Tysfjord, Norway © S. Zankl
All the incidents took place in the Tysfjord municipality in Norway, with a population of less than 2,000 residents. The police probe started after a report in the local VG newspaper in 2016.
The oldest case dates back to 1953 and the most recent took place in August 2017, police said, adding that they dropped 106 cases in November this year because too much time had passed. Two people have been charged with a total of 10 assaults, and about 30 cases are still under investigation.
“Many of these abuses have been going on for a long time. Several assault cases started when the victims were very young. The youngest was four years when the abuse began,” police attorney Oyvind Rengard said at a press conference, as cited by Norwegian media on Tuesday.
In total, 92 people, including three women, are suspects, police said. Nearly 70 percent of the victims and the suspects belong to the indigenous Sami community in Tysfjord. The investigation showed that many of them are affiliated with the Laestadianism Church, a conservative Lutheran revival movement that originated in Lapland in the 19th century.
“The police have no reason to believe that ethnicity or religious beliefs are an explanation to the assaults that took place,”police officer Tone Vangen told a news conference.
‘The assaults left their traces’
Among these 151 cases, there are at least 43 rapes, including three committed against children in the municipality. All the victims are aged between four and 75, police said.
In 2016, VG cited 11 people who claimed they were victims of sexual assaults. One woman who spoke on condition of anonymity said that she was abused by her father. “The municipality authorities failed her in every way possible. Not intentionally, but due to lack of expertise,”the woman’s lawyer said.
Marion Knutsen, 29, told VG that her mother, who committed suicide back in 2015, was subjected to sexual assaults when she was a teenager. Knutsen said that she herself was sexually assaulted. One more woman said that she was sexually abused by an adult relative when she was 11. It lasted until she turned 13, she added.
Another victim said that the abuse started when she was four years old. “The assaults left their traces. They made me more vulnerable in my teens,” she said, adding that when she was eight she was abused by two men.
Another victim, a woman, said she was visiting a friend in Tysfjord when she was raped by two men who sneaked into her bedroom. “Several others were present in the same house,” the woman, who was in her teens at the time of the attack, said. “They laughed,” she added.