Sweden has been the focus of a lot of press attention in the last few days – and not for the right reasons.
It began when Donald Trump insinuated the Swedes had been the victims of a terrible terror attack on Friday.
Then the US President tried to backtrack by claiming his comments were in reference to a story published by Fox News regarding immigrants in the country.
Despite the story itself being discredited, the damage had been done and a host of right-wing politicians and bloggers took it upon themselves to start pointing to the Scandinavian country as an example of immigration gone wrong, citing sexual assaults in particular.
Paul Joseph Watson, editor-at-large of Infowars.com, offered on Monday to pay for “any journalist claiming Sweden is safe” to travel to Malmö.
Watson was swamped with offers, but later announced that he would donate $2,000 to journalist Tim Pool to visit the country.
Nigel Farage claimed on Monday night that Sweden’s capital, Malmö, was the “rape capital of Europe”.
Speaking on LBC, the former Ukip leader said: “Pro rata, Sweden has taken more young male migrants than any other country in Europe and there has been a dramatic rise in sexual crime in Sweden, so much so that Malmö is now the rape capital of Europe and some argue even the rape capital of perhaps the world and it is the Swedish media who, frankly, just don’t report it.”
Farage’s comments sparked outrage, with some accusing him of “lying” and others saying that crime in Sweden is actually falling, including rape.
So what is the truth behind the claims?
A difference in recording rape
As highlighted by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), “criminal statistics do not provide a simple reflection of the level of crime in a given country”.
Changes in the way sexual assault and rape is recorded in Sweden means there has been an increase in the number of reports over the last ten years.
“In the Swedish system, individual reports regarding a great number of offences may affect and give rise to variations in the statistic,” the body says.
“For instance, when a single case is reported that turns out to involve hundreds or even thousands of instances of offences committed against an individual over the course of many years, every single incident is recorded as an offence in the year it was reported.
“It is also important to remember that non-reporting is particularly extensive for sex offences and changes in the inclination to report can affect the number of rapes in the statistic,” Brå says.
Has the rate of rape gone up in recent years?
In 2015 there were 18,100 sex offences reported to police – an 11% decrease compared to 2014.
Of these, 5,920 were classified as rape. Per capita that equates to 60 cases per 100,000.
In comparison, per capita there were 100 reports of rape per 100,000 people in the UK between April 2015 and March 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The number of rapes reported to police in Sweden decreased by 12% between 2014 and 2015.
Reported offences regarding sexual molestation, sexual coercion and exploitation also decreased.
Brå reports: “The decrease seen in these types of offences was in turn preceeded by a rise in 2014.
“This can in part be explained by a number of cases that included a great many connected offences relating to rape, sexual molestation, sexual cohersion and exploitation.”
A different definition
The legal definition of rape was widened in 2005 and legislation introduced in July 2013 meant that rape was expanded to include cases where the victim reacts passively.
Following Trump’s comments on immigration, the Swedish Embassy in the US said they “look forward to informing the US administration” on the country’s policies.
A shift in attitudes
Klara Selin, a sociologist at Brå in Stockholm, told the BBC that the statistics do not represent a major crime epidemic, but rather a shift in attitudes.
She said awareness has been raised about this sort of crime due to increased public debate about the issue in the last two decades. As a result women are more encouraged to go to the police if they have been attacked.