A truly tragic miscarriage of justice has occurred this week. In Sweden a man has had his court case dismissed; he was accused of rape. The reason that the case has been dismissed? The 13 year old rape victim looked “well-developed”.
The 13 year old victim said she met her attacker in a park near Stockholm after she had run away from her foster home. The girl had no money, no phone and nowhere to stay, so the 27 year old alleged rapist invited her to his home “for a drink”.
When he was later arrested for the assault, the defendant initially denied that the girl had visited his home. He was later forced to admit that they had had sex after police found traces of his semen on her underwear. He was charged with statutory rape, which applies to any adult having sex with children under the age of 15 under Swedish law. The reason he was exempted was because officials decided her figure prevented him from being blamed as he “could not have known” how old she was.
This case has called into question Sweden’s sexual assault laws as a whole. As the laws currently stand the defendant must “know” or have “reasonable grounds to believe” that the child is under 15; which is Sweden’s age of consent.
After viewing video evidence, which included the teenager victim’s police interviews, judges in both the Västmanland District Court and the Svea Court of Appeals decided that she had a “well-developed body” and carried herself in a way that did not reflect her age. This, they ruled, meant that the suspect could therefore not have known that she was under the legal age and was found to be innocent in the eyes of the law; though he is far less so in the eyes of us.
Göran Landerdahl, the girl’s lawyer, told the Swedish TT news agency that he planned to take the case to Sweden’s Supreme Court and hoped to set a precedent for future similar claims. Speaking to a Swedish newspaper, he argued that anyone having sex with someone who looked “borderline legal” without checking how old they are must be held to account. Landerdahl also went on to say to TT News, “Judges read newspapers too, so perhaps someone will realize that there are irregularities in this case.”
The chances of the ruling being overturned when it makes it to the Supreme Court are at best slim; with the precedent already being set as not convicting for similar abuse issues for the alleged rapists. Legal expert Madeleine Leijonhufvud stated, “The Supreme Court has been very restrictive when it comes to applying legal sexual abuse clauses to cases involving young teenagers.”
This most recent case is horrific but it hardly represents an isolated incident. Earlier this year a judge in London accused a 16 year old girl of “grooming” her 44-year-old teacher for sex. The judge even went as far as to suggest her actions were similar to that of a stalker and to compound this the judge then went on to tell the older man, “If anything, it was she who groomed you. You gave way to temptation at a time when you were emotionally vulnerable because of problems with your wife’s pregnancy.”
The judge in question was Judge Joanna Greenberg, who added to her statement saying, “There is no evidence you encouraged her in any way” a comment that seemed all the more egregious when the evidence of the case showed that the accused, Stuart Kerner, had taken the girl’s virginity in a school storage cupboard. Add to this the Montana judge who dismissed a 14 year old girl in a similar case when he stated she was “older than her chronological age” after she was raped by her 47-year-old teacher.
This recent trend of blaming the victims of rape and more specifically tragically young victims is worrying. We as a society need to be more outraged by these kinds of cases where a child is raped and yet because the accused can claim they appeared older can avoid prison time. The justice system has failed these young people, hopefully society will not do the same.