Extensive sexual abuse uncovered in the tiny Tysfjord municipality in northernmost Norway has sent shockwaves throughout country. A police investigation revealed at least 151 cases of sexual assault, including 40 cases involving children under 14 spanning for decades starting from 1953 and continuing up to 2017.
"We see a gravity that the police rarely get to witness in cases of sexual assault," police lawyer Øyvind Rengård said, reporting at least 82 victims aged four to 75. "More than half of the cases have a maximum penalty of up to 21 years in prison [the most severe in Norway]," he told the Verdens Gang tabloid.
A total of 92 people, including three women, are suspected of engaging in sexual assault to various degrees in the Tysfjord, home to only 1,960 registered residents. Forty-three of the cases involve rape. A total of 106 cases were dropped earlier in November because of the time elapsed.
So far, 10 of the cases have led to charges, whereas more cases remain under investigation.
About 70 percent of the suspects belong to the indigenous Sami community, a native people spread across northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Furthermore, many were revealed to be members of the Laestadianism Church, which is a hardline Lutheran revival movement, whichoriginated in Swedish Lapland and named after temperance movement leader Lars Laestadius.
"The police have no reason to believe that ethnicity or religious conviction is an explanation for the abuse," police officer Tone Vangen said, adding, however, that many of the victims experienced pressure from friends and relatives, which contributed to the story, which had never been made public before. "Threats were made against people who stood up and informed the police about the abuse," the police explained.
Local women Marion Knutsen, 29, told Verdens Gang that her mother, who committed suicide back in 2015, was subjected to sex abuse since being a teenager. Knutsen admitted to having been sexually assaulted herself.
Another victim claimed that she was raped in her teens while visiting a friend in Tysfjord. The assault was carried out by two men who sneaked into her bedroom, while other people present in the house were laughing.