Last year, Sweden announced they would open the first rape crisis clinic for male rape victims. While they already provided medical support for women, according to reports Sweden apparently had no services dedicated for male victims. The decision met resounding support and was hailed as not only a general step forward but also a feminist achievement, as Sweden is a largely feminist-run country.
However, new information suggests that the effort may have been nothing more than political posturing:
In truth, the clinic was a pre-existing emergency and forensic facility catering to “women who have been subjected to acute sexual assault” according to the hospital’s website, which had not been updated at the time of writing. The claim, widely repeated by the city’s politicians for the global media, that it is the world’s first male rape clinic is just plain wrong.
“To say that we’re the first clinic in the world to provide this kind of care [for men] is incorrect,” admitted Karl Norwald, a sexologist at the Södersjukhuset unit after it reopened in its new guise. “I know there are clinics in Denmark and Norway already, so I believe there has been a misunderstanding of some kind along the way.”
So the question arises: Why would politicians play fast and loose with the truth around such a painful subject? Who could possibly be gauche enough to see the opening of a clinic for rape victims as a “sexy” way to get some publicity?
Those questions answer themselves. Look at the media attention Sweden received as a result of this decision. Look at the back-patting feminists engaged in when this story broke news. The point is not whether the claim was true. The point was to garner attention, likely to prevent anyone from noticing things like this:
“We were not consulted,” said Wiveca Holst, a board member of Roks, Sweden’s national association of women’s shelters. “I don’t know who was consulted or even if a consultation happened. But we should have been asked, as an organization that deals as a matter of course with victims of sexual violence. We would have said that we believe they should have kept the clinic ‘women-only,’ and opened a new one for men if it were needed. Now, recently raped women will be sharing a space with men. This was an excellent facility but opening it to men is insensitive and a backwards step.”
There were 370 reported cases of male rape in Sweden last year from a total of 6,700, making men the victims of around 5.5 percent of reported rapes.
“Obviously everyone who has been raped needs care and support,” Holst continued. “But I’m not sure that the publicity around this clinic — where 95 percent of the patients will continue to be women — will benefit most rape victims in the long run. Making male rape more visible is one thing: Perhaps it is more interesting to talk about male rape for a change. But it is also a way of silencing women.”
I suspect that sentiment is far more common than anyone will admit. What it is interesting about the numbers game in Sweden is how Sweden counts acts of rape. Swedish law counts each individual act rather than each individual victim. As mentioned in the Politico article, if a woman is raped seven times, it counts as seven separate rapes rather than seven times this one woman was raped.
While this is technically accurate, without factoring in that it happened to the same person, the raw number would give the false impression that seven different women were raped. That appears to be what happens with Sweden’s numbers, which is why such a small country is known as “the rape capital of the Western world.”
To get back to Holst’s complaint, given that this is a medical service, it makes no sense why men and women could not be treated in the same clinic. It is not as if they will be examined in an open room. Each person would go to a separate room to be examined in private. It seems more like an argument that female victims should never have to see male victims. Curiously, Holst never mentions whether male victims would be uncomfortable surrounded by women, particularly if their rapist was female.
All this said, I do not have a problem with the clinic in and of itself. Men and boys should receive the same services as women and girls. Yet I do have a problem if, as Politico contends, people played politics with the announcement and misrepresented what the clinic is and what it does. If all that happened is that they decided to include access to male victims, Sweden should state that instead of making it sound as if they specifically created a clinic for male victims.