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Survey: Violence a regular part of young men's lives in Finland

The most common type of violence experienced by survey respondents were unprovoked attacks by unknown assailants.

Nuori asunnoton.
Men in Finland want to talk about violence and its effects, according to one NGO. Image: Ronnie Holmberg / Yle

The experience or threat of violence is a part of the everyday lives of many young men in Finland, according to the results of a survey conducted by Miessakit, an NGO that supports the "mental, psychological and social growth" of men.

The organisation’s online survey received nearly 2,000 responses, nearly half of whom were under the age of 29.

"A certain type of violence in certain environments emerged among the respondents, which has unfortunately normalised," Miessakit’s Jussi Pekkola told Yle. "It is not paid attention to, the authorities do not intervene enough, and men do not get help in the situation."

Many respondents referred to violent incidents in the evenings or at night, especially in the vicinity or on the premises of bars and restaurants or at train stations, as simply an aspect of being a male.

"If the violence is perpetrated as a habit and does not cause any serious physical harm, it is perceived as ordinary in some way," Pekkola explained.

Violence without motive

The most common incident described by survey respondents was being attacked for no discernible reason.

"Most of the perpetrators are unknown to the victim, and often there is no explanation for the violence. Life goes on without any consequences for the perpetrator or without the victim feeling that he or she has received support or help from society," Pekkola said.

Nadir Luukkonen told Yle he was attacked from behind after getting into a verbal altercation with two men at a fast-food kiosk in the city of Lahti.

The incident began after the men questioned Luukkonen’s 'Finnishness' as he and his friends waited in the line for food, and ended with him being struck from behind as he tried to walk away from the argument.

"I fell to my knees and hit my head on the asphalt, losing consciousness," he said. "Someone then ripped off my necklace and my shirt and hit me a couple more times while I was lying on the ground before my friend and I even realised what was going on."

Story continues after the photo.

Nadir Luukkonen posted about the violent incident on social media. Image: Nadirin kotialbumi
Luukkonen also recalls experiencing violence at school, as he describes himself as an "easy target".

"I was scrawny, small and with a foreign background. The violence against me began to normalise. It was okay to just jump on me at the top of the climbing frame. I thought it was just something I had to endure," he recalled.

Violence was also used as a means of defence, he added.

"Once a fifth-grader hit me at school, and I started crying. A friend from the sixth grade lifted him from the chest against the wall. Violence was met with violence, and the teachers either did not notice or did not care," Luukkonen said, adding that he is concerned that this way of thinking is still prevalent among Finnish men.

Cultural change?

About 60 percent of respondents to the Miessakit survey said they had suffered physical injuries as a result of a violent attack, but many also reported that the healing of mental scars took longer.

"Anger, anxiety and bitterness are the issues that should be addressed. Experiencing them is normal. When emotions are identified, they can be dismantled in a controlled way," Pekkola said.

After the events in Lahti, Luukkonen published a picture of his injuries on social media as he wanted to show the damage that street violence can cause.

"People wondered why I shared my story. It felt like I should be quiet and just accept what happened," he said.

However, Luukkonen decided not to "just accept", and according to Pekkola this is representative of a wider trend in which the younger generation wants to talk about violence and its effects.

"Men want to change, and they want to change this culture," Pekkola concluded.

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