The number of rapes and attempted rapes reported to police last year in Sweden, a country with nine million inhabitants, jumped to 3,500 from 2,600 the year before, preliminary statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRAA) showed.
“The massive increase during the year can to a large extent be explained by the legislation change that was implemented,” the agency said in a statement.
On April 1 last year, Sweden introduced a new law stipulating that violence and threats are not necessary for a rape conviction. Up until the law change, a man who took advantage of a woman in a “helpless state” – intoxicated, unconscious, asleep or psychologically disturbed – could only be convicted of the lesser charge of sexual assault.
An indication that the new law did impact the rape statistics is that the number of reported sexual assault cases declined 18 percent last year, BRAA said.
“But an actual increase in cases and an increase in the willingness to report (rape) has also contributed to the fact that the number of reported rapes has gone up,” it said.
The new statistics come after months of frenzied media reports detailing violent attack rapes across Sweden, including reports in recent days that a serial rapist is on the loose in the northern town of Umeå.
According to BRAA, most rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, while only about 10 percent are carried out by unknown assailants.
Overall reported crimes dropped one percent in 2005 compared to the year before.
Over the past 10 years meanwhile, reported thefts were down nine percent while violent crimes had increased by 35 percent, BRAA said.