If, like me, your blog feeds, social media, and google news searches lean left, you’re probably seeing a lot of mockery of Donald Trump making up a terror attack in Sweden, and absolutely no explanation of why he might do such a thing.
The following is not in any way intended as a defense of Donald Trump. But because I have a few friends on the rightward side of things, I am conscious of the fact that they are seeing very different coverage of the same event, and I’d like to clarify, as best I can, what that coverage is, so that in upcoming conversations we’re all on the same page.
Donald Trump talked about Sweden taking in more refugees than the rest of Europe (which, as far as I can tell, is absolutely true), and how it’s absolutely terrible what’s been happening over there.
This does not seem to be a reference to a terror attack, but rather, a Fox News story which seems to have reiterated the general points of a study which suggested that Sweden is now the “Rape Capital[sic] of Europe.”
Now. This story appears to have been broadly debunked, but it does appear that Trump was never referencing a terror attack and was in fact referring to a news story which had aired in the last few days. Any source claiming otherwise is making political hay, capitalizing on an opportunity for mockery, and (this is important) looking extremely foolish and disingenuous to people on the other side of the Great News Divide, who have seen numerous stories accurately report what Trump was referring to, and who are probably not aware that left-leaning news is mischaracterizing the statement.
Now. Is that statement ridiculous? Yes. But let’s be accurate in our ridicule. Here’s the deal: the study, which purports to show a massive jump in the sexual assault rate in Sweden, has been debunked on many fronts. Yet, like the infamous (and even more thoroughly debunked) study showing vaccines caused autism, it is quoted everywhere (usually without citation or attribution, making it enormously difficult to determine whether or not there was any source to the story at all). I saw extensive verbatim quotation of the study in half a dozen news stories over the last week from conservative or middle-of-the-road outlets, and as far as I can tell, it is the sole origin of the”Rape Capital” claim. (Note: I am more than willing to be shown I am in error, if you can find an additional or earlier source of this claim).
So, what is the truth? In Sweden (and to a lesser extent, Denmark, it appears that people are much likelier to report sexual assault; that the police are much likelier to record reports of sexual assault, that a broader range of actions are considered assault (both legally and by individuals reporting assault), and that Sweden, unlike other countries, counts assaults by incident and not by report (in another nation, if you reported being the victim of daily abuse over a year by a single individual, that would be reported as one instance of assault. In Sweden, it would be reported as 365 assaults.). More specifically, Sweden has only counted types of assault other than forcible intercourse as rape in the last twelve years. This lead to a dramatic spike in reporting since 2005, as a much wider range of actions are now considered assault.
The cited study notes these debunkings – but sneers at them, rather than addressing the substance of the claims. From what I can tell, it is, in fact, *possible* that Sweden is genuinely dealing with a dramatic upswing in sexual assaults. But it has not been definitively shown to be the case.
For my own research, I cite Wikipedia, because it aggregates the data concisely with specific citations. However, I searched both the primary sources as well as a number of other websites, and could find nothing except the above-linked study making any contrary evidentiary claims. If anyone has other sources, whether confirming or debunking any point made in this essay, I welcome any facts and/or research provided.