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456 Swedish theatre stars share stories of sex harassment

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456 Swedish theatre stars share stories of sex harassment
Mia Skäringer, Sofia Helin and Lena Endre. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT & Therese Jahnson/SvD/SCANPIX & Vilhelm Stokstad/TT
16:15 CET+01:00
Sweden's culture minister called theatre bosses to crisis talks after 456 stars – including some of the country's top names – signed a letter detailing sexual abuse in the industry.

The letter, published by Svenska Dagbladet, is signed by some of Sweden's most famous stars, including Sofia Helin of The Bridge fame, Alexandra Rapaport, Helena Bergström, Lia Boysen and Lena Endre.

It details a number of in-depth and shocking accounts of inappropriate conduct ranging from rape to sexual assault and harassment in the Swedish theatre industry, without naming either the victims or the perpetrators.

"The entire crew and actors were staying at the same hotel. When I'm sitting there alone later in the evening I overhear the director and the person playing my husband talking about who's going to have me first. I get scared and go to my room on the ground floor. The whole night through I hear them trying to get into my room, both through the door and the window. I asked a male actor, whom I had never met, to protect me. He did and I am eternally grateful to him," reads one of the anonymous stories shared.

"I was shooting with one of the country's great male stars. He came and went as he pleased on set, often high, drunk or hungover. The whole team waited for him, sometimes for hours, every day. When he eventually turned up it was all about keeping him in a good mood. We had a couple of sensitive scenes together, the star and I. He never knew his lines, the script supervisor had to read them first, it was almost impossible to do the job. One day the star took me to the side. Said I had to understand that it was impossible for him to remember his lines when I was so damn hot and all he could think about was what I looked like naked, and what he wanted to do to me," reads another.

Other stories speak of sexual harassment, outbursts of anger, bullying, threats and other incidents including male colleagues masturbating, showing their genitals, or making their female co-stars touch them.

"We will no longer be silent," vow the 456 signatories.

"We're going to hold those responsible to account and let the justice system do its job when there's a reason for it. We will put the shame where it belongs – with the perpetrator and those protecting him."

Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke called bosses of Sweden's National Theatre Company, the Royal Dramatic Theatre and the Royal Swedish Opera to a meeting on Thursday.

"I was clear about how seriously the government views this. We demand change," she told Svenska Dagbladet after the meeting.

Asked how she reacted to the stories, she said: "I was shocked, disgusted, upset and furious."

Under the #metoo hashtag, millions of people around the world have shared their own experiences of harassment, sexual assault, and rape, in the wake of sex assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Sweden, one of the world's most gender equal countries, has been no exception.

READ ALSO: 'We think we're an equal society, but harassment happens here too'

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