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Wednesday's papers: Rape statistics and migrant violence debate

Wednesday morning's Finnish newspapers included a significant number of articles about the perpetrators of rape and violence.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Finland is "one of the least safe countries in Europe for women," according to Finland's leading newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat

An Ilta-Sanomat headline proclaims crimes committed by asylum seekers have increased dramatically. Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet asked a criminologist who says having an immigrant background doesn't explain criminality and that the issue is more complicated than that.

Finland's biggest daily newspaper devoted many column inches to the issue of rape. The topic of rape and violence against women has come to the forefront of discussion in Finnish media since highly-publicised incidents of rape committed by asylum seekers in recent weeks.

One in four rapes reported to police

Debate in the media and on social media has been lively. HS tried to get to the bottom of the issue and published a two-page spread on who actually commits the reported rapes in Finland. It found that statistically only a quarter of rapes are reported to the police.

A cited police survey showed that in reality an estimated 4,000 rapes are committed per year, compared with the 1,000 rapes which are reported. Some studies say there could be up to 10,000 rapes committed annually in Finland.

Whatever the actual figures are, police can say with a degree of certainty that the number of reported rapes has risen nearly every year since the beginning of the millennium.

In the year 2000, HS displayed on a graph, 488 rapes were reported and in 2014 that number was 940 reported rapes. So far this year (from January to October) the figure stands at 864 reported rapes.

One of the articles in HS concerning rape featured a headline that read: "Finland is an unsafe country for women".

Finland near top of EU violence statistics

A colourful map shows that Finland is one of the top countries in the EU for incidents of violence against women. Using figures from the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, some 47 percent of women in Finland have experienced violence at some point in their lives since the age of 15.

The only other country in the EU with a higher percentage is Denmark, with 52 percent. Among the lowest percentages of violence against women were in Hungary (21 percent), Ireland (15 percent) and Austria (13 percent).

Citing Helsinki University's Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy figures, the paper writes that incidents of reported rapes by immigrants were about eight times higher than that of native Finns. The paper also writes that the most reported rapes were committed by people from the Middle East and Northern Africa.

The evening tabloid Ilta-Sanomat featured a blazing headline on page four's "Refugee Crisis" feature with a headline that reads: "Suspected crimes increase."

The paper writes that it has received information "which only came to light in November" that there were a hundred cases of sexual harassment committed by people, "inlcuding asylum seekers." The types of harassment described include forced kissing, verbal harassment and others.

The paper goes on to report that there have been a total of 10 reported cases of rape committed by asylum seekers so far this year.

"Migrant background does not explain criminality"

Researcher Martti Lehti of the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy told Hufvudstadsbladet that merely being a migrant doesn't explain the large statistical differences.

In an article with a headline that reads "Migrant background does not explain criminality," the paper quotes Lehti saying that people need to dig a bit deeper to be able to interpret the statistics correctly.

"The first thing we need to understand is that migrants are not a homogenous group and that's why they cannot be perceived as a uniform statistical group. There are bigger differences between different immigrant groups than there are between the majority of [Finland's] population and migrants as a whole," Lehti told the paper. "

"Merely that fact shows that one cannot show links between migrants and criminality. There simply is no common denominator of being a refugee or having an international background and having criminal tendencies," Lehti said.

Taking other factors into consideration is important, according to Lehti. Issues such as quality of living conditions, family life and socio-economic status all play a role in a person's likelihood of criminality, he told the paper.

The most common denominator in people who commit crimes is unemployment, Lehti said.

"Criminal statistics go hand in hand with unemployment statistics. That goes for the newly-arrived as well as native Finns," he said.

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