”We went from a wonderful life to hell. Everything was turned upside down through one single phonecall,” said the mother, Jennie, to newspaper Aftonbladet.
In September last year Swedish parents Jennie and Thomas life fell crashing down when a phone call from Jennie’s sister to the social services meant their two daughters, 3 and 6, were taken info protective custody.
On weekends, the two girls usually came running into their parents bedroom in the morning and jumped into their bed.
While romping around with their parents, the older girl had accidentally touched her father’s penis on two occasions. Both times Thomas had quickly removed her hand and no more was thought of it.
Later, Jennie told her sister about the incident, sharing it as as an example of an embarrassing situation that parents can find themselves in.
But her sister misunderstood. And phoned social services.
The following day, the couple recived a call from the local authorities.
Without corroborating the story with anyone else close to the children, the authorities had chosen to place the children in protective custody with immediate effect.
”I went into some sort of shock, I thought something had happened to the girls. I couldn’t even understand what the man was telling me, because it seemed so clear that something must have happened,” Thomas told Sveriges Television’s (SVT) investigative journalism show Uppdrag Granskning.
Thomas and Jennie were called to a meeting with social services. There they recieved the next shock. They were being investigated for sexually abusing their children.
As neither parent had any previous history with either police or social services, they hoped to be able to clear up the situation quickly.
But instead of bringing their kids back home, they were sent to pack up some clothes and other items that the kids might need.
They weren’t told where their children were or how they were doing.
”That was the hardest bit, the feeling of powerlessness. That someone can just take your child, it was bloody awful,” said Thomas.
After the weekend, Thomas was remanded into custody on the suspicion of sexually abusing his daughters and soon after Jennie spent a night in jail as well.
A month later they were charged. After two days of deliberation, the court ruled that there was no substance to the allegations and the parents were cleared.
But the story wasn’t over because the social services still believed that Thomas was a paedophile.
They wrote that ”the father has exposed his daughter to a limitless sexual behaviour” and that the authority deemed ”the father to have exploited the situation for his own sexual needs”, according to SVT.
”I was livid. It was so offensive. So terribly demeaning,” Thomas said to SVT.
Not until the administrative court had also ruled in favour of the parents, did the authorities release the children back to their parents.
By then they had been in protective custody for 68 days. The younger girl no longer recognised her father. The older had acquired a different dialect.
When they were all together again the next shock erupted.
The prosecutor had found a short video clip from a holiday on the Baltic island of Öland, where the children were tickling each other after swimming naked in the sea.
The prosecutor thought that the clip, filmed by Jennie, was pornographic.
It wasn’t until after the district court had discounted these allegation as well and the Svea Court of Appeals (Hovrätten) finally cleared them of all abuse charges, a full year after the allegations were initially made, that the family could finally relax.
The couple have had no apologies from the local authorities after their ordeal.
”I would like someone responsible on the local council to say they regretted what had happened. Despite everything that has happened, it would help a little,” said Thomas to SVT.
The local politician who made the decision that the children would be taken away has called it ”unfortunate” that Thomas was singled out as a paedophile but none of the civil servants – nor their superiors- wanted to comment on the matter on the SVT show.
Both Jennie and Thomas are still questioning how one single call can put a whole family in a such a nightmare situation.
”No other healthy family should have to go through this. It must be something wrong with the system if it can go this far,” Thomas told SVT.