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Police: Increased awareness prompts record-high sex crime reports

More than 1,800 rapes were reported to the police last year, up by 45 percent from 2017.

Näytteenottovälineitä pyydällä. Taustalla laitentaan sänkyyn suojapeitettä.
Every year between 41,000 and 62,000 women experience sexual violence in Finland, according to statistics from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). Image: Simo Pitkänen / Yle
Yle News

The number of reports of sexual offences to the police is increasing, with the number of reports rising by more than 45 percent since 2017.

According to a police survey of the victims, the uptick in reporting does not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of crimes committed, but rather in the number of people reporting them.

There were 1,262 rape reports filed with the police in 2017. By 2021, the number had risen to 1,836.

Public debate around sexual offenses and their legislation has led to a rise in reporting, police said.

"It has certainly affected people's understanding of what constitutes a crime and what their rights are," Saara Asmundela, a commissioner from the Central Finland Police Department, told Yle.

The sooner a crime is reported, the better

In the past few years, 16 Seri Support Centres for victims of sexual violence have been established in hospitals across the country. The centres provide help for victims, with access to treatment not contingent on reporting a crime.

Approximately half of the victims who come to Seri centres for treatment report the crime to the police immediately, while the other half do so within the following year. In most cases, the reason for not reporting the incident is the desire to forget it, according to police.

If a crime is reported, the support centres also help law enforcement officials, as investigations and statements are carried out at the support centres to a high standard.

"In forensic sampling, reliability and ensuring a careful chain of custody are really critical for the outcome," Asmundela said.

However, the sooner a crime is reported after it has happened, the better the chances of solving it.

According to Seri staff, only a fraction of people who have experienced sexual violence access the support centres.

"The number of people who experience sexual violence is actually much higher than the number of those who come to us for treatment, according to midwife Sanni Saarimaa from Seri. "Fortunately, awareness of Seri Support Centres and sexual offences in general has increased, and as a result people are daring to seek treatment more often."

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