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Sexual harassment part of many teenagers' lives

Published onsdag 13 januari 2016 kl 20.55
"It is something about men in a group"
(6:51 min)
Nils Österberg and Karolina Brunnander have not experienced sexual harassment, but they say they know it is very common. Photo: Ulla Engberg/SR
Nils Österberg and Karolina Brunnander have not experienced sexual harassment, but they say they know it is very common. Photo: Ulla Engberg/SR

The news that scores of young women were sexually harassed at a music festival in Stockholm has a familiar ring to it to many young people in Sweden. Radio Sweden spoke to two teenagers who say they are not surprised.

Over the last few days many young women have witnessed in the media about sexual harassment as something that is part of their everyday lives. It has happened to them, or to a friend or a sibling.

After what happened at the music festival We are Sthlm Radio Sweden spoke to 17-year-old Nils Österberg and 16-year-old Karolina Brunnander at Kungsholmen Upper Secondary School. While they weren’t at the festival, they weren’t very shocked to hear the news.

"I want to say that I am very surprised, but I am not actually. It is sad, because this happens so much and now I am not surprised at all. But I think it is awful of course," says Karolina Brunnander.

"It scares all girls. I haven't personally experienced this, but I am scared anyway, because I know it could happen, because I am a girl," she says.

Nils Österberg says he knows from his female friends that it happens "a lot".

"For me it is so unreal, because I would never do that and I don't think my friends would do that, but it still happens and it is kind of hard to understand," he says.

They both believe group pressure has something to do with it.

"I think it is something about men in a group. Because I would never do that, and I don't think most men would do that alone, but I think it is something in our society," says Nils Österberg.

He does not think that sexual harassment is something that is on the increase or that it is new.

"I don't think it happens more often now than before, but it is like we talk about it and more women are starting to actually speak up against it," he says.

Both he and Karolina Brunnander are hopeful that things are going to change. Because they talk at school about the problem of sexual harassment and about what feminism is.

Recently, the book "We Should All be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was handed out to all students in the second year of the Swedish gymnasium, or upper secondary school. This is the year that Nils and Karolina are in. A book like that can help to talk about the issues, they say.

But how easy is it to speak up against someone who is sexually assaulting you, in practice?

"We want to be prepared, but when it happens you get so paralysed, so I don't think.. It is kind of embarrassing to say stop or you feel ashamed also, so I think it is more of an instinct to be quiet and go away instead of saying something," says Karolina.

"The problem isn't that women should stand up for themselves, but that we actually allow men to think that they have the right to use someone else's body," says Nils.

How do they react when they hear that police say it was mainly young males with a foreign background who overstepped the mark at the festival?

Both see this as fuel for anti-immigration sentiments. But does it matter who was behind the sexual assault?

"No, not really," says Karolina.

She has experience from a previous school where some newly arrived immigrants became an easy target for more rowdy boys.

"The first ones who got them, who they hung out with, were the bad boys. They were a little bit criminal and they did bad stuff, so they learned, yeah, I can do this, and then they got stuck there," she says, but adds that it is a bit of a stereotype.

"In my experience, it does not matter at all," says Nils Österberg.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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