Protest calls for consent law after man acquitted of rape

by Jack R

A demonstration is being held today to protest against sexual violence and the state of sexual assault law in Sweden after a 27 year old man was acquitted of rape last week despite overwhelming evidence against him. The court heard how the victim “protested so loudly during intercourse she got a swollen throat”, yet the man dismissed this by describing her pleas as “weak” and claiming that he thought her protestations simply showed her desire for “dominant sex”.

The court in Lund was also told that the man had responded to the woman’s screams by holding her mouth and nose “so that she couldn’t breathe” and that the only way the woman was able to escape was under the pretense of leaving the room to get a shower. She was later found by a passing cyclist, who found her half dressed and “hysterically” crying and screaming in the street.

It was concluded by the court that both parties stories of the incident “were clear, vivid, detailed and largely agreed” and that it was “objectively proven” that the woman was violently forced into sex, however, as the court did not consider that the man “had the intent to do so” he was found innocent.

It is this aspect of Swedish sexual assault law that has consistently drawn fire from feminist campaigners, as to achieve a conviction for rape it is necessary for the victim and the court to prove that the aggressor had the “intent” to commit rape. Simply put – there is no sexual consent law in Sweden. This means that the burden of proof is on the victim to prove that the accused intended to rape instead of the accused proving that there was sexual content from both parties.

The demonstration in Stockholm today – the flag is from Feministisk Initiativ, a feminist political party. Photo: Ammy Olofsson.

Over 6000 people are expected to attend the demonstration which began at one o’clock today, with a number of feminist organisations, politicians and journalists confirming that they will attend. Journalist Cissi Wallin, one of the organisers of the demonstration, told Aftonbladet today “This is it… we feel that we are finished with this rule of law”. Also in attendance are organisations such as Storasyster (Big Sister) – an organisation dedicated to helping survivors of sexual assault – whose spokesman Sanna Bergendahl stated that “we believe that consent should be self-evident, both in practice and in law….we want to show it is the law at fault, not them [the victims of rape]”.

This latest case has brought long term anger with the state of Swedish law concerning rape to boiling point, despite reforms to the laws which were made only one year ago. Previously the law required a victim of rape to be “in a helpless state”, but this was changed in February 2013 to a “particularly vulnerable situation”. These reforms have been dismissed by feminists and crime experts alike due to the fact that they still do not prominently concern sexual consent, with Madeleine Leijonhufvud, Professor of Criminal Law at Stockholm University, describing the law as “the shame of Sweden”.