls are taught since a young age that they are "equal" to boys and they grow their whole lifes thinking that although it's obvious that they are physically weaker. First women wanted to smoke (because boys do),then they wanted to drink (because boys are "free") to drink.Then at last after the pill was invented,they want to have sex with strangers in the bars (just because they could). So now they go to bars,get drunk and go to some strangers house thinking "well,its just for some kissing",if I don't want to stay,I can always leave".Then they start kissing get the guy turned on but decide that maybe this was not such a great idea after all on the first date.Many only then realize that in contrary to what they teach in Finnish schools,girls are not as strong or free as boys...and end up being raped...in their search of equality,women ended up exposing themselves to much more risky situations...

  • paradise of criminals

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    Sadly true. There are desperate poor people even in Finland. Local robbers,drug dealers and users are ready to kill with no hesitation cause they know the law system here sucks. shoplifters and bad drivers spend more time in jail than rapists, murderers or animal abusers. I'ts like European Detroit out there except there are laws of the jungle. That's why me and my husband spend more time in the Gym than in the work. o ʖ_o,

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