Sweden – Bearing the Brunt of Rightwing Rhetoric

This is an abridged version of the full article which can be found on the Absurd Being website here.


There are lies, damned lies and statistics. Never has a truer word been spoken and never has it been more relevant. As online and media rhetoric is continually being ratcheted up to higher and higher levels, the unscrupulous use of statistics is being employed as a weapon to fan the flames and breed more division and unrest. Sweden is just the latest country to fall prey to these alarmist statistical machinations in the form of the following:

Sweden has the second highest incidence of rape in the world.

Like all rightwing rhetoric, this statement is true. But also like all rightwing rhetoric, if you take a closer look you realise it’s nowhere near as terrible as it sounds.

Between the years 2003 and 2014 the number of rapes in Sweden increased by around 260% to the point where they have now earned the dubious honour of recording fewer rapes than only one other country; South Africa. As you can imagine, the alarmists have lost no time in blaming this on Muslim refugees, in a move that even Trump would have been proud of, coining the, quite frankly, disgusting term, “rape-fugee”.[1]

The question we must ask ourselves is why Sweden’s rape statistic is so high in comparison to other countries. Are we justified in automatically assuming that a higher reported rape figure necessarily means more rapes? The hint is in the wording. A higher reported rape figure does not necessarily mean more rapes this year than in previous years nor can it reliably be used in cross-country comparisons.

It turns out that there are a number of facts which bear significantly on the statistic in question. From the efforts police have made to encourage victims to report their experiences, to legislative changes which broadened the definition of rape, to cross-country differences in how rape is recorded, it is clear that this issue is far from the open and shut case the alarmists would have you believe.

Of course, this isn’t to say that rape doesn’t happen in Sweden or that we need not bother to look more closely at who the perpetrators of these crimes are. It does and we should. What I am saying though, is that a single statistic, quoted without a serious, rational consideration of what it actually means is worse than useless. Rather, it’s destructive, alarmist and effectively prevents real, honest discussion; something that always seems to be in short supply precisely when we need it most.


[1] Of course, this is not to diminish in any way, shape or form, the disgusting and depraved nature of the crime of rape. What I am merely noting is that the term “rape-fugee” is itself disgusting because of the way it effectively brands all refugees as rapists.

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