'World's Best Country for Women' Sweden Launches Hotline for Wifebeaters

Sweden, often seen a synonym for feminist policies despite ranking surprisingly high in family abuse, has attempted an unorthodox approach to the problem by shifting attention from the victims to the perpetrators.

A new crisis hotline aimed at people who subject their partners, spouses or children to violent attacks and abuse will open in January to provide advice on how to stop the abuse from happening ever again, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported.

"Each year, about 30,000 victims ring the Swedish National Women's Helpline, but there is no obvious way of getting into contact with those perpetrating the violence," Christina Ericson, who is leading the project at the County Administrative Board of Stockholm, told SVT.

Ericson stressed that the hotline should by no means be seen as a replacement for support given to the victims. However, she said, despite the importance of support to women and children, leaving out the perpetrators completely won't bring down the amount of violence in society. Ericson stressed the necessity of helping abusers who "take responsibility."

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The pilot project is a joint venture between the county administrations of Skåne and Stockholm. The helpline will be manned by social workers, therapists and psychologists who can provide useful advice on the spot and also encourage those who phone in to seek further help.

"We think that the idea of a hotline is excellent," Mikael Wejsfelt, who heads Malmö's domestic violence crisis center, said. He hoped the line would encourage more people who beat their partners to get in contact with him and his colleagues. "It also means that there will be advertising campaigns informing people that the line exists, and then that means that more people will probably be directed to us," he said.

Wejsfelt's colleague, sociologist Andreas Hansson, argued that the hotline would also help reduce the shame felt by those who perpetrate domestic violence, inspiring them to seek professional help.

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Despite having been repeatedly voted as the world's most gender-equal and best country for women (most recently in 2017), Sweden, which under the previous government adopted an overtly "feminist" policy, stands out in terms of domestic abuse, placing high in EU statistics. A 2014 survey revealed that half of Swedish women reported physical or sexual violence, with an astonishing 81 percent of women claiming to have been harassed at some point after the age of 15.

Incidentally, Sweden's closest neighbors and Scandinavian peers have similarly high gender equality ratings, but rank surprisingly high in terms of physical and sexual violence in EU ratings.