When the Swedish investigative television show Uppdrag granskning (Mission Review) received a tip about an innocently convicted rapist, it set out to investigate a legal case gone wrong. Instead, it discovered a solid rape case that was nonetheless opposed by a town mob that firmly defended the rapist with arguments about his kindness, popularity and good looks.
The episode aired in Sweden last week and has since been wildly debated in Swedish media, stirring up shock and protests over the old-world patriarchal views that still prevail in some parts of the Scandinavian country.
In the small town of Bjästa last March, 14-year-old Linnea was raped by 15-year-old Oskar in a school bathroom. Linnea immediately pressed charges, telling police that Oskar had sat on her chest while holding down her arms with his legs. Then he put his penis in her mouth, forced her to perform oral sex and ejaculated in her face.
After several interrogations, Oskar admitted the crime, but later retracted his confession. Nonetheless, with corroborating evidence from a medical examination and a teacher’s testimony that Linnea appeared shaken after the incident, Oskar was convicted for raping a minor (in Sweden you’re legally considered an adult at 15).
But Oskar’s popularity in the community led to an unexpected backlash against Linnea. When Oskar was moved to another school as a result of the case, more than 50 students went on strike demanding to take him back. Oskar’s brother started an online petition to free him, which quickly garned 2,000 supporters, and a similar Facebook group drew 4,000 members. Online, both children and adults called Linnea a liar and whore. As one anonymous 51-year-old woman told reporters on Uppdrag Granskning, “As I’ve understood it she’s been after him and wanted to date him, and has done this as a revenge for being rejected.”
Three months after the rape, Oskar, despite being a convicted rapist with a restraining order against him, was invited to the annual year-end ceremony at school by the priest conducting it. That night, Oskar raped another girl and was again convicted, this time with evidence of his DNA found in the victim’s underwear.
Despite the DNA evidence, the mob backing Oskar still believed he was innocent. A Facebook commenter wrote, “I hate these fucking whores, I wish they could be raped for real and really suffer.” People still refused to believe that the charming boy they knew could have done anything wrong.
Since the TV episode aired, the town of Bjästa have been heavily criticized. The priest who invited Oskar to church is under investigation, as well as the school officials who failed to take a stand for Linnea.
The strong reactions to this story by the greater Swedish public is the only positive thing about the story. The fact that so many people got upset about what happened will hopefully build an awareness that will help prevent similar cases of blaming-the-victim/supporting-the-perpetrator from occurring.
Above: The Nätra church in Bjästa, Sweden. Photo courtesy of Henrik Sendelbach // CC 3.0.