This graph shows that Sweden’s ‘rape epidemic’ has nothing to do with refugees

More post-truth politics from Donald Trump


On Friday, Donald Trump seemed to claim there had been a terrorist attack or mass crime of some sort in Sweden.

“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Though it’s still unclear why Trump is so surprised by the concept of Sweden, the White House has since clarified that he wasn’t referring to a specific incident, but rather to rising crime in general.

Trump himself clarified that his comments were based on a Fox News spot, in which a dubious documentary-maker claimed that Sweden has seen an ‘ absolute surge in gun violence and rape since they began this open door policy’.

For now, let’s ignore the fact that the president is making claims about other countries based entirely on dodgy Fox News interviews and focus instead on the claim — which has since been spread widely online —  that Sweden is some sort of ‘rape capital’ and that its ‘open door’ refugee policy is to blame.

Firstly, there is no compelling evidence that refugees are connected. As American academic Philip N. Cohen has shown, the increase in incidents of rape does not correlate with the increase in the number of refugees entering Sweden in the last five years.


Rather, it correlates with the fact that in 2005 Sweden introduced a much more expansive definition of rape, which accounts for the extraordinary rise in recorded cases since then. Additionally, the figures in Sweden are tallied according to reported rapes rather than convictions, and where a pattern of repeat assault occurs — in abusive marriages, for example — every incident is separately recorded.

Yes, Sweden has a higher rate of recorded sexual violence than most of Europe, and this isn’t the first time snide comments have been made about ‘feminist Sweden’ becoming a rape capital.

But the figures, if anything, demonstrate the country’s commitment to tackling sexual violence, unlike countless other states which tacitly encourage under-reporting and under-conviction.

All that said, fact-checking Trump’s claim has limited value, since his concern isn’t with the truth but with whipping up anti-migrant hatred.

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