”As the seriousness of the crime is increased, the crime will receive a higher priority. It will be easier to charge perpetrators and get them remanded into custody,” said Inka Wennerberg, senior administrative officer and crime victim expert, at the National Police Board (Riskspolisstyrelsen) to news agency TT.
Until this weekend it has only been possible for victims of stalkers to report each incident as a separate threat or assault. But now repeated harassment becomes its own offence under the charge unlawful persecution (olaglig förföljelse).
One in ten Swedes has experienced some form of stalking in their life. The majority of those affected are women, according to figures from a 2006 study conducted by Sweden’s National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet – Brå).
According to Brå, the victim is acquainted with the perpetrator in the majority of cases but in a third of all incidents the stalker is an unknown person.
In those cases people who are exposed in the media or have certain professions, like prosecutor or psychiatrist, are most vulnerable.
Swedish women’s shelters often encounter individuals who are being persecuted, almost always by former partners.
According to Olga Persson, secretary general for the Swedish Association of Women’s Shelters and Young Women’s Empowerment Centres (Sveriges Kvinno-och tjejjourers riksförbund – SKR) the threats that women receive today are different from before.
”The crime has changed over time. Women are being followed through text messages and Facebook. They get emails and repeated contacts like: ‘I know where you are’. You are being watched on so many levels,” she said to TT.