Police registered thousands of abused women
For ten years, police in Stockholm registered thousands of women who have reported being abused and threatened. Swedish Radio News reveals a secret database filled with sensitive information and what could be seen as offensive judgements about the women.
It is the unit working with victims of crime at Stockholm's Södertörn district that over the past decade has registered 2,000-3,000 women who during that period have reported that they were subjected to domestic abuse.
To register people in this way is illegal, says Ingrid Helmius, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University. She has focused her research on the police. "It shows really clearly that the person who has registered people has absolutely not a clue about the rules," she said.
The database is not included in the police's ordinary registration system and is made up of Excel spreadsheets. According to Swedish Radio News, the database is filled with information that infringes on the women's integrity.
Common details in the database are the women's ethnicity and which country they come from. For example: the plaintiff is "a mentally disabled Roma" or "she is from Eritrea and deeply religious" or "the couple are Sunni- and Shiah-muslims".
Many of the registered women are also branded by the police as "tricky", "difficult" and "particular". In addition, possible psychiatric diagnoses are added in several cases. It says: "the woman seems to have some psychological issues according to me" and "the plaintiff is very particular, it almost feels as if it is the suspect who is the victim".
Twenty-eight-year-old Linn is described as "borderline" and "bipolar". There is also a note that she was the victim of a paedophile as a child.
"Who the hell gives them the right to do this to another human being? This is so humiliating," she says when she is shown her entry in the register.
Radio Sweden spoke to Anna-Karin Rybeck, who is the head of the Sisters' Shelter Somaya for women and girls, which is focusing especially on women with immigrant background and people who are victims of honour-related violence.
"I am really surprised and am really upset, because the information that is registered here, is not interesting at all," said Rybeck. "The only thing it reveals is discrimination and racism and it reveals an antiquated view of women. I can, of course, understand that the police want to register indicators for arresting an offender, or if they want to minimize further acts of violence, but the information that is registered in this register is really just horrible. It also reveals lack of knowledge within the police force about the whole situation of violence against women."
Anna-Karin Rydbeck is concerned about the effect that the news of this register will have on the women that they work with on a day-to-day basis.
"I never thought that we had to work so much to defend the women against the Swedish society. We have different problems and situations to help these women to have a life in respect of human rights and get free from domestic violence. We tell all our women to go to the police and to make a police report, but if the police are registering this kind of information.. It makes me really.. I don't know what to say, actually," she said, clearly angry about what she has found out.
Local police have defended the database, but say an internal investigation has begun.
"The information that was added to the database was thought to have been relevant when it comes to risk and vulnerability analysis. The aim was a good one, preventing people from being subjected to more violence or danger. I can understand that certain information could be construed as offensive and irrelevant, and that is deeply unfortunate. The investigation will find out if we have made mistakes", Södertörn police chief Christian Agdur says in a statement.