Seven percent of men and seven percent of women who responded to a new Crime Prevention Council survey said they had been subjected to abuse in an intimate relationship, the term used in Swedish that corresponds to the English phrase "domestic violence".
The survey asked about physical and mental violence, ranging from threats and degrading treatment to assault. Only four percent of people who said they had suffered violence reported it to the police.
It is the first time the council (Brottsförebygganderådet – Brå) has dedicated a survey exclusively to violence in intimate relationships. Its analysts said they hoped it would be a benchmark study used for reference by politicians and activists.
The council tried to avoid hazy questions and instead were specific in the survey, giving examples of violence that survey respondents could answer with a yes or no.
"The formulations give specific examples, for example if you have been slapped or if someone has thrown something at you," Brå analyst Anna Frenzel told the TT news agency.
The council defined an intimate relationship as one between two people that had lasted for a month or more. Frenzel warned that people who were still in an abusive relationship might have chosen not to respond to the survey.
"We still don't know how many still live with the violence, and they're probably less likely to take part," she said.
The most common form of abuse was controlling behaviour from the other partner, such as attempts to constrain the other person's autonomy – for example by telling a partner whom they could spend time with. If such behaviour was recurrent, Brå labelled it a "systematic violation".
The same proportion of men and women reported that they'd been subjected specifically to physical violence – about two percent of men and women.
But the statistics diverged dramatically when it came to whether an abuse victim had sought medical care afterwards. One in three of the women had gone to hospital following an attack, while only two percent of men who had been assaulted went to hospital.
"If you only look at each individual incident – like a shove or a slap – it looks like men and women are equally exposed," said Olga Persson, chairwoman of the national association of women's helplines SKR (Sveriges kvinno- och tjejjourers riksförbund).
"But then we see that a third of the women need to go to hospital, which shows how serious the violence against women is."