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Rape - 25% know a victim

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One in four women say that they know someone who has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, according to survey results published this week by Stockholm's Metro.

Among 16-24 year olds this rises to almost 40%, and 64% of women across all age groups say they have thought about how they would deal with a situation where they felt they were at risk of being raped.

A spate of high-profile rape cases, notably in Täby and Tumba but also in several towns over the holiday weekend, has led to an increased fear of rape over the last year - particularly in the 16-39 age group, where 46% say that they are more worried. Indeed, half of all women say that their fear of being raped has forced them to change their lifestyle.

Commenting on the figures, the Folk Party's Birgitta Ohlsson said that society tends to see rape as a female problem, when really it should be seen as a male problem.

"There has clearly been a change of attitude in the last year where society, through lighter penalties and too few convictions, has sent out the wrong signal - that it's risk-free to rape someone."

The recent run of attacks has woken the government up to the problem. In a couple of weeks' time it will circulate a proposal for a new sexual crimes law which, among other things, will propose that all sexual assaults on children or the defenceless be categorised as rape, regardless of whether force was used.

But the maximum prison sentence for rape in Sweden is currently only six years - and according to Ohlsson, that's part of the problem.

"The penalty should undoubtedly be harder," she said.

Tuesday's Dagens Nyheter reported that the equality ombudsman, Claes Borgström, has been given the task of investigating the justice system's attitude towards women who have been raped.

"He will propose strategies and measures to make rape victims feel that they are protected by the system," said justice minister Thomas Bodström.

In particular the government wants a better understanding of the difference between women who report rape and women who don't, so that it can persuade more women to report crimes against them.

"The problem is that if women feel violated by the legal process, they can't be expected to provide good testimonies," said Bodström.

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